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

Children in developing countries like Ghana face different barriers in accessing basic education. Some of these include school fees, access to learning materials, books, among other things. The government of Ghana introduced the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) program in 1995 which promised universal education by 2005. This policy, however, did not achieve the target goal due to many reasons and could not offset all fees.

Many countries including Ghana have eliminated school fees. However, there are still other significant costs like school uniforms. Access to school uniforms by school children has been a major barrier to education, especially in the rural part of the country including Nyamebekyere, a rural community in the Atwuma Nwabiagye Municipality of the Ashanti region of Ghana. This community has an estimated population of about 1000 people. The community has one school with a student population of 145 from nursery level to grade 6.

According to the headmaster, 4 out of every 5 students have only one school uniform which they wear from Monday to Friday. This has led to most uniforms getting torn and worn out due to regular washing. Absenteeism is a norm in the school and the situation affects teaching and learning activities. Also, only a few privileged students with good uniforms benefit from activities such as educational tours, march pass, games, etc.

In July 2021, the Parents and Teachers Association met and agreed on introducing a uniform that will be worn on Fridays and special occasions for a cost of $4.12 USD. The SHI Agribusiness Club in Nyamebekyere decided to help with this cost. The club has 28 members and none of them had fully paid for the new school uniform as of October 2021. The club produced vegetables as a project for the year 2021 and made a revenue of over $170 USD. The club agreed to support each member with an amount of $2.47 USD. Every member of the club now has a set of new uniforms and this is anticipated to help curb student absenteeism in the school. The club also has plans to support its members with exercise books and pens for the next academic year.

Matthew Kunadu, the club advisor in an interview said, “I think every one of us should have a free mind to study and none should be left behind. The issue of school uniform should not be a reason for absenteeism.”

Emmanuel Amoah, the headmaster of the school also reiterated the impact of Self-Help International’s interventions on the school. He said, “ SHI’s school feeding program and agribusiness club are having a great impact on the school, the students, and teachers. Students, teachers, and the entire community are learning good agriculture practices through the club and the students have proven that they can make good money to support their education and parents. The future is bright for them with SHI’s interventions. Kudus to Justice, and the club advisor for their unflinching support."

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OFSP grown in the ground vs. containers.
OFSP grown in the ground vs. containers.

Promoting the growing and consumption of nutrient-rich crops among rural communities in Ghana is a major priority of Self Help International. Over the years, the Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development Training Centre has promoted the cultivation of Orange Flesh Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), a tuber crop rich in nutrients,especially Vitamin A.

Self Help has distributed tubers and OFSP vine through its agriculture team and nutrition team to communities where malnutrition is prevalent. Self-Help’s goal is to make sure the planting materials remain in those communities and families have access to OFSP to help fight against stunting and malnutrition in young children. 

Results and feedback from partner communities about Self-Help’s OFSP demonstrations have revealed that the majority of tubers get destroyed by pest infestation, especially by millipedes. The traditional method of planting OFSP in the ground has always had risks of severe millipede infestation. Self-Help realized during consultations that other agriculture stakeholders are also facing this problem.

In May 2021, the agriculture team started research to see how well OFSP performs in containers using a growth mixture that would support good tuber formation and reduce pest infestation. Self-Help’s team used mostly rice hulls to prepare the growth mixture, which is a waste product that remains after hulling rice. The team chose the material because rural communities can easily access it. Rice hulls are common in partner communities, and they are often left in the fields after harvesting and hulling rice.

The outcome of the experiment carried out indicated that a 0.55m 2 container is able to produce 38.7kg of tubers with no signs of millipede infestation. Other challenges associated with planting in open fields such as weed control, ridge construction,and  soil hardening up are all eliminated with the planting containers, which makes it easy for people of all ages to grow OFSP.

Self-Help’s team shared the findings from the experiment with other agriculture stakeholders involved in OFSP cultivation. It is also being replicated in Self-Help partner communities, which will lead to the production of tubers free from millipede infestation to help curb malnutrition and stunting.

Self Help International’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurial Program is collaborating with other Self-Help programs to train farmers, women’s groups, and youth groups in partner communities about the methods and results of planting OFSP in containers. Training with Self-Help partners on the methods have been positive, and some partners have already adopted the method and seen better OFSP crop yields.

OFSP vines to grow Vitamin A rich sweet potatoes!
OFSP vines to grow Vitamin A rich sweet potatoes!
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Getting young people involved in ag!
Getting young people involved in ag!

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In Self-Help International’s partner communities in Ghana, it is common to see children helping their parents on the farm during the weekend and after school. The produce grown on these farms serve as the major source of food for families and provide an income at the local market. One major challenge faced by farming families has been low yields, which has sometimes been caused by not being able to implement good agricultural and environmental practices.

Getting rural farmers to adopt new agricultural practices is one of the major challenges the agricultural sector currently faces. It is difficult for rural farmers to access new or best-practice information, so they do not always know that modified practices could positively impact their crop yields. Their children grow up and either migrate to the cities or take over the farming business, continuing to use the farming practices they learned from their parents. 

Equipping rural children with science-based agricultural and environmental practices plays a vital role in improving the quality of agriculture in these communities because they are directly involved in the agricultural activities on their families’ farms from a very young age. 

To teach children about agriculture, Self-Help introduced the Youth in Agriculture Program in 2018 through the Agriculture and Entrepreneur Program. Currently, eight schools are enrolled in the program, and membership is composed of students from upper primary schools and junior high schools. The eight schools are located in rural communities in the Ashanti Region where Self-Help operates: Nkontomire, Nyamebekyere, Kyereyase, Timeabu, Bedabour, Beposo, Nkawkom and Kukuboso. 

Through the program, the students in these communities are equipped with resources, knowledge in good agricultural practices, and entrepreneurship skills training. Emphasis is placed on hands-on and experiential learning methods. Each club identifies and implements a field project throughout the school year to practice what they are learning and to generate an income to sustain the club.  Lessons learned during the club activities and field visits are carried on to their parents’ farms and their communities. Some of the students have even started their own individual projects at home with support from Self-Help and their club advisors. 

Self-Help’s team knows that the future of Ghana depends on the quality of agriculture and by engaging young people in learning about agriculture, Self-Help hopes to improve family nutrition and local community markets.

Students learning about ag.
Students learning about ag.
Learning about ag can be fun and engaging.
Learning about ag can be fun and engaging.
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Self-Help International is working with rural communities and schools in Ghana to increase the growing and consumption of healthy and nutritious foods and to make farming a sustainable business. Self-Help’s Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development (AED) team offers students in upper elementary and junior high school training on agriculture to help young people embrace agriculture. Self-Help works with teachers and students to form agri-business clubs in the schools. Students are then trained and coached to select an agriculture project they are interested in. Self-Help works with the club to help acquire the inputs the students need for their projects. Self-Help staff have seen that the students’ excitement for their projects often has an impact on their family or others in the community. 

14-year-old Micheal and his brother, 11-year-old Akwasi, attend school in Nyamebekyere, a small, rural community in the Ashanti Region in Ghana. They live in a village called Apuayim, just 2 kilometers from their school. They have been part of the Self-Help Agri-Business club at their school since 2019.

One of the projects of the Agri-Business club in Nyamebekyere is to assist with cultivating maize that is used for the School Feeding Program, which is run jointly by Self-Help and the community. Micheal and his brother have been joining and participating in training on the maize plot at their school, which grows Quality Protein Maize using conservation agriculture practices. They have learned a lot from the demonstration at their school.

Michael and his brother have a small plot of land given to them by their father (approx 0.8 acre). They chose to plant maize for the 2021 season, following protocols they had learned and observed during Self-Help’s training at the community demonstration plot. Despite the delayed and unpredictable rains and the late planting, their farm was one of the best in the village. They were the first to harvest fresh corn. They are now telling their friends and family about conservation agriculture and good agricultural practices in order to help their neighbors maximize their yields on their plots as well.

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Healthy chickens!
Healthy chickens!

Rural poultry production is recognized as an important agricultural activity in many countries. Poultry is generally owned and managed by women and children, and the major source of animal protein in a rural family’s diet is poultry. Traditionally, the weight of village chickens and their egg output are low. Both of these things can be improved with factors like housing, disease control, management, and supplementary feeding. 

Self-Help International estimates that over 90% of rural households in Self-Help’s partner communities in Ghana own poultry.  Accessing veterinary services for poultry in these communities is a challenge in Ghana, and this causes them to lose their birds, especially during a disease outbreak. 

One of the outbreaks that causes high poultry mortalities in Self-Help’s partner communities is the annual Newcastle disease. The Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) states that this disease kills more than 90% of unvaccinated birds during outbreaks between December and February.

Around November 2020, women that owned birds in some of Self-Help’s partner communities expressed concern about how they had lost almost all of their birds during previous years. Self-Help’s Agriculture Extension team did due diligence data collection in five partner communities to confirm the issue the women raised. From the data, Self-Help realized these communities lose over 5,000 birds annually. For sustainability reasons, the team also involved the Department of Agriculture and the Veterinary in dealing with this challenge.

Self-Help’s Agriculture Extension team, with support from MOFA, supported five partner communities - Timeabu, Beposo, Asuogya, Abompe, and Kukuboso - through a mass rural community vaccination program. 3,412 rural birds were vaccinated in January 2021. This exercise involved 132 houses that owned poultry.

In March 2021 during a follow-up on bird's response to the vaccines, the communities were thankful to Self-Help and the community poultry vaccination because they saw a great drop in bird mortality in 2021.  This development will improve poultry output and household nutrition in these communities.

Community vaccination.
Community vaccination.
Household poultry.
Household poultry.
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Self-Help International

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