Farmers across the country are demanding the immediate commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to help shore up productivity in the wake of the negative impacts Covid-19 on the production of their farms.
The farmers say that allowing the growing of GMOs crops in Ghana will help them increase efficiency on their farms, reduce pests, disease infestation, and make the farms less susceptible to the impact of climate change.
They believe that with GMOs, they will be able to harvest more produce from the same farm size while spending less on inputs and also not feeling the effects of the climate that much; as these GMOs seeds have been produced to withstand environmental stresses.
According to Chief Osman Fukuyama, a farmer at Bereku in the Central Region, a great number of farmers are making losses as a result of Covid-19.
He said, due to some of the restrictions as a result of the pandemic, “we are struggling to get access to quality inputs like seeds as the majority of them are imported.”
The farmers were sharing their observations on Ghana’s Agricultural Sector, challenges smallholder farmers are facing, and COVID-19 related challenges.
The farmers indicated that introducing GMOs will be crucial in helping them increase their yield to make up for losses in productivity as a result of these Covid-19 related challenges.
The 2019 National Best Agroforestry Farmer, Mr. Robben Asare adds that some of his colleagues are struggling to get access to machinery and equipment majority of which are imported.
“All the above are negatively impacting productivity and making farming less productive” he added.
Pests, particularly pod borer (Maruca vitrata), have hampered the production of cowpea, the most important legume in Ghana over the years.
Ghana currently imports from other neighboring countries to meet the local demand for the legume.
Sharing his views on Ghana’s agriculture sector challenges smallholder farmers are facing and the role of modern technology in improving agricultural productivity and livelihood, Dr. Mumuni Abdulai, Principal Investigator (Bt Cowpea) at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute, SARI of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SARI-CSIR) in Tamale said the institute has developed a new cowpea variety, known as BT cowpea, which is pest-resistant and requires less spraying than the varieties currently being planted by the farmers, which require a lot of spraying of pesticides to survive.
He indicated that Ghana has completed its scientific work on Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Cowpea, after almost a decade of research.
He said that the new cowpea variety, could potentially increase yield by 20 times more and the acceptance of the product, will pave way for the environmental release of the BT Cowpea. Field trials in Ghana show productivity in Bt (1925.0 kg/ha) compared with the non-Bt (94.1 kg/ha).
The final work document contains details of the research work including the gene inserted in the beans to control the Maruca pest, its safety, and its non-target effect.
“The dossier of the work will be submitted to the National Biosafety Authority of Ghana” he added.
Research Associate with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Dr. Paul Boadu also disclosed that the CSIR- Crop Research Institute is in the process of developing a GM rice variety called NEWEST rice, which, is been engineered to have nitrogen and water use efficiency traits as well as a salt-tolerant trait.
Dr. Boadu said adopting this rice would offer a lot of benefits to farmers as their incomes would improve while consumers would also pay less for the commodity as prices would reduce.
The Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr. Kodjo Essien Mensah-Abrampa said that the NDPC is developing a policy document on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for Ghana’s agriculture sector.
“Anywhere agriculture has developed in the world you have excellent Crop biotechnology policy” he added.