Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Looming Crop Failure in Central Gonja District

Abdul Manan Abdul Kadri, MoFA Director

The high expectations of farmers in the Central Gonja District of the Northern Region to get good yields this year is hanging in the balance, as the rainfall pattern in the area continues to be unfavourable to the farmers. 

There has not been a single drop of rainfall in the entire District this year 2014 resulting in total crop failure. The Central Gonja District Director of the Ministry of Food and Agricultural (MoFA), Abdul Manan Abdul Kadri has therefore predicted that there would be severe food shortage and rising food prices next year, if something drastic was not done to help farmers recover the heavy losses stirring at their faces.

All the farmers in the three Northern Regions depend largely on natural rainfall for their agricultural businesses. But since June 2014 till date, the farmers especially those in Central Gonja District have not received a single drop of rain.

Those who went into early cultivation of maize, soybean, groundnut, rice and yam have been heavily disappointed, as their anticipation for early rains did not materialize. A visit by Savannahnews to some of the heavily affected farms including a 300 acre farm belonging to one Alhassan Baba Darison revealed that the soils are totally dried up begging for rains and moisture to stimulate germination and growth of the crops.

The maize for instance, which were cultivated in early June and are expected to be ready for harvesting by now, still leave much to be desired.  The heights are dwarfish, the sizes are smaller and the colour changed to yellowish due to the poor weather condition.  For the farmers, this year has been the most challenging year for them even though there were similar experiences in 2012 and 2013.

Alhassan Darison, Farmer in Buipe
Alhassan Baba Darison is a former staff of the Internal Revenue Service with two Masters Degrees but resigned his office work to take up farming as lifetime business. As the owner of the 300 acre maize and soybean farm as well as 75 acres of organic mango plantation, he has employed 21 labourers who are constantly working on the farms and several other casual workers who normally help in fertilizer application and harvesting among others.
He was the National Best Farmer in Butternut Squash for 2013.

According to him, he had so far invested GHC137,000 loan he contracted from the Venture Capital into his farm this year, and also purchased a new planter at the cost of GHC17,000. But the total absence of the rains had caused him to loose everything. 

Our visit to Baba Darison’s farm also discovered how the debris of the fertilizers he applied in early June still remained undissolved into the soil due to the absence of the rains. 

Agric Extension Officers in the Central Gonja District have also visited most of the farms and advised the farmers to plough their lands again and replant in anticipation for latter rains. Looking at the state of the crops, cutting them down and replanting is the only available option, but most of the disappointed farmers including Alhassan Baba Darison, Sulemana Braimah (120 acre yam and groundnut farmer) and Imoro Mohammed Mumuni (176 acre maize and yam farmer) told the paper that they were totally handicapped since they had already invested all the monies they contracted from their creditors into the farms.

How to even repay the loans within the stipulated period is another major concern to the farmers. 

The Farmers believe that government has not done well to support the agricultural sector in the Central Gonja District especially in the area of irrigation dam provision. 

Even though both the White and the Black Volta rivers pass through the district and could easily be tapped for farming purposes, the farmers continue to suffer the effect of long drought every season.

The District Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Abdul Manan Abdul Kadri said that there was every indication that the area and most parts of the Northern Regions would experience serious food shortage next year. 

He hinted that majority of the farmers were shifting from maize and yam to groundnut cultivation as a result of the lack of rainfall. 

Mr. Abdul Kadri said that most of the farmers had ploughed their lands down in the last seven (7) to (8) weeks but could not plant, those who planted had not seen germination and those whose maize were at the tasseling stage had not seen fruits on them. “Now all of them must plough again and wait for the rains”.

The District MoFA Director attributed the poor weather condition in the Central Gonja to climate change resulting from bush burning, charcoal burning and illegal chainsaw operation in the area.

He appealed to the government to halt those illegal activities to save the area from further degradation. Mr. Abdul Kadri also appealed for the construction of simple irrigation dams to support the farmers in the district to go into all year farming. 

He also appealed to the Bankers and other financial institutions that supported the farmers to extend their repayment period, waive down the loan compound interest and also give them additional loans to replant their crops in order to be able to repay.

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