Experts urge government to encourage more farmers to adopt agroecology – FULL VIDEO

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Tetteh Nartey, a 74-year-old farmer at Abokobi, the capital of Ga East Municipality, has been practising agroecology for over 40 years. He grows a variety of crops like maize, cassava, pepper, tomatoes, okra, cocoyam, banana, coconut, and palm nut. He also raises livestock and fish.

Nartey started farming after finishing his A-level education in 1979. He used to farm on 120 acres of land until it was encroached upon by estate developers, reducing his farm to just 10 acres. However, this setback hasn’t stopped him from farming. He is concerned about the rapid encroachment on farmlands in Ghana and fears it may lead to food shortages in the country.

Nartey, a former district best dairy farmer and best agro-processing farmer in the Ga East municipality, believes that true agroecological practices are unique to each farm, depending on the local ecosystem and interactions between crops and animals. He started with chemical fertilisers but switched to agroecology after being introduced to it by another farmer.

Inspired by an old man named Ablagyei Sowah who saw success by using goat droppings as fertiliser, Nartey now relies on organic inputs like poultry manure for his farming. He firmly believes in the benefits of agroecology over chemical fertilisers.

“Agroecology is beneficial. When poultry manure is spread onto the field, it absorbs water during the rainy season and retains it,” he says. “Later, when the plants need water and the rain is scarce, the manure releases the stored water to the plants.”

From banking to farming

Rosemond Afful is a former banker who transitioned to agriculture in 2017 and now manages her own farming business.

Operating on a 10-acre land, her business focuses on vegetable production, catfish culturing, and livestock farming. Recognised with a Star Woman Agripreneur award, Rosemond is known for her innovative integrated farming approach and dedication to climate adaptation and resilience initiatives.

Rosemond practices full-scale agroecology, which she finds rewarding.

“I started this job with no prior knowledge in the field. Through research and training workshops, I connected with Israeli agronomists who taught me a lot. As agroecology farmers, we prioritise sustainability and environmental friendliness,” she says.

“We are working towards solving global food crises and climate issues through grassroots efforts. Commercial farms often rely heavily on fossil fuels and machinery, which can harm the environment. In contrast, agroecology practices like using mulch and fertilising with manure help reduce environmental impact. By allowing plants to use up nitrogen instead of it evaporating into methane, we are promoting a more sustainable approach. In essence, agroecology makes us true friends of the planet,” she added.

Quality taste

Cynthia Mills has also been growing pepper on a 10-acre farm for the past three years, focusing on agroecology which emphasises natural methods of cultivation. In 2021, she started a backyard garden after developing an interest in agroecology. She has since seen a surge in demand for her produce without any advertising.

Customers praise the quality and taste of her pepper, leading to word-of-mouth marketing.

“When people buy high-quality products they enjoy, they are likely to recommend them to others,” Cynthia explains.

For farmers like Mr Nartey, Rosemond, and Cynthia, agroecology offers significant benefits. However, critics argue that widespread adoption of agroecological practices could lead to famine and starvation.

But, proponents of agroecology dismiss this as a myth with political motivations.

“People claim agroecology cannot feed the world. Agroecology can feed the world. There are techniques, there are skills, there are tools, there are equipment in facilitating agroecology,” Willie Laate of CIKOD explained.

Mr Edwin Baffour of Food Sovereignty Ghana agrees.

“Currently, as we speak, 70 percent of the world’s food is produced by small-scale farmers – peasant farmers,” Mr Baffour says.

“It is not the people who have 40 acres who are feeding the world. What people really eat come from small-scale farming so that’s a myth that agroecology cannot feed the world,” he said.

Policy direction

Currently, Ghana has no clear-cut policy on agroecology, which is a concern for many. Ben Guri, the Executive Director of CIKOD and Chairman of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty Africa, believes that the right policy initiatives could make a significant difference and encourage more farmers to embrace agroecology.

“If we are going to change our farming system, we need the right policies. Currently, we know that the government is being influenced by the external world because they produce all the chemicals we use in agriculture and they need a market for them,” Mr Guri says.

“For instance, if you are taking a loan and the loan is conditional on using chemicals, then policy is very important. Therefore, if we can’t get governments that understand the real impact of industrial agriculture, it will have a negative effect on us,” he added.

Kingsley Kwasi Agyemang of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture also believes more can be done to encourage more farmers to adopt agroecology.

“When you take our past, ongoing investment plan, you do not find agroecology there apart from the FASDEP III (Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy) which is yet to be published,” Mr Agyeman says and adds that: “If we are able to include it in our policy, that is all that we are seeking because from policy plans are developed. So, the most important thing is having it in our parent policy, and that has been the cry.”

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