Farmers in the transition landscape of Ghana have called on the government and private sector to support them to ensure food security. The transition landscape often referred to as the ‘food basket of Ghana’ has been the centre of food production in the country. The landscape with over 60% of its population being farmers, is noted for the production of staple crops such as yam, cassava, plantain, maize and fruit crops such as cashew, cocoa and mangoes. This makes it one of the most important contributors to Ghana's food security and socio-economic development.
However, due to deforestation, overgrazing, perennial wildfires, unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change; the landscape is currently highly vulnerable to low agricultural productivity and further environmental degradation, therefore, putting the livelihood of farmers at risk. Despite these challenges, farmers in the landscape said, they have received little support from the government and private sector in mitigating and adapting to climate change and the other challenges they face in their work as farmers. These were made known when a team from EcoCare Ghana and Tropenbos Ghana visited sixty communities in Techiman Municipal, Offinso North and Offinso Municipal to conduct a needs assessment of farmers within the landscape as part of the Landscapes and Environmental Agility Across the Nation (LEAN) project activities.
Key Challenges faced by farmers
Speaking to the team, farmers from different communities described how climate change is affecting their livelihood: Stephen Nabliyere, a farmer from Asantasu in the Techiman Municipality said that, “these days we don’t know when to expect the rains, I cultivated about two (2) acres of maize in April in anticipation of the rainy season, however, the rains didn't come and my farm perished”; Mr Gyau Peprah, a teacher and farmer in Anomatoa added that "when we needed the rain to help our maize to grow, it didn't, but now that we need the sun to help our maize to dry, it raining heavily and our maize is rotting in our farms”. Alhaji Issah, a rice farmer in Bonsua in the Offinso Municipality also lamented how he lost his ten (10) acre rice farm due to flooding since the rains are falling at a time they expected dry weather conditions. “We have been struggling with increased pest infestations, we have to rely heavily on pesticides to save our farms”, cried Ajara Mumuni, a cassava farmer at Mmredane in the Offinso North District.
Another key challenge identified by the farmers is the lack of access to farm inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and seedlings. Mr Samuel Yeboah, a vegetable farmer at Tanoso in the Offinso North District stated that, “these days we struggle to get seedlings and fertilizers to buy on the market, the government used to give us seedlings through the Department of Agriculture (DoA), however, they instructed us to buy them from the market, but sometimes we don't get some to buy”. He added that the prices for fertilizers have increased astronomically due to its shortage making it too expensive for smallholder farmers to afford. The farmers also expressed concern about their limited knowledge on the varieties of seedlings, pesticides and fertilizers to purchase and how to effectively apply them. They stated that, even though they occasionally receive training from Agricultural Extension Officers, it isn’t enough. “We are over 500 farmers in these communities and we have only one extension officer supporting us as well as the surrounding villages, he cannot visit all of our farms when we have challenges”, stated Mr Samuel Awuah, a farmer in Aworapata.
The farmers further bemoan the high cost of farming and the low farm gate and market prices for their commodities and called on the government to institute measures to control how much their product is sold. Maame Yaa Oforiwaa, a plantain farmer in Bonsua in the Offinso Municipality reiterated that "due to climate change and land degradation, we get lower yields as compared to the olden days. We have to spend more money to buy fertilizers and other inputs, but, after harvesting, we don't have any place to store our products, therefore, we have to sell our products cheaply to market women and middlemen". "After spending so much to produce my plantains, I don't even determine the price for my products, it is the market woman who decides on how much she wants to pay, in what other business does this happen?". Alhaji Issah, a rice farmer in the same community also added that, "the price of cereals is very unstable, you can go the market in the morning and the price for one bag of locally produced rice will be two hundred (200) Ghana Cedis and reduce drastically to as low as one hundred and fifty (150) cedis by evening. We don’t have any means of measuring our products, the market women come with the cocoa sacks, fill it up to the brim and even take the extra ones that spill on the ground for free and give us whatever price they deem fit” he observed.
They appealed to all stakeholders, especially the government to come to their aid in helping them protect their livelihoods. "We need capacity building on climate-smart agriculture, we need places to store our products and a policy that regulate the cost of agricultural products and its measurement. Farmers are the backbone of Ghana’s economy and our needs must be a priority on the national agenda”, stated Nana Kyeremeh, the Odekro of Sreso in the Techiman Municipal Assembly.