Professor Walter S. Alhassan, a member of Bioscience for Farming in Africa’s Scientific Advisory Group (B4FA-SAG) has said It is relevant for Africa to rely on bioscience and new technologies to boost her agriculture.
Bioscience, he explained is not about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but scientific and new agriculture technologies that are proven to be effective and efficient in food production and processing.
Prof. Alhassan in an exclusive interview with the Enquirer during the 6th Africa Science Week Conference held in Accra which sought to find lasting innovative ways to increase food production in Africa said, Africa weakness in food production is not about the lack of lands or human resources but the failure to combine conventional, scientific, research and development in agriculture.
He said Africa has not been able to move forward in agriculture because of inconsistent funding of agriculture research and development. Scientific or bioscience, Prof Alhassan explained to the Enquirer is methods of maximizing production with deployment of few inputs.
He said that, though the conventional crop breeding system is still viable but when it is combined with new found agriculture technologies, it could be more effective.
Africa, he observed though is endowed with vast lands and human resources it was still faced with low productivity as a result of poor yields.
The problem of poor yield he said is a combination of factors including poor seeds, infertile lands, crops diseases or the combination of all these factors.
Prof. Alhassan pointed out that for Africa to be able to feed itself well there was the need to deal with the factors mentioned above and that could easily be done with the adoption of bioscience technologies, he said.
In spite of it’s vast lands and relatively good weather, Africa still faced with the problem of food insecurity. This often trigger mass exodus of the youth from rural communities to urban centres to create not urban slums but also streetism, armed robbery, prostitution, conflict among other social vices.
Prof. Alhassa however stated that the problem of food insecurity could be properly tackled by the use of bioscience and new agriculture technologies such as crops modified scientifically to be drought, diseases and pests resistant crops, high yielding and nutritious crops to also deal with malnutrition in Africa. “Bioscience can change the story of Africa food production when effectively deployed”, he said.
The campaign for adoption of bioscience to boost food production has met with stiffer opposition from both scholar and religious groups because of the fears of health risks associated with the use of bioscience technologies in crops.
For example genetically modified crops they claimed pose cancer risks to human beings. However, all these claims about the negative effects of GMOs have not been scientifically proven.
Prof. Alhassan said the bioscience technologies is one of the effective option that could help Africa produce enough to feed itself in the next 10 years to come and that failure to pay attention to the development of agriculture could spell doom for the continent in future as its population increases rapidly. The UN estimated that the world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and that there was the need to step up food production to meet the daily food needs of the increasing population.
Also published in The Enquirer 7 Aug. 2013 page 3.
FARMERS in Tamaligu, a farming community in the Savelugu-Nanton District of the Northern Region have resorted to the cultivation of exports crops as part of livelihood diversification process-thanks to the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP).
Last year for instance, farmers in this community exported about 15 tons of butter nut squash and cash in thousands of Ghana cedis after the NRGP introduced irrigation for dry season farming and butter nut squash crop to these farmers. This was harvested in a 15 acres land cultivated by a group of farmers with technical, and irrigation facilities support from NRGP.
“It was easy to transport the commodity to the market because of the access road. Our road that used to be un-motorable has also been paved by the NRGP linking us to various market centers and cities where the demand for farm produces are high’ says a farmer. Butter nut squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a type of fruit or vegetable that has a yellowish skin and pulp with a sweet taste when it is well-ripen.
It can be eaten either by roasting, toasted or mixed into soup or other food. The crop is also noted for its high level of vitamins, fibre, potassium and other essential nutrients.
It is a popular vegetable in Europe and was introduced in Ghana to rural farmers by the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in partnership with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). The NRGP and SADA, both the government of Ghana’s initiatives aimed to improve the livelihoods of rural northern farmers and bridge the development gap between the north and south are impacting positively in the lives of poor farmers in region.
The butter nut squash is suitable for savannah soil and needs little water for production. However, the changes in rainfall pattern as a result of climate change in northern Ghana favours the production of crops such as butter nut squash.
The crop is in high demand in Europe because of its nutritional value and rural farmers in Ghana are taking advantage of the long drought to grow butter nut squash for export during dry season.
Speaking in an interview with the Enquirer, the Secretary to Suglo-Viela Farmers Group in Tamaligu, Ibrahim Mohammed Muniru said NRGP trained them from the land preparation stage through to the farm management and to harvesting and packaging of the butternut squash for export.
“We have realized that the production of butternut squash can improve our livelihoods activities so we adopted it”, he said. He said the diversification of their livelihoods became necessary because of the consistent failure of the traditional crops and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
He said in addition to the cultivation of butternut squash, the NRGP had also supported the farmers in Tamaligu to cultivate maize, sorghum, soya beans and vegetables both in the dry and raining seasons. “We are busy all year round live in the community is getting more meaningful and better”, he stressed.
He said last year for instance, they cultivated about 300 acres of maize, 30 acres of sorghum and 50 acres of soya beans and hoped to improve on this in the next two years.
Farmer group was formed through the NRGP and comprises 76 farmers out of which 41 are females. The group was linked to a commercial farmer, one Mr Mahama Alhassan through whom the NRGP channeled its support to them.
The secretary said the commercial farmer aided them to acquire irrigation pumps from the NRGP at a subsidized cost under the NRGP’s matching grants scheme. “We are to pay a part of the cost of the machines and the NRGP would also pay a part,” he explained.
Mr Mahama Alhassan, the commercial farmer told the Enquirer that the farmers have been trained and acquired the requisite knowledge to cultivate butternut squash that meet international standard. Mr. Alhassan opearates, the Savannah Agro-business Services, that renders services to farmers. He said farmers now have the capacity to produce more of these crops but would need a sustainable market with a good price for their produces to remain self-sustained and food secured.
He appealed to the NRGP to construct a warehouse for the community to enable them store their maize due to the huge volumes that was being produced by the farmers.
Francis Npong, Acccra, Ghana: The president of the Republic of Ghana president John Draimani Mahama has said that root and tuber crops provide great opportunities for long-term poverty alleviation and food security in Africa and urged researchers to focus on the development of these crops to help reduce poverty among poor and vulnerable families in Africa.
According to the president improving competitiveness of root and tuber crops would help reduce poverty not only in Ghana but Africa at large. He said about that 80 percent of people living in rural communities depended on agriculture as a source of livelihood in which root and tuber constitute the chunk of food stuff consumed.
“Root and tuber crops (sweet potato, cassava, and yams) provide great opportunities for long-term poverty alleviation and food security much more than any other staple foods produced in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions,”, said the president.
Delivering a speech on behalf of the president at the 12th Symposium organized by the International Society for Tropical Root Crops-Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) in Accra by Mr. Mohammed Alfa, the Deputy Minister of Environment Science and Technology the president said root and tuber crops have the potential to increase food security.
The 12th ISTRC Symposium was supported by the government of Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), IITA, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana, Harvest Plus, African Development Bank-funded Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD SC) project, IITA-Yams Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Potato Center (CIP) among other organizations and aimed to develop agriculture in Africa.
Dr. Richard Okechuku, IITA Cassava project Coordinator
The symposium provided opportunity to scientists and development partners to re-examine the competitiveness of root and tuber crops to harness their potential to accelerate Africa economic growth and food security.
Dr Nzola Mahungu, ISTRC-AB President, said, “Root and tuber crops play an important role in ensuring food security in Africa, and we must tap the opportunities of these crops to increase food security in Africa”
He said the root and tuber crops are widely consumed across Africa and could play a key role in providing incomes generation for farmers. According to him, cassava as a tuber crop was a source of livelihood for over 300 million people in Africa but was less affected by climate change.
He said the root crops have become increasingly important because its ability to withstand drought and grow on soils with marginal fertility. “But the potentials of these crops are yet to be fully exploited,” Dr Mahungu pointed out.
The Deputy Director General (Partnerships and Capacity Development) of IITA, Dr Kenton Dashiell stressed that mobilizing investors for sustainable root and tuber crops research and development was crucial to the fight against food insecurity in Africa. He said the rising unemployment food insecurity could easily be solved by harnessing full potentials of root and tuber crops. “If properly harnessed, the root and tuber crops development can help to enagege the number of unemployed youths in the continent”, he said.
He called on scientists to ensure that their research outputs were creating the desired change both the community and farm levels and address the constraints in agriculture development.
people picking pieces of broken Yams after accident
The programme that brought over 200 local and international scientists, donors, farmers, and other development partners also discussed interesting topics including African root crops trade and market scenarios, Policies favorable to competitiveness of root crops in Africa, African scenario on production and utilization of root and tuber crops, Business and investment scenarios on competitiveness of root crops in Africa—benchmarking Latin American, Asian and European markets (Learning from Latin American, Asian & European industries).