Africa

Unlocking Ghana’s Agribusiness Potential

 

Ghana Cocoabod Chair Hon.Hackman/Others on High Table

URC/AFAP Offers  Global Platform in Accra

By: Mohammed Abu,Accra,ADM Ghana

Ghana enjoys a fantastic  geostrategic location in the West African sub-region .This is  underpinned by her enormous agriculture potential further boosted  by her decades long enviable democratic credentials and image as Africa’s most peaceful nation, constitutes her competitive edge.This has for decades made her an investors destination of choice.

This affords the one time leading world’s cocoa producing West African nation,the ample opportunity to play a leading role as the regional hub and gateway to facilitate trade  in the land locked countries to the maximum benefit of her gross national economy.

The country’s Northern Savannah Ecological Zone(NSEZ) which accounts for 55 .4 perecent of Ghana’s total land mass,spans the Northern parts of the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions including the three Northern regions, accounts for a greater chunk of the country’s agriculture GDP.

The NSEZ  boasts  8 million acres arable land and is also the source of Ghana’s major river basins.The region forms an integral part of the continent-wide Savannah Ecological Zone blessed with  600 million acres of arable land.

Indeed the NSEZ which was once given the acolade,”Grannary of the Nation”,is still the heart-beat of Ghana’s primary agriculture production and has the potential to be the main driver of Ghana’s agro-industrial driven economic agenda.

It was on the back of the NSEZ that the late General Acheamong-led SMC military regime launched one of Ghana’s most successful agriculture revolutions in her  post-independence history  in the mid-seventies.It  was baptised as “Operation Feed Yourself “ and its major  output it could be recalled,was domestic food self-sufficiency and export of rice and maize to other neighbouring countries .

Not withstanding the foregoing,the educational funding,devolopment and povery gap between the NSEZ and Southern Ghana which is a colonial legacy, still persist up till today. Among all the attempts by post  independence politicians  to bridge the gap,the most impressive and serious so far is the establishment of the  Savannah  Accelerated Development Authority Authority(SADA) by an act of Parliament in 2010.

The agriculture dependant economy of the NSEZ supported by other potentials such as  tourism,energy,aquaculture,horticulture among others, was what informed the decision of the government of the day.

SADA which plays a facilitator role and enbaling environment provider for attracting investments into the SADA Zone becomes the Special Purpose Vehicle for lifting the people of the NSEZ out of poverty and ensuring the economic development of the region for the national good.

This would not only bridge the development and poverty gap between the North and the South,but the gross national economy stands to benefit as the economic potential of the NSEZ is fully unlocked

To facilitate investment in commercial and modernised agriculture in the NSEZ, SADA came out with a comprehensive Guide to Commercial Agriculture in the SADA Zone for Investors in which major and minor irrigation  dam, hydro dam and renewable energy  projects,have been rolled out in collaboration with the Brazilian Quieroz Galvao and other development partners.

A mix of commercial scale and small holder farming in the SADA zone supported by Irrigation and rain-fed agriculture is to ensure all year round production while energy generation would meet the power needs of the ensuing agro processing industry which would be spear headed by the planned Tamale Industrial Park and others across the SADA Zone.

To address the land tenure problem that is a stumbling block in land aquisition for commercial farming in the country ,SADA has also come out with the Land Trust concept for the SADA Zone.

SADA last year published a comprehensive 160-page document known as “ Regional Concept Plan of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone”(Concept Master Plan Report Draft Version December 2016).The untapped agriculture,tourism,energy,mining and other potentials of the NSEZ has been mapped out in this document .

The SADA factor combined with the World Bank sponsered Ghana Commercial Agriculture Programme(GCAP) through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture,whose major targets are the NSEZ and the Afram Plains in the Greater Accra region,Ghana is  poised to unlock her agric potential

It is therefore against this background that the importance of the hosting of the West Africa Fertilizer and Agribusiness Forum held in Accra early last month could be best appreciated .

Over 250 visitors from 43 countries in Africa and worldwide joined Hon.Hackman Owusu-Agymang,the Chairman of of the Ghana Cocoa Board(COCOABOD) and other key government officials to discuss how farmers can obtain the right fortilizer at the right time and for the right price.

The the three-day event was organised by a leading independent global analysis,consultamcy and business event management firm(CRU) in collaboration with the African Fertlizer Agribusiness Partnership(AFAP). Lead sponsers were Ghana’s Omni Fert,OCP Africa,Nectar Group,Yara Ghana,and Bagtech supported by the World Cocoa Foundation,Ecowas,africapractice among others.

Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, in his keynote address said, “the farmer is the most disadvantaged in the value chain and the availability of effective and affordable fertilizers is one of the key step towards the realization of reaping maximum benefit from his/her efforts.

“The conference is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to existing friendships and partnerships and to forge an even greater sense of co-operation in the agriculture and cocoa value chain in Ghana and in the sub-region,” he said.

Owusu-Agyemang added that although the blanket fertilizer formulas lead to significant yield increase, especially in the second and third years of application, they are not supportive of sustainable cocoa production because they fail to account for the inherent characteristics of the various soil groups and “agroecozones” of the cocoa landscapes.

He pointed out that to preserve the environment and to optimize returns from fertilizer application; COCOBOD is taking steps to ensure that fertilizer formulation for cocoa in Ghana is made site-specific, and to build up capacity of farmers.

Peter Heffernan, Head of Fertilizers and Chemicals at CRU.on his part said,”One significant factor which has limited fertilizer application rates in the region has been inadequate supply and access to fertilizers,”adding, “there are hopeful signs that some of these challenges are being addressed. The most obvious sign has been through investment in local fertilizer production capacity”.

Sessions at the conference included discussions of how ICT solutions can be applied to both the fertilizer supply chain and West African agribusiness development, financing tools to enable fertilizer trade and investment in the agribusiness and developing networks of warehouses, blenders, baggers and distributers.

Experts were unanimous on the need for a paradgm shift today from how agriculture and fertilizer application was done in the previouis past.Michael Zormelo,the CEO of Omni Fert Ghana,a leading local fertilizer blenders spoke to  ADM on the sidelines. Mr.Zormelo emphasized the need to conduct initial soil test.Then based on the  soil characteristics the right fertilizer and quanties to be applied on the farm could then be determined.

The materials used in the production of fertilizer too he also noted was very important and urged government to regulate fertilizer imports based on materials used.

On soil acidity problems encountered up country due to decades long fertilizer application, he blamed lack of  intial conduction of soil test to determine the right fertilizer to be applied. That was further borne out of, he contended, the excessive use of Sulphate of Ammonia and advised farmers in the SADA Zone to rather use more urea based fertilizers to stem the tide.

On what his company could do about the problem up country,Mr.Zormelo  said with government support,a pragmatic approach could be adopted towards addressing the issue.

The Eastern and Southern Africa edition of the event is salted for 9-11 October in Maputo,Mozambique

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

MOHAMMED ABU

Chief Correspondent,,West Africa Region,African Development magazine

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