Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana

by Self-Help International
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Take Best Practices to Farmers in Rural Ghana
Innocent tending his garden.
Innocent tending his garden.

According to nutritionists, including vegetables and fruits in a diet can reduce the risk of some diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a great threat to human health and all aspects of society, including food security. In addition to the individual measures that have been laid out to prevent the spread, people are also recommended to stay strong and healthy to be able to fight against the disease. The Ghanaian diet is largely made up of starchy roots and cereals like cassava, maize, and yam, which are all good sources of energy but lack essential vitamins that can help fight against diseases. The divide between food access in rural and urban communities is stark, and the most malnourished and vulnerable are usually women and children.

Self-Help International is working with rural communities to increase the cultivation and consumption of healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Development (AED) team offers rural communities vegetable and fruit garden training involving hands-on demonstrations and also supplies them with planting materials to start their gardens.

Innocent, an 11-year old boy who lives with his parents in Nkontomire, Ghana, is determined to promote the growing and consumption of vegetables and fruits in his community. Self-Help gave Innocent and his family hands-on training on vegetable and fruit gardening. Self-Help’s AED team also supplied Innocent with vegetable seeds and seedlings to start his garden to feed his family. 

The family had land space around the house which mostly had plantain crops. Innocent, in his quest to start his garden, resorted to clearing a portion of the land occupied by plantain to create space for his garden. Self-Help’s AED team coached Innocent as he started his garden, and he currently has nine varieties of vegetables and fruits. When Self-Help’s staff asked Innocent what he was going to do with the vegetables in his garden, he said that he will make sure he eats some with his family and sells the remaining produce to buy clothes.  

Innocent has started telling his friends about gardening at home and he assists those interested in preparing their backyard for a garden. He also links people to Self-Help’s home gardening project to start their gardens. 

Innocent’s mother is very happy and supportive of the gardening project in her house. She said her son now wakes up with a sense of responsibility knowing that he has a garden to attend to, and she believes they will soon be eating from the garden. She believes her son will be very helpful to the community with the kind of good agricultural practices he is developing and will be able to share his knowledge with other families and farmers in Nkontomire.

Innocent and his family in their garden.
Innocent and his family in their garden.
Innocent in his garden.
Innocent in his garden.
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Akwasi's birds.
Akwasi's birds.

October 16 is World Food Day, and we're celebrating enterprising farmers like Akwasi who are doing important work in agriculture! A gift of just $25 can provide training materials to five farmers for them to grow their farms and improve their incomes!

Many countries in Africa are being faced with a high unemployment rate and they are struggling to create jobs to help address this challenge. In Ghana, young people (15-24 years old) form a large chunk of the population and also constitute a greater percentage of the unemployed. 

In an attempt to find a lasting solution, the government of Ghana introduced an initiative known as the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) in May 2018 with the goal of alleviating recent graduate unemployment and to solve social problems.

In 2019, Self-Help International received 12 NABCO members, and three of them - Shawn Agyemang, Raymond Acquah and Akwasi Osei - were assigned to the Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development Program (AED). A few months after joining Self-Help, two of the recent graduates, Shawn and Raymond, leveraged the experience they gained with AED to secure a job at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

Akwasi Osei was assigned to assist the first batch of the Graduate Entrepreneur Program (GEP) trainees with their projects as well as contribute to other activities at the training center.

Akwasi is 26 years old and holds a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Marketing from the Kumasi Technical University. He joined Self-Help in August 2019. Akwasi, with his marketing background, assisted the GEP cohort with marketing their products. His involvement with GEP and the training center stirred up his passion for agriculture, especially raising animals. This passion for agriculture grew considerably stronger as time went on as he continued to observe the successes of the graduate entrepreneurs. 

“Usually, I am free after 2:00 PM, and this made me think of how I can use my idle time profitably,” Akwasi said. “After giving it deeper thought, I decided to start raising rabbits  in my free time to earn extra money.”

Akwasi constructed the rabbit pen on his own and purchased three rabbits as a start-up for his business. In about three months, he had close to 20 rabbits. Akwasi had to sell his rabbits when he moved to a new house, but his new-found passion for agriculture did not diminish. After a series of meetings with his landlord to negotiate space for his business, the landlord finally agreed to let Akwasi raise animals on his property. 

Starting a business is not easy no matter how big the idea is. Akwasi was fully aware of this and knew it wasn’t easy to bring his idea to life and make it successful. He knew he needed to start small and test the waters, which is why he began with just rabbits. Now, with the green light from his landlord, he constructed structures on his own and purchased his breeding stock to start his animal venture once again. Currently, Akwasi has three turkeys, 20 rabbits, two cattle, one sheep, and around 30 birds.

When Akwasi was asked about his plans after NABCO, with a smile on his face he said, “I would like to go into animal rearing on a large scale, and I hope to raise some funds and breeding stock from what I am currently doing.”

Enterprising and dedicated young people like Akwasi are changing the outlook on agriculture in Ghana and ensuring employment not only for themselves, but as his endeavor grows, perhaps for others as well. 

One of Akwasi's pens.
One of Akwasi's pens.
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Samuel on his farm.
Samuel on his farm.

Written by, Emmanuel Obiri Laryea, Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program Officer. Edited by Jessica Crawford, Program Specialist for Africa, and Megan Sehr, Development Director.

"John A. Appleman, an American lawyer, poet and encyclopedist wrote that the first ingredient of success is to dream a great dream. Self-Help International’s Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development (AED) team in Ghana can’t agree more - this has been one of the key driving forces behind the success of the people we serve.

Many of the positive developments that we have seen in the lives of the rural farmers with which we partner have been the result of the AED team’s drive to help them increase their yields. We help farmers improve the work they do and help them feel proud of the progress they are making. I would like to share this story about a rural farmer who needed help controlling fall armyworm on his maize farm." - Emmanuel Obiri Laryea, Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program Officer

Farmers in Ghana face a lot of challenges: financial constraints, access to information about good agronomic practices, erratic rainfall, pest and disease control, land use changes, and climate change.

Since 2016, maize farmers in Ghana have been facing an enormous challenge: the invasion of fall armyworm. In 2016 alone, fall armyworm destroyed over 1.4 million hectares [over 3 million acres] of cowpea and maize farms. It became urgent for the country to embark on an extensive education campaign about detecting and controlling it. The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, trained farmers and provided pesticides to try to control the outbreak.; however, not all farmers had access to the training and inputs. 

Starting in 2018, the AED team has been providing a holistic training on fall armyworm (involving the history, biology, early signs of detection and control, etc.) for rural farmers. So far, this training has been successful. To date (May 2020), no farms that participated in the training have reported fall armyworm infestations. 

Fall armyworm doesn’t only swallow a farmer’s crop - it also swallows the farmer’s income. Fall armyworm reduces farmers’ crop yields and the quality of crops produced, which eventually leads to a reduction in their incomes. Even though most farmers have been equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to control fall armyworm, they are not always able to put all of the practices in action or totally avoid the damage. 

Samuel is a 46-year-old farmer who lives with his wife and four children in the village of Bedabour in the Atwima Nwabiagya District of Ghana. Farming is the main livelihood for Samuel and the income he generates is only enough to provide for the basic needs of his family.

He first partnered with Self-Help in 2018. After Samuel saw the bumper harvest from Self-Help’s community demonstration plot, he became more open to exploring new agronomic practices. Samuel reached out to the AED team assistance purchasing some inputs since his income was going toward providing for his family. 

The AED team decided to guide him step by step through his farming activities with expected returns and visible economic improvement. When fall armyworm invaded Samuel’s maize farm, he had the knowledge to scout, detect and control fall armyworm . However, Samuel was reluctant to act, and he couldn’t afford to purchase pesticide to control the outbreak. He was waiting for nature to pull a surprise - like many farmers do. 

With no way to purchase pesticide, Samuel and AED staff began to look for a solution within the community to address the outbreak. Little did they know that the solution was much closer than they ever imagined. 

Just beside Samuel’s house was a neem tree (Azadirachta indica) which can be used as a pesticide. AED guided Samuel through preparing an organic pesticide from the neem leaves. Looking at the extent of damage caused by the fall armyworm, AED staff recommended a ratio of 1kg neem leaves to 5 liters of water. Samuel crushed the leaves in a mortar before mixing with water. The mixture steeped until the next day, and then it was filtered to remove leaf residue. Samuel visited his maize farm very early the next morning to apply his neem pesticide.

A week after applying the neem pesticide, Samuel visited his farm and, to his surprise, his maize was free from fall armyworm. He has now harvested his maize and is storing it locally. 

When AED staff asked Samuel when he was planning on shelling and selling his maize, he smiled and said that the maize will be sold when prices appreciate enough to earn the money he needs to purchase inputs for the next farming season.

Making the neem tree pesticide.
Making the neem tree pesticide.
Fall armyworm.
Fall armyworm.
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Gender Empowerment Dialogue in action.
Gender Empowerment Dialogue in action.

Gender issues have become a major concern globally, and societies are waking up to the fact that empowering women can contribute to a country’s economic growth. Ghana is no exception; however, Ghana’s ethnic, cultural, and agro-ecological diversity make an overview of gender relations and their consequences for women’s access to resources, decision making, and status extremely difficult.  

Gender issues are more intense in the northern part of the country due to strongly patriarchal family structures, women’s lack of influence in decision making, and a history of male outmigration which has tended to increase women’s labour burden. All of these factors result in generally more limited options for women. Even though women are numerically significant in the population of Ghana, they experience gender-based discrimination including: domestic violence, powerlessness, poverty, and social and political exclusion from active participation in the national development of the country.

All these issues and more are very evident in the operational areas of Self-Help International. Land and farms are owned by men who are the sole decision-makers regarding the affairs of the family. Gender stereotypes and gendered divisions of labour are also prevalent in many households, with clear distinctions between jobs that are generally thought to be performed by males and females. This has been an obstacle to achieving equality between men and women. It tends to place unhealthy demands on both sexes, which inhibits their natural talents and interests from developing.

In general, all Self-Help communities exhibit one or more of the gender-related problems, but they have been especially present in the village of Kukuboso. Gender issues (especially stereotyping, division of labour, and discrimination) are so widespread that they’re communicated consciously and unconsciously to children by parents, community members, and early learning experiences.

Members across Self-Help’s agribusiness clubs (clubs formed in primary and Junior High Schools to enhance the capacity of the youth through livelihood and life skills development) engage in gender stereotyping and divisions of labour; however, the situation in Kukuboso was worse because the male students were preventing female students from joining the club by saying that the clubs’ activities were exclusively for boys/men. 

Out of the 51 members recruited to join Kukuboso’s agribusiness club, only one girl was able to fight her way through to join the club by resisting the efforts from her male counterparts to stop her from joining. This pattern continued, and it got worse when girls who joined the agribusiness club meetings became spectators because they could not actively contribute at meetings.

To curb the issue of gender stereotypes and divisions of labour in the clubs, Self-Help’s agriculture team trained all agribusiness club advisors on how to organize Gender Empowerment Dialogue using the club’s gender manual. A follow-up visit was made to Kukuboso by Self-Help’s Youth in Agriculture Project Officer to help the community’s club advisor organize a Gender Empowerment Dialogue training on gender stereotypes and divisions of labour.  The approach adopted included storytelling, discussion, and activities. Both sexes were engaged in activities perceived to be for a particular gender group, and the outcome of the Gender Empowerment Dialogue was enormous. The six new girls that joined the agribusiness club meetings were all welcomed by the boys, and the only girl who initially joined the club is currently serving as the club’s secretary.

Mr. Augustine, a teacher and a club advisor said, "We want to be able to host an empowerment dialogue for the whole community. Even if the present cannot be changed, we are hopeful the future is bright.’’

Both boys and girls can clean!
Both boys and girls can clean!
Both boys and girls can cook!
Both boys and girls can cook!
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At the farm.
At the farm.

Self-Help International operates in the mostly rural Ashanti region of Ghana where a high proportion of households consist of farmers who are dependent on agriculture as a primary source of food and livelihood. Productivity in the rural areas is very low due to a number of factors including: unpredictable rainfall patterns; farmers opting for less expensive inputs instead of investing in higher quality supplies; and poor technological resources.

Amidst all these hardships faced by farmers as they strive for prosperity, a farmer named Tijani has already started making headway to turn things around for the better by adopting improved farming technologies and agronomic practices.

Tijani is a 49-year-old farmer who lives with his family in  the village of Fankamawe, and he started working with Self-Help International in 2018. As part of the intake process, Self-Help did a needs assessment with Tijani to identify his challenges and knowledge gaps before Self-Help conducted trainings to address those gaps. Among the identified gaps were: record keeping; lack of access to quality inputs; little education on crop disease and pest management; not practicing conservation agriculture; and little knowledge of improved farming technologies and agronomic practices.

Self-Help worked with Tijani through a series of trainings involving classroom work, field visits, and hands-on training related to the gaps he identified with Self-Help. Initially, Tijani was hesitant to adopt some of the new practices, especially those relating to improved farming methods and inputs such as: using a recommended seed rate of 9 kg/acre (20lb/acre); using higher quality maize seed varieties; treating seed before sowing; planting the seed in rows with a recommended spacing of 80 cm x 40 cm (31 in x 16 in); applying fertilizer; managing crop diseases and pests; and timely harvesting. 

Tijani finally agreed to adopt these practices when he witnessed the results of the harvest recorded by the training center. He was linked to the Planting for Food and Jobs package, an initiative by the government of Ghana to supply inputs to farmers at subsidized prices. Self-Help assisted Tijani with marking his row lines and guided him through the planting of his seed and all of the other farming activities through constant visits to his farm and his home.

Upon harvesting his maize, Tijani recorded a yield of 22 bags at 120 kg per bag (264 lbs) on his four acre land, which was an improvement on his previous yield of 12 bags. Tijani donated some of his maize to support Self-Help’s school feeding program in his community.

The price of maize depreciated to 150 Ghanaian Cedi per bag (around $30 USD) at the time Tijani harvested his maize. This worried Tijani because, when he looked at the money he had invested and the price of maize at that time, he would have only made a little bit of a profit. Self-Help introduced Tijani to the use of Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) sacs, hermetically sealed crop storage bags that allow for the longer and safer storage of grains so that farmers can store their maize and sell it when the price appreciates. Tijani managed to purchase 15 PICS sacs through Self-Help to store some of his maize until he could sell it when the price increased again. He is now happy and has placed additional orders for PICS sacs for his minor season maize, which he has yet to harvest.

Tijani shook the hand of Self-Help’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program Officer, Emmanuel, and said with a smile on his face, “Thanks to Self-Help International for all the support over the years and may God bless and strengthen you to continue this good work.”

Emmanuel at the training center.
Emmanuel at the training center.
PICS sacs.
PICS sacs.
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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
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Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Jessica Crawford
Waverly, IA United States
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