Only 30% of farmers in Ghana are using improved seeds five years after the Government’s Planting for Foods and Jobs program was launched, due to macroeconomic shocks such as foreign exchange shortages, high fuel prices, economic contraction, and other factors intensifying fears of impending global food insecurity.
The Planting for Food and Jobs program, which was launched on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was anticipated to modernize Ghanaian agriculture by providing improved seeds, fertiliser, specialized extension services, a marketing plan, and the use of e-Agriculture.
“The truth is that, if done correctly, seed investment is always rewarding. Seeds are extremely inexpensive. The rewards are always worth it if you use the proper quality and amount of seed and follow the right agronomic techniques. Is it always possible for farmers to receive the proper quality and quantity of seeds at the right time. In the last five years, for example, only 30% of Ghanaian farmers have used improved seeds,” Juliette Lampoh Agroh, Ghana Country Manager-Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), told The Business and Financial Times (B&FT) on the sidelines of a discussion about improving Ghana’s food security through improved seed systems.
This is largely due to the fact that the Ghana seed industry is still in its infancy, as evidenced by the fact that there are only about 20 local seed companies, none of which produces more than 4,000mt, according to George Bigirwa, AGRA’s Deputy Vice President Program Innovation and Delivery during a presentation on qualified commercial seed production.
“The capacities of seed businesses/growers are so variable that not all are able to observe the required quality control standards,” he advised, adding, “There is a need to increase the seed quality control capacities within seed firms and farmers.”
“The Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), in collaboration with the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) and the Seed Producers Association of Ghana (SEEDPAG), should conduct an annual audit of each seed company and grower to determine whether they comply with these requirements and standards.”
“If there are any gaps, a plan should be put in place to fill them within a reasonable time frame.” If some of these deficiencies are not addressed, the grower’s or company’s operating license should be revoked.”
Continuing, he stated that while tremendous efforts have been made to develop and release new varieties of various crops, old varieties dating back decades are still being grown, resulting in farmers not benefiting from new special traits such as drought tolerance, disease and pest resistance, let alone nutritional attributes.
Speaking on breeding variety release and seed maintenance, Lilian Gichuru, Programme Officer, Seed System Assessment Tool (SEEDSAT)-AGRA, said there is a lack of alignment between breeding programs and seed producers/traders to allow efficient seed production planning for all classes of seed; thus, a formal process for determining early generation seed requirements should be established.
This, she noted, will need the establishment of a cooperative decision-making framework with relevant stakeholders for variety/hybrid final stage promotion based on high-quality performance data.
“By establishing stronger ties with seed providers, we can better understand farmer demand and production concerns.” This will be bolstered by effective feedback channels that are better aligned with the needs of smallholders in order to support release decisions. Verified datasets employing the best competitive cultivars should be used to define variety promotion and advancement systems. Finally, she noted, “the releasing procedure must be evaluated for sufficiency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness.”