Some Ghanaian farmers are recording 50-200 percent increase in crop yield under an innovative project that integrates crop and small ruminants for sustainable production.
The management techniques for sheep and goat integration in crop production have also impacted significantly in livestock production.
Researchers introduced the farmers to improved crop varieties and exposed them to good agronomic practices and “at the end of the day the improved agronomic practices plus improved varieties led to as much as 200 percent yield increase”, says Dr. Stephen Amoah of Ghana’s Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The CSIR-CRI is coordinating the project dubbed ‘Sustainable Intensification of Integrated Crop-Small Ruminant Production Systems in West Africa’. The two-year project, implemented in Benin, Ghana, Mali and The Gambia, is sponsored by Australian Aid (AusAID), with technical support from CORAF/WECARD.
Also on the innovative platform are other actors in the agricultural value-chain, including tractor operators, agro-input dealers and credit providers.
Rita Narh, a beneficiary farmer in the Atebubu-Amantin Municipality of the Brong Ahafo region, was introduced to higher yielding dual-purpose legumes for human consumption as well as fodder for her livestock.
Today, she is excited at the intervention as she harvests a bumper of maize.
“I have realized that what the researchers introduced is beneficial and can help me progress in my farming business. This [the improved variety] has helped me gain much than previous harvest”, she said.
Project Coordinator, Dr. Stella Ennin, is confident the project is key to increasing food security whilst improving farmers’ income levels – mainly targeting women.
“We are looking at legumes – cowpeas and groundnuts – as the main entry point to improve the productivity of the crop-sheep and goat system and we believe that this is a strategy that can quickly increase food security and also reduce poverty among our farmers”, she stated.
Dr. Ennin explains land resources are efficiently managed under the sustainable intensification of crop production.
“We look at integrated nutrient management and the integration involves the use of manure from the animals to also supplement the chemical fertilizer and when you have both the performance is better than either of them”, stated the Chief Research Scientist.
The farmers however complain the price of government’s subsidized fertilizer remain high and beyond their reach.
Dr. Ennin is hoping the challenge will be addressed for the farmers “to access the quantities of fertilizer that they need to give them the optimum yields that we are seeing today in our fields”.
The current phase of the integrated crop-small ruminant production project ends in December 2013.
Project coordinators anticipate a second phase for upscale across the country.