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19.08.2005 Regional News

Conservative agriculture saves Dangme East farmers


Ada, Aug. GNA - The reliance of cover crops and animal manure in place of chemical fertilizers as methods of conservative agriculture has brought relief to farmers in the Damgme East District of the Greater Accra region.

The farmers from over 20 communities in the District have had their crops mostly tomatoes, onions and peppers suffer severe seasonal attacks from crop diseases, which coupled with the rapid declining of soil fertility resulted in low yields.

Taking the farmers through the conservative faming techniques, Mr Akwasi Agyemang, Field Project Officer of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), noted that cover crops such as legumes ensure drastic increase in organic matter and nitrogen in the soil. He said crops such as tomatoes after harvesting absorbed almost all soil nutrients, which had to be replaced for the next planting season. Mr Agyeman explained that when soybean was used as a cover plant to replace lost nutrients, the impact of a common disease like nematodes, which tend to devastate crops become very minimal, hence yields were not badly affected.

He said together with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and ADRA with funds from the USAID had promoted conservation in several districts and communities in the country.

Touching on the challenges facing the District, Mr Agyeman said all arable land within 15 kilometres radius of the Ada Songhor Salt Lagoon had moderate to serious salinity problems.

He said the heterogeneity nature of the soil in the Dangme East was such that it was the soil that dictated what the farmers had to produce and not what they would like to.

"The dicey nature of these militating factors requires intelligent and innovative agricultural responses" the ADRA Field Project Officer, said and added that one did not have to be an anthropologist to realise how declining soil fertility and rainfall were changing the lifestyles of the people.

He said today, with good adherence of the practices, profit levels of farmers had increased by at least 100 percent with more parents now being able to send their children to school.

"Many of the farmers have acquired livelihood support property such as corn mills and plots of lands, whereas others had been able to put up decent houses.

Mr Anthony Manu, National Technical Coordinator of ADRA, said the project, which started four years ago in the district was aimed at increasing food production and the income levels of rural farmers. He said because most of the farmers could not afford to purchase fertilizers, they were introduced to the cover cropping and manure application that were comparatively cheaper. Mr Manu said because of the tremendous success of the project in the communities, it had been extended to cover over 600 farmers in 200 districts.