Aweregya (E/R), Feb. 3, GNA - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), a development agency of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SDA) with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has assisted 4,000 farmers in 137 communities to cultivate about 2,500 hectares of citrus in the Eastern Region for the past 8 years under its food security programme.
The objective of the programme, which has been extended to some communities in the Greater Accra, Central and Ashanti regions, is to increase agricultural production in the targeted communities to alleviate poverty among the people.
The Country Director of ADRA-Ghana, Mr Samuel Asante-Mensah, announced this at an ADRA Citrus Day celebration on Wednesday at Aweregya, near Nkawkaw, at the end of a two-day refresher workshop for 65 citrus farmers.
Topics such as citrus production, agronomy, disease and pest control and yield sustenance were among areas emphasised at the workshop.
According to Mr Asante-Mensah, ADRA's food security programme, with the support of the University of Ghana's Agriculture Station, Okumaning, which also included health, nutrition, water and sanitation, had made significant impact in the living standard of farmers in the beneficiary communities.
In support of the government's agricultural diversification policy, ADRA had selected three fruits including citrus, mango and cashew as the focus of its agro-forestry based food programme, he said. The citrus tree, he said could continuously produce for over 40 years if properly managed and could yield about 800 fruits per tree annually, which could also be increased to between 1,000 and 3,000 fruits per tree annually under the high-tech management practice.
Mr Asante-Mensah said under the current production level, the average farmer's income ranged between 25 million to 30 million cedis per hectare annually, which could be increased to 50 million cedis or more if properly managed.
He assured the farmers of market avenues for their produce and mentioned the Athema Foods Ltd at Tema, a fruit processing company and SHABA Enterprise Ltd, which had set up a fruit-processing factory at Nkawkaw.
According to him, some citrus buyers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Cote d'Ivoire also purchased the fruits to their countries for processing.
The programme officer of USAID, Mr Tim Harris, commended the farmers for adopting modern methods of citrus cultivation to increase production to raise their income, saying the US government spent 20 million dollars annually in food aid through USAID, ADRA and other agencies to some developing countries to address food securities issues. He said the non-governmental organizations used funds generated from the sale of food aid for training farmers in modern methods of agriculture and provide them with credit assistance to cultivate other crops.
The Acting Eastern Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Mr Armakai Amarteifio, who chaired the function, commended the ADRA for spending 13 billion cedis on its food security programme and advised the farmers to maintain their farms to enable them to derive maximum profits from their labour.