Stories from the field
Adopting sustainable agronomic practices amid global climatic change is certainly proving to contribute to safeguarding the health of plants, animals, and the environment while also benefitting smallholder farmers. ABN’s partner in Ghana, Regional Advisory Information & Network Systems (RAINS) shares with us a collection of testimonies from a cross-section of farmers they’ve been working with in the Savelugu Municipality of Ghana.
Abubakari Iddrisu, a rice farmer, Yilikpani
53-year-old Abubakari Iddrisu is a smallholder rice farmer, like many smallholder farmers in rural Ghana. After years of using indigenous farming practices and planting materials, Iddrisu fell victim to the marketing words of promoters of conventional farming practices, pushing the use of genetically modified (GM) and hybrid seeds and chemical insecticides, pesticides and herbicides. This resulted in the near extinction of some indigenous crop varieties and depletion of soil nutrients.
Against this backdrop, the arrival of ABN’s SEWOH project couldn’t have come at a better time. In 2018, Iddrisu and other farmers in the Savelugu Municipality joined the SEWOH project where they received training on organic and indigenous crops farming practices by RAINS’s Agricultural Technical Officers. For Iddrisu, it started the process of salvaging indigenous seed while implementing sustainable farming methods.
“I have been farming as a source of income for over 40 years now. However the high cost of chemical fertilizer and associated health hazards have always been a worry, although I had no other option. Before joining the SEWOH project, I had always struggled to get higher yields from my rice fields. The annual cost of production always outweighed the returns at the end of the season,” says Iddrisu. “Truth be told, since joining this project, I have realized that the yields from organic farming practices are of higher quality and quantity compared to yields farmed using chemical fertilizer and pesticides”
Beneficiaries of the SEWOH project attribute the improvement in the quality and quantity of harvest to crop resistance to pest and diseases which in former days of cultivating hybrid crop varieties were characterized by the destruction of crops both on field and post-harvest. Cereal and grain farmers have particularly observed a reduction in insect infestation of their harvests. They also expressed the joy of being able to consume produce directly without fear of chemical poisoning. The use of organic manure, pesticides and insecticides have been the game changers.
Ziblim Sanatu mixed farmer, Tindang Community, Northern part of Ghana
Sanatu, a 57-year-old smallholder farmer from the Tindang community also shared her experience of being involved with the SEWOH project. After the first year of the project, Sanatu reveals, “I saw the need to return to the cultivation of indigenous crop varieties because their yields are high, and the production cost is low. Above all, it is best suited for the changing climate because they are more drought tolerant and pest resistant.”
The high yields are a result of several factors including seed and farming methods, seen in comparison to what they would have harvested per acre before. Sanatu puts the reduction of losses down to her adoption of composting and use of organic pesticides. Through the project, Sanatu, says that she realized that indigenous crop varieties, local landrace (local cultivar) crops are resistant to different major pest and diseases that farmers in Northern region of Ghana have had to battle with in the past.
Mr Iddrisu Adam, farmer
Iddrisu Adam, 45, is the Local Assembly Representative in the Yizegu Community is also a beneficiary of the SEWOH project. He had this to say, “Studies have shown that overuse of chemical fertilizers to get high yield crops causes physical and chemical degradation of the soil. We have also observed that the over reliance on chemical fertilizers comes with huge socio-ecological costs such as environmental pollution, biodiversity loss, increased vulnerability to climate change, land degradation, erosion of traditional agricultural knowledge and decline in human health and livelihoods.
Despite this knowledge farmers found it challenging to go back to indigenous farming practices on their own accord. They thus considered the SEWOH project a timely intervention to facilitate their return to the former ways of farming. The trainings and networks established under the project have played key roles in determining their farming decisions.
There are many such testimonies on the lips of the 250 project beneficiaries, whose lives, families and communities have been changed for the better, through the work.
Supported by Bread for the World and working with ABN partners across Africa, the SEWOH Project is designed to help farmers such as these to improve their farming methods, such as compost production and application, production and use of natural pesticides. These improve farm yields, restore soil fertility, reduce the cost of production while increasing yields, revamping indigenous crop farming and ultimately boosting the household’s income and nutrition, all while protecting the environment.