Farming in the north of Ghana is difficult. At times it rains heavily, while much more often it is bone-dry. But on 400 hectares, agriculture is taking off. With support from the public Sustainable Water Fund (FDW), the Ghanaian company IWAD and various partners, local farmers are successfully growing crops. Through smart, modern agricultural methods, incomes are increasing for these small farmers.
Small farming businesses
The aim in northern Ghana is to enable small farming businesses on thousands of hectares to flourish. This is done by investing in high-quality irrigation, for example. “This carries a substantial price tag,” says Dutch IWAD project manager Tom Durang. “We use public funding for that. In addition, we form a cooperative with the farmers. They receive credit from us to buy seeds and other things, and we train them to use smart farming practices.”
Knowledge is key
Knowledge transfer is crucial. This is because incorrect habits can quickly cause crops to fail, such as when the farmers plough too much, like they are accustomed to doing. “We provide training through Ghanaian educational institutions,” Durang explains. “So we are also training a new generation of farmers. They learn, among other things, how to use water efficiently.”
The project looks good on paper. But in practice, things in Ghana can be difficult to manage. This is due to the climate and incorrect farming methods, as well as the mentality of the farmers. For example, they need to learn how to think in a market-oriented manner. “We as Dutch people tend to focus on making a profit,” Durang says. “But a Ghanaian might simply leave his farm for three weeks due to family circumstances.”
Just the beginning
Durang sees another important difference with the Netherlands: land rights are held by tribes. In order to obtain these, IWAD had to negotiate with the tribal chiefs. This was successful for the 400 hectares of farmland. This land is a pilot area to demonstrate that agriculture in northern Ghana is truly possible.
“Our ambition is to scale the current 400 hectares up to 10,000 hectares,” Durang says. “I am already holding discussions with development banks for subsequent funding. We are looking into commercial crops as well. For example, we are reintroducing sugar cane because of its high yield.” If factories also join in to process the sugar cane, the local economy can develop further. “I believe very strongly in our model. We will continue our long-term collaboration with the farmers. This will allow us to prevent a downturn. This is certain to work!”
For more information, please visit www.cms.iwadghana.com.