The r4d Synthesis project “Food Systems Caravan” (FSC) documented various r4d projects around sustainable and organic food systems in five West African countries (Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria) in 2019. Obrobibini Peace Complex (OPC) was assigned the mandate to take the resulting short technical videos and longer documentary (entitled “The Green Vein”) to relevant stakeholders in Ghana in 2020/2021. The report below summarizes the activities organized, as well as the main lines of feedback received from stakeholders and respective follow-up activities planned. The financial report is also annexed in this document.
In 2020, OPC organized the dubbing of three shorter technical videos available on the FSC website into the local language Twi. This was necessary in order to be able to take the contents shown in the videos to the target audience of farmers in five communities, as well as to agricultural students at two Senior High Schools. With the translated videos (available here (IFWA project), here (Orm4Soil project) and here (YamSys project)), we visited the farming communities in Krofu and Nkwanta (Central Region), in Alavanyo and Abofrem (Western North Region) as well as in Busua (Western Region). Furthermore, we visited classes of agricultural students at the Mankessim Senior High School in Mankessim (Central Region) as well as at the Baidoo Bonsoe Senior High School in Agona (Western Region). The selection of the farming communities and Senior High Schools was influenced by OPC’s interventions in other projects and respective existing links. This first part of the activities took place between 16 and 24 November 2020. In total, some 200 farmers and 100 students were involved in the activities. Figure 1 shows some impressions from these events.
Through the events organized, students learnt new things with respect to sustainable and organic food systems that were not part of the curriculum taught at their respective institutions. Farmers endorsed most of the contents shown in the videos and shared knowledge about traditional farming methods practiced by their ancestors. According to the farmers, this knowledge has been lost in the last generation because conventional farming has taken over, simplifying farming and having many hidden disadvantages that do not show up immediately. The main lines of content discussed were the need for proper management of locally available organic resources, the need to stop excessive burning practices in the farms, as well as the need to diversify ones farming activities, practice crop rotation and use locally adapted crop varieties and animal races. The lively discussions following the video screenings showed that a lot of mutual learning happened to advance sustainable and organic agriculture in Ghana.
In 2021, we organized screenings of the longer documentary entitled “The Green Vein” (see the trailer) with various stakeholders, including farmers, students, policy makers, academics, extension agents, farmer-based organizations and others in the three major cities Accra (Greater Accra Region), Kumasi (Ashanti Region) and Bolgatanga (Upper East Region). Colleagues from AgroEco (Luis Bolk Institute) took chance of our organizing these events to discuss the final draft of the national organic action plan for Ghana with the same group of stakeholders, which presented a nice synergy for the further development of the organic sector in the country. After a general introduction by Dr Christian Andres, which focused on OPC, FSC and ago-ecology in general, we screened the documentary. After the screenings, we discussed the questions below in a facilitated panel discussion with one representative each from farmers, students, policy makers and academics. This second part of the activities took place between 12 and 19 June 2021. In total, 135 participants were part of these meetings (see lists in Appendix, Table 1, Table 2 and Table 3). Figure 2 shows some impressions from these events.
Links to media coverage of the documentary screening events organized in 2021
Agric Production: Farmers Implored To Use More Organic Fertilizers (Kumasi event, TV, online)
Stakeholders meeting on food system caravan held (Bolgatanga event, print, online)
Stakeholders meeting on Food System Caravan held in Bolgatanga (Bolgatanga event, print, online)
Questions discussed during the panel discussions after the documentary screenings
- How can we guarantee the availability of sufficient organic input materials such as the ones shown in the movie (mulch, fertilizers, biochar, insect-based animal feed, etc.), especially for many farmers in decentralized locations and for large-scale operations?
- The movie shows one example of a young person from Mali who chose agriculture over football for a career. As we all know, this is the exception rather than the rule. How can we better motivate our youth to go into agriculture, develop the business narrative of agriculture and make agriculture “sexy” again?
- The movie shows many pioneers in agro-ecology practising sustainable and organic farming systems in West Africa. How can we improve networking between these rather isolated initiatives to increase peer-to-peer learning, cohesion and to build critical mass (e.g. program for experience exchanges, etc.)?
- What are policy makers already doing to help transitioning our food system into a more sustainable and organic direction, and how can they further help to push this agenda?
The discussion with the panellists about the contents of the videos were targeted at shedding light on the limitations for the development of sustainable and organic food systems in order to reach systemic relevance in West Africa. Their responses and interaction with the audience mainly highlighted the following issues:
- Quality organic inputs should be produced and made available at vantage points throughout the country;
- The bulkiness of the materials makes transport difficult, and respective solutions should be worked out;
- Farmers need to be properly trained and supported in transitioning to the use of more organic inputs, e.g. separating organic from inorganic waste, composting, etc.;
- One needs a strategic planning of an organic farming operation in terms of availability of raw materials, crop varieties and animal races used, cash flow projections, marketing, networking as well as intercropping and crop rotation practices;
- Demonstration farms should be established where successful organic operations could be showcased to convince farmers and build up an organic network of cooperatives; more attention needs to be given to the diffusion of information to farmers as well as adoption constraints on their part;
- Organic farmers need to be aware that it takes time to build up the life of the soil and reap profits compared to the conventional system using short-term thinking and approaches;
- Farmers can take up the challenge to collect organic materials from their communities by setting up respective bin collection systems from households.
- Lack of support in terms of access to land and credit for youth to go into farming;
- Image and portraying of farming in textbooks (farmer in shabby clothes, etc.), as well as giving farming tasks as a punishment to students (e.g. weeding of the school compound) is not encouraging them to go into agriculture;
- Some parents intentionally want to divert their children from agriculture because of their view of farming;
- Academics and other officials who have experience, success stories to share, as well as links to successful farmers should facilitate appropriate linkages with interested students;
- Radio programmes can help to further raise the interest of youth in agriculture, and the business approach to agriculture should be highlighted (whole value chain, value addition, not only mere production);
- Organic farming should be integrated into curriculum (currently not the case) and more practical activities should be done;
- The government should recruit more agricultural extension agents among the youth who have been trained for the job.
- A database of all organic farmers as well as input dealers and other important value chain actors should be developed for easy communication flow; starting point may be the existing networks of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Ghana as well as the Ecological Organic Agriculture Platform of Ghana (EOAP-G);
- Traditional authorities (chiefs) should be included in these networks, because they can make sure the word really spreads to the ground, and they can also facilitate access to land;
- NGOs should help to make linkages between institutions who are already into agro-ecology and interested farmers;
- The use of Social Media (WhatsApp, fb, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) should be intensified;
- More trade fairs should be organized;
- Extension services should help to form more organic farmer groups and cooperatives.
- Farmers are being trained about the potentially negative impact of conventional inputs, and youth are being encouraged to go into greenhouse farming;
- The government is promoting organic farming through various means such as providing subsidized organic inputs and making new policies. However, these are not done in close cooperation with farmers, which limits the impact on the ground and should be improved in the future;
- There should be more interventions in public awareness raising about the need and benefits of producing and consuming organic produce;
- The government should set up more decentralized waste treatment facilities (coupled with the national waste disposal service called “Zoomlion”) for production of organic inputs;
- The government should make more efforts in implementing policies developed on paper.
OPC will participate in the r4d Science Fair organized by the r4d programme in Benin in the second half of September 2021. The participation will give the OPC team the opportunity to exchange with the implementing dissemination partners from the other four countries in order to synthesize inputs made during the respective dissemination events. Furthermore, the exercise during the r4d Science Fair and planned visits of OPC to selected project sites in Benin after the event shall provide a stepping-stone towards the launch of an agro-ecological network in West Africa. The mission of this network shall be to spearhead the necessary processes with respective stakeholders in order for agro-ecology to become systemically relevant in West Africa.Attachments: