Ghana on Wednesday launched a three-year research project which aims at comparing organic and conventional farming systems to determine their level of productivity and profitability.
The project, dubbed; ProEcoOrganic Africa, would compare the performance of farming systems that either rely on natural inputs like poultry manure, compost, leguminous crops and botanical insecticides (Organic farming) or on purchased hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (Conventional farming) systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Emmanuel Asante-Krobea, Director of the Crops Services Department, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), commended all the collaborators for their efforts.
The launch was jointly organised by the MoFA in collaboration with the University of Ghana and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland.
Mr Asante-Krobea said agricultural productivity and profitability remained a big issue for Ghana’s crop and livestock sectors and, although the interventions provided by Government had contributed to increases in yields of most of commodities over time, actual yields obtained for some commodities continued to fall below the achievable yields as recorded by research.
He said the research was, therefore, expected to explore the benefits to be derived from taking advantage of existing knowledge while developing new technologies that would aid and fast track development in the sub-region to ensure food security.
Mr Asante-Krobea said there was currently substantial evidence that organic agricultural systems could be more conducive for improving food security in Africa, especially in challenging environments.
He said although Ghana’s agriculture was deemed to be mostly conventionally inclined, there was an active organic industry growing in the country which had already created a niche market for organic products with significant potential of growth.
Mr Asante-Krobea said organic agriculture, which was being practiced all over the country, was currently at different levels of sophistication with some already certified and targeting the export market.
“However, in the Sub-Saharan African Region where smallholders dominate the sector, we must comprehensively remove all doubts of the benefits of the system to ensure sustainability, profitability and enhanced rural life for current and future generations,” he said.
Mr Asante-Krobea said smallholder farmers should, therefore, aggregate into bigger associations to make certification easy, rather than dealing with them individually in addressing their concerns and challenges.
He said the Ministry, therefore, welcomed any form of information and support that would help to improve organic agriculture to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods for farmers.
Mrs Emelia Monney, Deputy Director, Directorate of Crops, MoFA, who read a statement to explain the objectives of the ProEcoOrganic Africa project, said it was in line with the African Union’s effort to address food security, poverty alleviation and better nutrition against the backdrop of climate change adaptation and building resilient agro-ecosystems.
She indicated that the benefits of organic farming were numerous including its better adaptation to climate change.
Mrs Monney said while advocates of each farming systems proclaimed the success of what they promoted, there was no scientific research evidence comparing the systems as they functioned in daily practice.
She said the comparison research would be carried out in Ghana and Kenya and implemented by a consortium of organisations which include MoFA, the University of Ghana and the Agro Eco-Louis Bolk Institute.
It would be co-ordinated by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland.
Mrs Monney said the research would examine a wide range of staple and vegetable growing farmers in the Northern Region, Cocoa farmers in the Ashanti Region and citrus growers in the Central Region to collect data that would be statistically analyzed.
The results, she said, was expected to assist farmers, farmer organisations, traders, processors, researchers, extension and policy makers in deciding on what was productive, profitable and most resilient agro-ecological farming system for a given situation.
Mrs Monney said within ECOWAS, Ghana had a leading position as exporter of certified organic products to the European market for healthy food and products such as organic cocoa beans, fresh mango and banana, vegetables, citrus and other fruit concentrates, fresh cut fruit salads, Shea butter, palm oil and tiger nuts.
“There is an emerging local market for healthy fruits and vegetables as well. However, entering the organic market is not for everybody. Farmers need to consistently produce the quantity and quality that is in demand,” she said.
She said certification was needed to export the produce which also needed a good marketing organization like a farmers’ or traders’ association. GNA