In the wake of climate change and its associated debilitating effects on conventional agriculture or farming, many experts are encouraging farmers to adapt to organic farming, a practise that emphasizes closed nutrient cycles, biodiversity and effective soil management thereby providing the capacity to mitigate and even reverse the effects of climate change and land degradation.
Organic farming can decrease fossil fuel emissions and, like any well managed agricultural system, sequester carbon in the soil. The elimination of synthetic nitrogen in organic systems decreases fossil fuel consumption by 33% and carbon sequestration takes CO2 out of the atmosphere by putting it in the soil in the form of organic matter which is often lost in conventionally managed soils.
For instance, in 2008 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) stated that "organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long-term" and that "yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used" and that soil fertility and drought resistance improved.
In view of the aforementioned, the West Mamprusi District Assembly in the Northern Region of Ghana has decided to undertake organic agriculture education/training in two communities – Mishio and Zua, as part of the ongoing efforts to curb farming close to the banks of the White Volta River in the area.
The introduction of organic agriculture education comes as part of a nine-month climate change project dubbed: “fighting climate change through reforestation.” The project sought to increase tree population to ensure effective combat of desertification, and further raise awareness and strengthen civil society capacity to take up their own initiatives in the fight against climate change.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Savannahnews, the Project Coordinator, Issifu Sulemana, said the Hanns-Seidel Foundation Ghana which is sponsoring the nine-month climate change project, provided One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety-Seven Ghana Cedis (GH¢1,897.00) to the Assembly to initiate and prepare the two communities for organic agriculture technology.
According to him, the amount requested was spread over expenditures covering series of activities in part one of the whole organic agricultural education programme. These activities, he said, included (1) Initial Community briefing/sensitization meeting on organic farming at Zua and Mishio, (2) The formation and registration of two groups in each community, (3) a one day capacity building training on general principles of land management for both communities on the advantages and disadvantages in each principle.
Objective of the program
The organic farming program which began in February 2012 targets farmers including men and women who continue to farm along the banks of the White Volta River due to high soil fertility content around the river. The organic agriculture training program included sustainable land management practices that aimed at complementing the efforts by the Assembly in combating desertification, contribute to soil conservation and help sustain sound natural environment in the area as well as offer better farm yields to improve food security.
It was also to introduce and sensitise the two communities on organic agriculture and its relevance to them in the midst of desertification and climate change regimes. Besides, it intended to organize interested community members into organic agricultural groups and introduced group members to general principles of land management through capacity building.
Mr David Agongo, the Executive Director of ZEFP explained that participatory approach was employed at each stage to bring together and generate the interest of entire communities during trainings/sensitization seminars to ensure that local knowledge and experiences were properly incorporated into the learning and teaching of the organic agriculture education. “Joint approach made up of government agencies like the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and non-governmental organisation Zaasilari Ecological Farms Project jointly carried out the activity to ensure cohesion in agricultural policy in the area” he added.
In all 167 community members were sensitized on the relevance of organic agriculture technology in the two communities. Four groups with membership of 16 and 17 respectively were formed to practice organic agriculture and sustainable land management in the two communities.