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
Porridge ready for the 83 school children
Porridge ready for the 83 school children

Eighty-three children at the Seseko District Assembly Kindergarten and Primary School in the Ashanti Region of Ghana now have access to porridge for breakfast at school after the Agricultural and Entrepreneurial Development (AED) Program of Self Help International (SHI) provided the community with Quality Protein Maize seeds to establish a school farm.

The Francis Mueller & Virginia Lageshulte Agriculture and Entrepreneur Development Center run by the AED Program taught members of the Seseko community how to use the Manual Hand-Push Planter and planted the farm alongside them. In addition, they were provided with fertilizer, weedicides and pesticides. The community in turn provided labor.

For two years now, proceeds from the farm have been used to run a local school feeding program where porridge is prepared at the school every morning for all the school children; from kindergarten to class six, to take as breakfast.

Commenting on why the community found it necessary to seek the services of the AED Program to provide meals for the school children in the morning, Samuel, 35, Assistant Headmaster of the school, said most of the students do not take breakfast at home before coming to school. "Furthermore, there are no food vendors around so food is not sold at the school which is located in a farming community." 

Samuel said while the school is on the government's school feeding program, the program provides food only at lunch time hence the need to find an alternative way of providing breakfast for the school children. He commended the AED Program for their assistance to the school saying “the school feeding program has made a positive impact on enrolment levels as well as the ability of the students to stay active in class and learn.”

Commenting on the quantity of maize needed to feed the entire school, he said,“We normally need more than one bag of maize to provide breakfast daily for all the students at the school during the school term.”

Meanwhile, efforts are underway by the Providing Good Nutrition (PGN) Program of SHI to formally start a School Feeding Program at the school. Under a PGN supported feeding program, the school will be provided with cups, spoons, sugar and a caterer to prepare the breakfast which is currently being prepared by the older girls at the school. During a visit by the PGN team and other SHI staff to assess the situation at the school in May this year, Mr. Antwi welcomed the idea of PGN taking over the school feeding program at the school.

He said other pressing problems encountered by the students are lack of school sandals, school bags, school uniforms and books. In addition, the school building is in a deplorable state which makes it difficult to teach whenever it rains since learning is disrupted by the rains.

Justice who is the Community Crop and Livestock Specialist of the AED Program said they were approached by the school two years ago for assistance to establish a school farm to support a school feeding program for the school children to ensure that they have access to breakfast daily.

Taking into consideration the nutritional needs of the school children, they immediately  went to the rescue of the school and supported the community to cultivate a maize farm to feed the children.

The school farm, which is less than an acre, produced 300 kilograms, which is approximately three maxi bags of maize last year

The school is in a deplorable condition
The school is in a deplorable condition
Samuel is the Assistant Headmaster of the school
Samuel is the Assistant Headmaster of the school
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Sulemana at a workshop for Profile Farmers by SHI
Sulemana at a workshop for Profile Farmers by SHI

In the past, Sulemana, a 46-year-old farmer and father of six needed to eke out money from his limited resources to hire farm hands to assist him in planting maize on his one-acre farm at Fankamawe in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. 

However, after he enrolled as a profile farmer with the Agricultural and Entrepreneurial Development (AED) Research Centre at Nkwakrom in the same region, he was taught how to use the Manual Hand-Push Planter at a training program at the center in April this year.. The Hand-Push Planter is designed to make the planting of maize and other seeds less tiresome and time consuming.

“I used to hire five farmhands to help me plant maize on my one-acre maize farm at the cost of 50 Ghana Cedis per farmhand. It was not possible for the farmhands to finish planting my field in a day so on the second day, I will hire four farmhands again to continue and finish with the planting.”

But as a Profile Farmer of the AED Centre, Sulemana was given access to the planter with which he had been trained. With the assistance and direction of personnel from the center, maize seeds were successfully planted on his farm in May this year without the need to hire farmhands.

In addition to the maize being planted, fertilizer was also applied on his field at the same time since the planter carries out the dual activity of planting and fertilizer application at the same time.

“In the past, after hiring farm hands to plant the maize, I will also hire them again to assist me in applying fertilizer to the crops after they have germinated. This year, both the planting and fertilizer application was done by the planter, saving me the money I would have spent on hiring farm hands to carry out both tasks.”

“In addition, the planter was able to plant in areas that the farmhands normally find difficult to plant because it is beyond their human capacity. Hence, my entire one-acre field was covered with seeds and no part of the land was left idle.”

The idea of nurturing profile farmers in rural areas served by the AED Center is to use such farmers as a model for demonstrating the impact of modern agricultural technologies on crop yields. Their farms will serve as demonstration farms for other farmers while they will also help them to adopt agricultural innovations through peer to peer learning.

In this regard, five profile farmers from four different communities have been trained to use modern technologies in planting and applying fertilizer to their crops, to implement good agronomic practices and also  take the necessary action to improve upon the nutrient content of their soils through the adoption of soil improvement technologies such as biochar compost.

The AED center was established by Self Help International in Ghana to carry  out research in agriculture and make recommendations to farmers based on their outcomes. This is in a bid to boost agriculture in rural communities by introducing them to research based and scientific ways of crop cultivation as well as new technologies to help boost their yields and raise farmers incomes. This forms part of an overall strategy to reduce rural poverty by stimulating rural economies.  

Commenting on how being a profile farmer has impacted on his life, Mr Sulemana said having access to the planter alone has brought a big change in how he plants and fertilizes his field.

 “I am happy to be a profile farmer and I am looking forward to harvesting more crops this year by following all the agronomic practices that they have introduced to us,” he said. 

Sulemana using the Manual Hand-Push Planter
Sulemana using the Manual Hand-Push Planter
Sulemana Practices with Profile Farmers
Sulemana Practices with Profile Farmers
Sulemana with Profile Farmers and SHI staff
Sulemana with Profile Farmers and SHI staff
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Controlling  weeds on farms is a very important activity that influences productivity. There are various methods of weed control including chemical, biological and mechanical methods, among others. The particular method a farmer selects would be determined by a factor including the effectiveness of controlling weed, the cost of the method, or other factors that may be specific to the individual farmer. Over the years, Self Help International’s agricultural extension specialists in Ghana have explored mulching as a means of weed control and soil water conservation.

Self Help Internatonal’s training center recently ran an experiment to test the effectiveness of mulching with rice husk. Rice husk was selected as the medium because it is generally available as a waste material from the processing of rice in some of its partner communities.  The rice husk is left to waste or burned at the local rice mills after hulling because farmers do not see value in it, so Self Help International (SHI) sought to find an alternative use for this waste.

In February 2021, a pineapple plot was mulched with rice husks to about 1 inch high. In 2022, SHI did not apply any further means of weed control. It was observed that the rice husk is able to significantly suppress weed growth.  The mulching also created a barrier between the weed seed and the soil which reduced the ability of the seeds to germinate. This is because fresh rice husk has a hard, slippery surface and does not hold moisture to support the sprouting of weed seeds. In addition, weed seeds that are mulched over cannot receive sunlight because it is  blocked out by the mulch and thus won't germinate. Consequently, until the rice husk is decomposed and broken down to the point where it will allow moisture and sunlight to pass through it, it will remain difficult for weed seeds to grow. Because rice husk decomposes very slowly on its own, it prevents weed seeds from growing on it for a long time.

However, when rice husk that is used as mulch eventually decomposes, it is able to conserve soil moisture for long periods and protect the soil from direct sunlight. This creates an ideal environment for soil-living organisms and decomposers such as earthworms, slugs, sow bugs and beneficial insects, bacteria and fungi to thrive. The activities of these organisms in the soil ensure complete decomposition of the mulch and promote soil health, hence they are deemed beneficial to agriculture. 

SHI’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurial Program is sharing these findings and results with rural farmers. The team is now training and advocating the use of rice husk as an effective mulching material. Some partner farmers have started practicing this mulching and weed control method and are seeing positive results. 

In the face of rising costs of inputs, SHI is pleased to share this information about a low-cost and widely available solution to improved mulching and weed control with farmers.

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Self-Help International’s Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Development (AED) Program showcased innovations in agriculture to farmers and other shareholders at this year’s District Farmers Day celebration on December 2nd at Kyereyasi in the Atwima Nwabiagya Municipal in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

The AED Program replicates scientific research undertaken by other research stations to demonstrate its efficacy to farmers and also determine the best practices necessary for the  adoption and successful outcome of the research in Ghana’s agricultural environment. 

These innovations provide farmers with new technologies and information about soils, plants, poultry and rabbits among others to determine the optimum conditions that support high crop yields and the successful rearing of poultry and rabbits based on practical experimentation and implementation at the SHI training center. 

The items exhibited for Farmers Day included a demonstration of cultivating aubergine (eggplant) and cabbage seedlings nursed in soilless medium to educate people on how to use soilless medium to nurse and raise plants to reduce the incidence of diseases and pests.  

Also on display was a sack of rice husk which is common in the Ghanaian environment and can be used for producing biochar. Biochar is created through the controlled burning of the rice husk under low oxygen, and can also be turned into biochar compost, which as the name suggests, is biochar that has been enriched with compost.

Strawberries and tomatoes planted in used containers were also showcased in a bid to demonstrate how used containers can be used to nurse and cultivate plants.

In order to promote the rearing of rabbits, a rabbit cage fabricated with galvanized metal mesh which is both durable and hygienic was put on show to help people interested in rearing rabbits to know how best to house them.  

An orange plant cloned through air layering which is a method of propagating trees and shrubs from stems still attached to the parent plant was also exhibited.  The advantages of using this method of propagation is that the clones produce fruits that are identical to the parent plant and also fruit at a faster rate than plants propagated through seed.

Some of the people who visited the SHI stand left with young seedlings to plant on their own farms and gardens.

Thus, participating in this year's Farmer’s Day celebration did not only offer SHI a chance to educate people on new ways of cultivating plants and rearing poultry and rabbits but also provided an opportunity for people to test and benefit from these innovations by utilizing improved seedlings on their farms.

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Joseph tends to his flock
Joseph tends to his flock

Joseph is a young teacher who has an interest in poultry production in Kobrim, a community on the outskirts of Ejisu. The location of the community makes access to affordable food products challenging and residents are limited to buying food only on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Joseph wanted to start keeping poultry but did not have the knowledge or experience. Though he keeps a small number of local fowls in his compound for his family, he wanted to start a commercial poultry business. To him, keeping poultry in his community meant he could give his community more access to protein (in the form of eggs and chicken), and earn him additional income to support his family. He also looked forward to hiring farm hands among the young people in his community. 

As a youth leader, he believed his success would inspire his colleagues to have the courage to start their own agribusinesses. Joseph consulted Self-Help International through the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Development (AED) center for advice.

Joseph constructed his poultry house and received his first batch of 200 broilers one year ago. According to Joseph, it was very challenging as it was his first time handling that many chicks. He learned how to dress and properly present his birds for sale and started to sell chicken to his neighbors when his birds were nine weeks old. Joseph plans to purchase his next batch of 400 layers for egg production. He also intends to keep producing broilers for Christmas and Easter festivities when there is greater demand.

Joseph is happy with the experience he has gathered and is confident to handle larger number of chickens. He is certainly an inspiration to his colleagues in his community and expresses gratitude to the AED team for the support. Joseph is ready and confident he can teach his colleagues who want to start poultry production.

Today, he is a proud owner of a business and is solving a problem in his community.

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