Asonkwaa, a farming community in the Nkoranza South Municipality in the Bono East Region, is one of the big food-producing areas of the region.
The community, which is named after River Asonkwaa, is well noted in the municipality for its production of yam.
The community is said to be the largest producer of yam in the municipality and second largest producer in the region after Atebubu in the Atebubu-Amantin Municipality.
Last year alone, Asonkwaa and its surrounding communities produced a total of 128,905 metric tonnes of various varieties of yam. In the area, only few farmers, especially female farmers, are into the cultivation of other food crops such as cassava, maize, plantain, groundnuts and beans.
Residents of the area call yam “cocoa” and call the yam season “cocoa season”.
To them, the cultivation of yam is a more lucrative venture than cocoa or any other cash or food crop.
The deprived community has become popular in the region and other parts of the country because of its production of yam, which attracts buyers, especially during the yam season.
Varieties of yam
The most cultivated varieties of yam in the area include pona, lariboko, denteh (punjo), asana, araba and water yam.
Asonkwaa and surrounding communities such as Nyamebediamawo, Nyamesomyede, Punpunnase, Apesika and Beposo among others, all of which grow yam, have a population of about 6,000,of which majority are farmers.
The settlers are predominantly northerners who have moved from the five northern regions of the country, namely Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West, to seek greener pastures.
The farmers in the area can produce more than they are doing currently if they are supported with farm inputs and soft loans to inject into their farming activities.
The only financial support the farmers receive is from individual yam traders in Accra and Kumasi who offer them loans to produce the yam and later sell to them.
Nature of soil
The soil at Asonkwaa and its surrounding communities is also rich in nutrients suitable for the cultivation of several food crops, including rice.
The soil also supports the growing of cash or tree crops such as cashew, cocoa, coconut and oil palm.
However, farmers in the area are not interested in the cultivation of these cash crops. The flat nature of the land and the fact that some lands serve as basins for tributaries of rivers and groundwater in the area gives good prospects for any future construction of irrigation systems to encourage all-year-round farming.
The rich nature of the soil and rain pattern in the area also makes it possible for farmers to farm two times each year with good yields.
Notwithstanding these attributes of Asonkwaa and its surrounding communities, one major problem that keeps frustrating farmers in the area is the deplorable nature of their roads.
Despite the area's contribution to food security in the region and the country as a whole, roads linked to farm communities and farm gates, as well as market centres are in a bad state.
The poor state of the roads, particularly the Asonkwaa-Bonsu feeder road which links the Nkoranza-Techiman Highway has frustrated farmers for more than 30 years.
In 2018, foodstuffs, especially yam, were locked up in the community because trucks could not access the area due to the deplorable nature of the feeder road.
Drivers who go to the area to cart foodstuffs to major marketing centres such as Kumasi, Techiman and Nkoranza refuse to use the road because they risk getting stuck in the mud as a result of the incessant rainfall in the area. When the farmers saw that they risked losing their farm produce, they mobilised themselves to fix portions of the dangerous road before drivers were able to use it.
In order not to allow history to repeat itself, the farmers have made a passionate appeal to the government to rehabilitate the road to facilitate transportation of their produce to market centres this year.
When the Daily Graphic visited the area, the eight-kilometre Asonkwaa-Bonsu road was still bumpy and riddled with potholes.
Erosion had also eaten up part, thereby making driving difficult and dangerous, with its attendant adverse effects on the health of commuters and vehicles.
When it rains, part of the road is covered with water, making it difficult to drive through and making it risky for commuters.
In addition, the bad roads affect expectant mothers and other patients who travel on the road to seek medical care in Techiman or Nkoranza.
Currently, farmers are frustrated because in less than three months, they will start harvesting their yam, but the road has not been fixed to facilitate smooth transportation.
The situation has left farmers and traders frustrated because of the difficulties they will face in transporting their farm produce to the major market centres in Accra, Kumasi, Techiman, Sunyani, Nkoranza and other parts of the country. The preferred means of transportation in the area is the motorbike, because it is better to use that on the poor roads.
Last year when drivers refused to go to the area to cart the produce to the marketing centres because of the bad nature of the road, residents had to mobilise themselves to fix parts of the road.
Even after that they had to rely on the services of tricycles to cart produce from the villages to a point on the road before other vehicles could transport them to the markets across the country.
An opinion leader, Kwabena Yeboah, told the Daily Graphic that the deplorable nature of the roads had brought socio-economic activities in the area to a standstill.
He said the current situation had left them in a fix because they had no other means to cart their produce to the marketing centres.
Mr Yeboah said members of the community, including successive assembly members,had made several complaints to the assembly without any result as the road kept on deteriorating.
“We have used several means to get successive governments to fix the road,but we have had no positive result,” he lamented.
Mr Yeboah,therefore,appealed to the government to come to their aid to help boost economic activities in the area.
A 43-year-old farmer, Enoch Nanbul, appealed to the government to rehabilitate the road before they harvest their produce. He explained that drivers normally used the poor nature of the road as an excuse to charge exorbitant fares.
Mr Nanbul said during the rainy season, the area was sometimes cut off from the rest of the municipality because of the bad nature of the road. He complained that the road had become almost impassable and dangerous to travel on and needed urgent attention from the government.
Another farmer, James Sapiillia, told the Daily Graphic that the situation was worrying, saying, “I’m thinking of how to cart my products from the farm to market centres when harvesting begins."
He said the community supplied almost half of the yams sold in the Techiman and Nkoranza markets, but the bad state of the road was killing their farming spirit. Mr Sapiillia said he feared the worst as rainfall intensified, as most of the drivers would refuse to use the road.
When contacted, the Bono East Regional Director of the Department of Feeder Roads, Edward Asenso Kensah, said the road was awarded on contract, but later terminated in November,2021 due to non-performance of the contractor. "It was on contract, but the contractor could not perform, so we have terminated the contract and repackaged it," he said.
Mr Kensah explained that currently the regional office had re-packaged the contract and forwarded it to the Head office of the Department of Feeder Roads for consideration.
For her part, the Bono East Regional Director of Agriculture, Cecilia Kagya-Agyemang, said the problem of food stuffs locked up on farms to rot was not only limited to Asonkwaa.
She explained that through her monitoring in the region, farmers continued to complain about the bad nature of roads, leading to post harvest losses.
Ms Kagya-Agyemang said last year, food stuffs, particularly, watermelon and other vegetables got rotten on farms due to the deplorable nature of roads in the region.
She appealed to the Department of Feeder Roads to give priority to economic roads in the area to prevent post-harvest losses.
Ms Kagya-Agyemang said it was sad that farmers continued to inject money into farming and incurred losses because of unmotorable roads. She explained that the agriculture sector could create more jobs and solve the country's unemployment problem if issues such as post-harvest losses as a result of poor roads among others were given attention