The 2013 Northern Regional Best Farmer in Butternut Squash Alhassan Baba Darison, has made a passionate appeal to government to increase investment and commitment towards the development of the agricultural sector in Northern Ghana in order to make farming the true choice of business for the increasing population in the area especially the unemployed youth.
Mr. Baba Darison said that government ought to commit some substantial amount of money for the construction of well mechanized irrigation dams to enhance agricultural productivity in the area and also attract more youth to venture into the sector.
He said that farmers in the Central Gonja District in the Northern Region for instance had since 2011 encountered unpredictable rainfall patterns resulting in excessive crop failures and unimaginable food shortages.
Speaking in an interview with Savannahnews, Mr. Baba Darison noted that majority of the commercial and subsistent farmers in the district had been demoralized by the annual drought because their farms always went bad and they also lost all the monies they invested in their farms.
He said that most of the farmers, though had the strong desire to do more to feed the nation’s population, they always encountered challenges every year following the poor nature of the rains they experience in the district.
Farmers in the Northern Sector of Ghana largely depend on rainfall for their agricultural businesses. The Farmers averagely receive only four (4) months of rainfall for their farming activities, but experience eight (8) months long of no rains (dry season) every year, which makes it very disadvantageous for the farmers in the North of Ghana to do sustainable farming as compared to their counterparts in the southern parts of Ghana.
What seems to compound their situation, according to Mr. Baba Darison is the prevalence of Climate Change in the Savannah Zone caused by the frequent bush burning being perpetuated by Fulani herdsmen and illegal chainsaw operators in the area.
He appealed to the government to create more high yielding irrigation systems in every district of the region to enable the farmers to go into all year round farming.
The 2013 Northern Regional Best Farmer in Butternut Squash noted that with the irrigation dams, farmers would not only become motivated and do more for the nation in terms of food supply, it would also encourage majority of the unemployed youth to venture into agriculture.
He said that the high expectations of the farmers in the Central Gonja District and other parts of the region to get good yields in 2014 could not realize, as the rainfall pattern in the area continued to be unfavourable to the farmers.
The Former Internal Revenue Service staff lamented that the Central Gonja District did not receive a single drop of rain between May and latter part of July this year 2014 resulting in total crop failure. 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.
Mr. Baba Darison was sad that most commercial farms in the district were heavily affected by the poor rains including his 300 acre maize and soybean farm as well as his 75 acres of organic mango plantation. He said that the soils were 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 were expected to be ready for harvesting by August he said still leaved much to be desired. “The heights of the crops were dwarfish, the sizes were smaller and the colour changed to yellowish due to the poor weather condition”.
According to him, he had so far invested GHC137, 000 from a loan he had 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 lose almost everything.
The commercial farmer told this blogger that at a point the Agric Extension Officers in the Central Gonja District visited most of the farms and advised the farmers to plough their lands again and replant in anticipation for possible latter rains.
He said that, looking at the state of the crops, cutting them down and replanting was indeed the only available option. But most of the disappointed farmers including himself, Sulemana Braimah (120 acre yam and groundnut farmer) and Imoro Mohammed Mumuni (176 acre maize and yam farmer) he noted, were totally handicapped since they had already invested all the monies they had contracted from their creditors into the farms.
Unfortunately, however, he said the farmers adhered to the Extension Officers advice of cutting down and replanting, yet the crops failed again because the rains once again seized in early October.
The District Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Abdul Manan Abdul Kadri admitted that the farmers in the district had faced series of serious challenges especially from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 farming seasons.
He told Savannahnews that there was the likelihood that the area and most parts of the Northern Regions would experience serious food shortage next year, following the unfavourable rains the farmers experienced.
He hinted that majority of the farmers were shifting from maize and yam cultivation to groundnut cultivation as a result of the lack of rainfalls.
Mr. Abdul Kadri said that most of the farmers had ploughed their lands down several weeks in anticipation for rains but could not plant, those who planted early did not see germination and those whose maize were at the tasseling stage did not see fruits on them as at July and August.
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.