Strategies for agri-food systems: Weather intelligence, water-smart cropping
Ghana, like most sub-Saharan African countries, is located in one of the world’s hottest regions, which is worsened by climate change.
High thermal amplitudes, in some cases exceeding 50˚C mid-day in the Guinea Savannah, Transition and sub-humid agroecological zones, characterise her seasonal agriculture production.
Many species have been lost as a result of unsustainable human activities such as urbanisation, exponential population growth, slash-and-burn agriculture, shifting cultivation, illegal mining “galamsey,” over-reliance on inorganic fertilisers and so on.
According to the 2020 Ghana Meteorological Department reports, the rainfall period has now become short and the pattern has become erratic.
Unfortunately, agriculture, a major employer of the population, is heavily reliant on rainfall, and crop productivity is +50 per cent lower than the global average.
As a result, resource-poor smallholder farmers are the hardest hit, though they produce more than 60 per cent of the country’s cereals, vegetables, legumes and oil seeds, which are major staples found in almost every Ghanaian daily calorie.
With the current shift in the global supply chain due to the Russia-Ukraine war, prices of inorganic fertilisers are astronomically high for poor Ghanaian farmers.
The reduction of agricultural emissions towards net zero will need the implementation of agroecological farm practices intended to enhance the sustainability of the changes required in agriculture.
Fortunately, integrated water smart crop farming, combined with agroecology principles of little tillage practices and farm residue organic amendments, while targeting the production of dry seeds off-season, would not only provide the much-needed start of a livelihood to smallholder and family farmers but the seed with a water stress memory that finishes its production cycle early before the onset of drought.
Thus, agrobiodiversity would be enhanced when all these crops are promoted and integrated into cropping systems of proper rotations, agroforestry and mixed farming.
Such systems would ensure efficient resource utilisation per unit area, increase farmers’ incomes and ensure their food security.
An agroecology approach used to produce continuously quality dry seeds of various crops of drought-tolerance, extra-early, and high-yielding improved cereals, legumes and oil seeds to resource-poor farmers during the off-season would be a start.
Off-season (January, February, March) production of several tonnes of improved or traditionally known drought-tolerant, extra-early and high-yielding upland rice, maize, cowpea and groundnut seeds is the goal of a progressive integrated farming system.
Installing and demonstrating the efficacy of combined irrigation solutions (solar-powered drips, plus natural lowland swamp) and intercropping or rotations in cropping systems would be an added advantage.
The writer is a Research Scientist,
CSIR-Crops Research Institute,