Climate change puts Ghana's agric at risk

Source: Graphic Online
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Source: Graphic Online

5/22/2012 2:01:19 PM -

Ghana may be worst hit by the impact of Climate Change (CC) if adequate measures are not adopted to contain the brunt, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report cautioned that the current low yields than projected being experienced in the agric sector had been attributed to the effects of climate change.

It warned that yields in the agric sector are expected to further decrease, which may likely affect the vulnerable and the poor.

The report termed the Policy Advice Series 2 highlights the negative effects of climate change on the agricultural sector in Ghana.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘A change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’.

Historical data for Ghana from the year 1961 to 2000 clearly shows a progressive rise in temperature and decrease in annual rainfall. In Ghana, CC is manifested through rising temperatures, declining rainfall totals and increased variability, rising sea levels and high incidence of weather extremes and disasters such as flash floods (Minia et al. 2004).

Agriculture accounts for about one-third of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); 28.3 per cent (2011 est.) and employs more than half of the workforce, mainly small landholders. The sector grew by 2.8 per cent against a target of 5.3 per cent in 2011 (2012 Budget).

Irregular rainfall pattern is a feature of CC with particularly damaging consequences, such as droughts and flood and these are predicted to get worse over time.

According to the EPA Policy Advice Series, which have been developed to enhance understanding and appreciation of CC and disaster risk issues, by policy makers and senior technocracts and to support them to take urgent and needed decisons, agriculture and food security are interrelated and thus, CC induced unsustainable livelihoods will result in negative consequences on food security, poverty, health, education, gender equality and environmental degradation.

Agricultural production’s dependence on rainfall is a significant hindrance to the developments of the sector in Ghana. The use of irrigation to counter the effects of poor rainfall is particularly low across the country.

Agriculture is highly sensitive to temperature and rainfall and yields are plummeting and will continue to do so. Major challenges in the agricultural sector include low crop yields, over dependence on inconsistent rainfall, unsustainable agricultural practices, low knowledge of use technology and sustainable utilisation of the natural resource base, mostly due to poverty levels among farmers.

CC impacts are reduced soil fertility due to changes in precipitation (rainfall) and temperature, rainfall deficits resulting in desertification of grazing pastures and reduced water availability for animals and shifts in agro-ecological zones that are too rapid for trees and farming systems to adapt to.

Others are incidents of pest attacks resulting from an increased temperature, loss of cropland from erosion and desertification, coastal erosion and destruction of valuable coastal agricultural land.

Earlier this month, about 5,200 acres of rice farms in the Ketu-North District of the Volta region were invaded by army worms and caused massive destruction to crops. The farms included 1,200 acre Afife Irrigation Project Farm and another 3,000 acres of rain fed private farms located in the Kpli Valley at Klenomadi. A total of 2,524 farmers risked losing their livelihood but for the timely intervention of the Regional Directorate of Agriculture that commenced spraying to prevent the spread of the army worm invasion in the district.

In 2003 Ghana signed the Maputo Declaration of African countries allocating 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to develop the agricultural sector. The spending on agricultural research and development in Ghana doubled between 2000 and 2008, from GH₵151 billion to GH₵352 billion respectively, but most went towards an increased outlay for salaries (75 to 83 per cent).

All planning in the agricultural sector is aligned with the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP 11) which seeks to address the challenges of the agricultural sector.

However, impacts of CC have not been factored in any of the six policy objectives, though agriculture is highly sensitive to temperature and rainfall. For instance, objective one targets production and post harvest losses but does not account for the potential increase in vulnerability of the poor due to the unpredictable climate change conditions.

The EPA Policy Series 2 recommended that more urgently, impacts of CC need to be quickly factored into the sector plan so that additional funding can be sourced for CC adaptation measures in the country.

Nevertheless, government’s outlook for food and agriculture in 2012 as stated in the budget is to expand the Agriculture Subsidy Programme to include liquid fertilizers (bio-fertilizer) and improved seeds. The Ministry will subsidize 165,000 metric tonnes of chemical and liquid fertilizer.

“The National Food Buffer Stock Company will acquire another rice mill with a capacity of about 8.5 metric tonnes per hour, to be located in the Northern Region where rice production has been increasing for the past 3 years. In line with the national policy of stocking food for a better Ghana, at least 10,000 metric tonnes each of maize and milled rice, as well as 1,000 metric tonnes of soya beans will be stocked at all times,” Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor announced.

Recently, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Kwesi Ahwoi announced that government had sourced an amount of US$145 million from the World Bank and the United States Agency for the implementation of the Ghana Commercial Agricultural Project (GCAP) to address food security in the country.

He said by the end of the project in 2017, Ghana would be able to produce enough rice to feed itself and also become the bread basket for West African sub-region.

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