Rice farming at Botanga in the Kumbungu District in the Northern Region has significantly improved following the implementation of an agricultural project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) programme was introduced in Botanga two years ago to increase the productivity of farmers who are farming on the irrigated lands of the Botanga Irrigation Scheme.
Under the project, a number of big marketing companies and other produce buyers were brought on board to support the farmers to cultivate improved rice varieties according to market specifications.
The Chairman of the Botanga Farmers Association, Mr Sule Alhassan, told the Daily Graphic that there were about 600 farmers currently farming around the dam and that many of them were benefiting from the ADVANCE project.
“We cultivate mainly cereals and vegetables,” he said.
He mentioned that the provision of combine harvesters had considerably improved the harvesting of rice and reduced post-harvest losses at Botanga.
The project has also introduced the farmers to better farming technologies for rice cultivation, according to Mr Alhassan.
He said instead of broadcasting, the farmers were shown how to establish nurseries and undertake replanting with adequate spacing, since that ensured better yields.
Mr Alhassan also said although the ADVANCE project had contributed a lot to improving the business of farming in the area, the farmers could still produce more if they were offered adequate support and expertise such as in controlling pests and diseases.
The USAID-ADVANCE programme was designed and introduced to improve food security and increase the incomes of households by transforming the business of farming in parts of the country, including the three regions of the north.
The project introduced the value-chain approach to the farmers, which ensures that the farmers are linked with all other important players such as input dealers, seed suppliers and produce buyers.
According to the project’s Technical Leader for Maize and Rice, Mr Kwaku Koranteng, the project is based on an agricultural model that starts with first knowing if there is a market for the produce.
“Before you crop, you must first know which crop variety is in demand and in what quantity,” he said.
He said the rice farmers at Botanga were, therefore, linked to produce buyers such as Premium Foods and AMSIG Resources.
The produce buyers, he pointed out, entered into contracts with the farmers and supported them to source the right seed varieties, fertiliser, weed control chemicals and implements.
The contract also enjoined the farmers to sell their produce to these buyers at agreed prices.
According to the implementers, the ADVANCE programme is now supporting over 29,000 low income farmers in the north who cultivate maize, rice and soybean.
Through the project, the farmers get the necessary assistance in terms of machinery, inputs, technical assistance and funds and there is also a guaranteed market for their produce.
More than 269 demonstration sites have been set up in various parts of the north to introduce the farmers to improved agronomic practices that would lead to increased yields.
The United States Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Gene Cretz, recently visited Botanga as part of a working tour of the Northern Region and he expressed delight over the success of the ADVANCE project.
“Through the introduction of improved infrastructure and technologies, farmers are realising increasing yield and incomes,” he told the media.
Ambassador Cretz said the ADVANCE programme was at the core of the US government’s efforts at improving food security and that it was in line with President Barrack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative.
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