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Quality seeds: The true weapon of a farmer

BY: Zadok K. Gyesi
 Farmers planting new seeds

As a son of a farmer, and a farmer cum journalist myself, I know and understand the importance of quality seeds in agriculture.

As captured in the popular adage: “Garbage in, garbage out”, so every farmer reaps what he or she sows. This, therefore, simply implies that when a farmer sows good seeds, he or she would get a good harvest and vice versa. 

For centuries, farming has remained one of the oldest occupations known to man. The agricultural sector, for instance, has remained and continue to remain the backbone of our country’s economy.   

The importance and contributions of the agricultural sector to the survival of our country’s economy, thus, cannot be underestimated.   

About 60 per cent of the country’s population, according to the 2010 national population census, was found to be engaged in the agricultural sector. 

It is also an established fact that more than 90 per cent of the country’s rural population survive on agriculture.

The agricultural sector provides direct and indirect employment for the majority of the country’s population.  

Quality seeds 

The sad news, however, is that most of the players in the agricultural sector are poor or within the low income bracket. Most of them struggle to make a living from their toils. 

There are a number of reasons accounting for the poverty of most Ghanaian farmers. One of the principal reasons is that most Ghanaian farmers do not always get the expected harvest from their fields due to the poor seeds they cultivate. 

some seeds being dried for planting

Many Ghanaian farmers cultivate seeds that are of low quality, thus leading to low yields and compounding their poverty levels.

Many Ghanaian farmers rely on seeds from their previous growing seasons for planting in the new cropping year. This practice has remained among many Ghanaian farming communities for centuries. 

However, according to many agricultural experts, the quality of seeds farmers plant to a large extent determines what they harvest. 

New season  

Some farmers, particularly those in the southern parts of the country, have already started the planting season while their counterparts in northern Ghana are yet to begin. 

Although a section of our farmers are gradually becoming aware of the importance of quality seeds in farm production, many of them (farmers) have been deceived by some unscrupulous seed dealers. 

Many farmers have fallen prey to deceitful seed dealers who repackaged seeds from open markets and sold to farmers as improved or quality seeds.

As a result of this, many farmers have lost their livelihoods to these deceitful seed dealers and have resolved to rely on their own seeds for planting.

white Guinea corn seeds

 The Chief of Party for the Feed the Future Ghana Agriculture Technology Transfer Project, Mr Michael Dockrey, in a foreward he wrote to a book titled: “Seed guide recommended commercial maize, rice and soybean varieties available for northern Ghana”, said: “Ghana has a long and distinguished history of crop variety development and registration, and yet the use of improved seed by farmers remains low.” 

Part of the reasons for low farmer uptake of improved varieties, he explained, “is the lack of knowledge of the availability and characteristics of improved varieties.”

“Certified seeds is of good quality and has a germination rate of more than 80 per cent,” Mr Dockrey said. 

Interventions 

The issue of seeds became the principal topic for this year’s pre-season planning and networking forum organised by Feed the Future in collaboration with the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) in Tamale in the Northern Region.

The theme for the event, for instance, was “Improving agriculture productivity in northern Ghana: The role of quality seeds.”  

In an interview with the DailyGraphic, the Head of Rice Research and Development of the Savanna Agriculture Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Wilson Dogbe, said the country produces only 2,000 out of the estimated 20,000 metric tons of certified seeds required by the country’s farmers annually.

That, he said, meant the country had a seed deficit of about 80 per cent, indicating that “we only produce about one-third of the required certified seeds needed in the country”.

“As it is now, many farmers are planting their own seeds they have selected from their previous season,” he said.

millet

Dr Dogbe expressed the worry that only few farmers used certified seeds for planting, a situation he said could plunge the country into food insecurity. 

He explained that only 15.5 per cent of farmers in the three regions of the north used certified maize seeds for planting while the remaining 84 per cent relied on their own saved seeds. 

For both rice and soybean, he said, only 11.34 and 5.8 per cent of farmers, respectively, used certified seeds, with the remaining 89 and 94 per cent respectively using their own saved seeds to plant.

Support 

It is important to state that the United States (US) government, under the Feed the Future programme, has pledged to support the private sector with GH¢38 million to boost seed production in the country this year.

The support is to improve the quality of seeds farmers used to plant in the country.

The Upper West Regional Director of Agriculture, Mr Joseph Faalong, in an interview, expressed the concern that due to high cost, unavailability and accessibility of quality seeds, many farmers in northern Ghana relied on their own seeds resulting in low yields.

He, therefore, encouraged farmers to use improved and quality seeds to enable them to have more yields during the growing season. 

A food security specialist at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr Sampson Konlan, said quality seeds played a key role in ensuring food security for any nation.

He said because of climate change, it was only through the use of quality seeds that the farmers could maximise profits from their farming and also meet the food needs of the country’s growing population.