This blog post is the first installment in a five-part series by Seth Asare based on his Farmer-to-Farmer experience through ACDI/VOCA.
The objective of my Farmer-to-Farmer assignment in Ghana was to assess 320 acres of farmland (developed in the past three years) and an additional 660 acres of new farmland, which is set to be developed in the 2016 farming season with 1,860 smallholder farmers acting as outgrowers (OGs). My role was to make recommendations for farming practices that will improve productivity, minimize negative environmental effects, and help create a more balanced agro-ecosystem. As part of the assignment, I also further assessed the weaknesses and potential in the soils and landscape to benefit the farmer and the OGs, as they depend on this important natural resource for food, fuel, shelter and financial stability.
Current operations on the farm include the clearing of the new farmlands in preparation for crop production. The farm has also started conventional tillage (plowing and harrowing) of the old farmlands in preparation for planting in the 2016 farming season. AFL has also acquired two large greenhouses to grow tomatoes and peppers under manual irrigation. The drip irrigation system to irrigate vegetables in the greenhouse is currently under construction. The five-day assessment for the whole farm was conducted by touring the farmlands to take note of the soils, landscape, topography and significant features on the land that could help us make informed recommendations for the farmers. The following sections in this post outline the issues identified and our recommendations.
The land clearing processes happening on the new farmland include felling the trees (stumping), pushing them to the outer perimeter of the farm (packing), and eventually burning them. As a result, the land is completely cleared of all trees and other vegetation. This was clearly obvious on the old farm, which had no standing trees. Recommendations were made to AFL to leave as many trees standing as possible during the clearing of the land (10 - 20 trees per acre). Trees should be left in place as long as tractors and tillage implements can be safely operated around them. With the current clearing of the new farm, tractor and bulldozer operators should be clearly instructed by the farm manager to this effect. After clearing, there should be significant stands of old trees on the cleared land.
Deforestation is one of the causes of desertification and, hence, soil degradation in the Guinea Savannah and the Sudan Savannah agro-ecological zones. In light of this, AFL and the OGs were advised to make concerted efforts to plant tree seedlings to mitigate desertification and land degradation in these zones. As part of its operations, AFL is encouraged to practice the agroforestry technique often referred to as “farmed parklands” where matured trees of selected few species are left scattered on the farmland. Such a practice provides alternative options to increase the supply of agroforestry products (derived from trees and shrubs) while supplementing rural livelihoods and reducing environmental degradation.
Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series!