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Project Activity Report - June 7, 2022

Field Activity Report





1.0 Strategic Action Plan and Way-Forward

In line with the two month PFG project strategic action, the project site has been put into a suitable land-use plan. The plan which encompassed the removal of unwanted diseased and dead orange trees coupled with the pruning of overgrown and diseased branches of orange, banana, and coconut trees has been achieved with additional multiple interventions such as cassava and maize intercropping, including the cultivation of different varieties of plantain, cocoyam, and taro. Given the concept of the PFG project, which prioritizes soil health as an important component of sustainable agriculture within the context of global food insecurity and climate change crises, has set up a demonstration ground for some selected legumes (mucuna, cowpea/black-eyed peas) earmarked as a cover crop. Among the additional interventions is the establishment of a nursery site for the nursing of an improved variety of dwarf pawpaw, moringa and flamboyant seeds. All these activities are geared towards providing a solid ground to provide practical training sessions for small-holder farmers in the Ashanti region and its environments. The PFG project acknowledges the growing need for food considering the contemporary global food crisis originating from climate change, conflict, and food export bans.



Early construction of the nursery


Completed nursery structure



Banana and plantain block maintenance


It is evident that the global food system faces the challenge of meeting rising food demands for an ever-growing population coupled with war and climate change. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (2020), the global population is projected to reach nine billion people by 2050, which requires a 60% increase in food production. Achieving such growth without aggravating environmental problems is a significant concern. Clearly, food systems that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable should be promoted, to adequately feed the world's population. This comes with empowering the small-holder farmer to approach farming more sustainably. The sustainable farming approach goes hand-in-hand with capacity building in technology adoption.


Indeed, it is worth noting that adult learning or training is dependent on practical hands-on. Acknowledging the needs of the small-holder farmers through a scoping study by the PFG has necessitated the aforementioned set-ups to specifically address the global food insecurity gap through technology transfer to small-holder farmers. Smallholder farmers dominate the food production system in Ghana and Africa. They cultivate small parcels of land for their living, making little use of modern technology. Despite their typically low yields, smallholders produce a significant share of the food in Ghana and other developing countries, making their farming crucial for poverty alleviation, food security, and sustainable food systems. This means that equipping the small-holder farmers technologically to sustainably produce enough to feed the growing population is the way forward. Studies have shown that most smallholder farmers fail to adopt technologies due to a lack of hands-on application in the field. The farmer field school has widely been accepted by farmers due to its approach.


The PFG project comes with an improvement in the farmer field school approach. Here, not only will the smallholder farmer acquire hands on experiences, he/she acquire hands-on value addition skills from the field. Farmer groups are equipped technically in both aspects of production and value addition on the field using basic technologically inclined approaches which are easily adaptable. Under the project, small-holder farmer groups undergo practical hands-on training, the group produces a crop of interest and subsequently is trained to add value to the crop produced by the group. This approach, unlike the others, prepares the groups to be self-sufficient in the production, technology adoption and value addition of a specific crop. This makes them experts in the field of the crop of interest. This approach is geared toward bridging the gap between the extension officers to farmer ratio. This strategy is underpinned by the studies which emphasized that farmers learn and adopt technologies better from their peers or among themselves than external non-farmers. Being guided by these empirical studies coupled with personal relationships with farmers.


1.1 Soil Health and Food Security

The demonstration setup at on the project site seeks to assess the performance of the various leguminous plants on site. This initiative is in response to the keen interest the project has for sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservations. From the inception phase to date, the demo site has relied on ecologically sensitive agriculture practices which include the use of a regenerative agriculture model as a more sustainable farming concept disseminated among small-holder farmers. The regenerative agriculture concept coupled with innovative agriculture technology such as AI or precision farming has been welcomed by many international agencies including FAO as the way forward within the context of global food insecurity peril driven by climate change and conflicts. The PFG project, mindful of the current economic crisis fueled by the Russia and Ukraine war, which is affecting global food prices and farmers, particularly small-holder farmers' access to fertilizer and other inputs, has instituted among others free soil health and management training to help small-holder farmers produce enough and affordable food for the growing population.


According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the price of vegetable oils increased by 23% in March, wheat prices by 20% and maize by 19.1% fueled by the Russia and Ukraine war. From an international trade perspective, the key role played by the Russian Federation and Ukraine in global agriculture has become more apparent. Both countries are net exporters of agricultural products and they both play a leading role in supplying global markets with food products, fertilizers, and other inputs. The export supply of which tends to be concentrated in a few countries, making these markets more vulnerable to shocks and volatility.


The high export concentration that characterizes food commodity markets is also mirrored by the fertilizer sector, where the Russian Federation plays a leading supplier role. According to FAO, In 2021, the Russian Federation ranked as the top exporter of nitrogen (N) fertilizers, the second leading supplier of potassium (K) fertilizers and the third of phosphorous (P) fertilizers.


The Russian Federation and Ukraine are key suppliers to many countries that are highly dependent on imported fertilizers such as Ghana. Given the current circumstances coupled with its impact, PFG is advocating for a regenerative agriculture model across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where the majority of the shocks emanate from the Russian and Ukraine war coupled with climate change impact are concentrated. Building the capacity of the small-holder farmers (who produce close to 70% of the global food) in sustainable soil management approaches, is the ultimate trajectory to ending the global food insecurity crisis. This project has taken the lead in ensuring that not ever, should the world face such an exponential hike in food prices and supply shortage within the context of two countries' war.


1.2 Technology Aggregation Center

The PFG project is located on 30 acres of land segregated into blocks. Among the components are 15 acres of a citrus farm serving as a demonstration field. The second block consists of 4 acres of maize farm intercropped with cassava and different varieties of plantains. The third block is 1-acre snail farm ecosystem block which is interspersed with different varieties of bananas and plantains including cocoyam and pawpaw. The fourth block is the livestock block which will consist of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry. The fifth block is the aquaculture landscape where small-holder farmers will be trained to fully exploit their wetlands for higher returns. We will also incorporate beekeeping, mushroom production, gardens and walking trails, and feed production systems. Indeed, the PFG project site is a center of technology aggregation, where small-holder farmers are trained to adopt basic technology in farming. The center is aimed, emphasizing the empowerment of both women and youth to maximize profit from agriculture through technology. In the ensuing year, the center will roll out additional agripreneurship programs to include small-holder farmer business investment management training programs to prepare small-holder farmers for the ongoing AfCFTA. The PFG project is also building the capacity of small-holder farmers in value addition of various crops including waste cocoa pods. All these actions are pragmatically positioned to help contribute towards the SDGs including agenda 2063 while helping small-holder farmers to be resilient within the context of climate change and current economic crises.


PFG project innovative hub is a center opened to partners as a hub for collaboration, where their different areas of competitive advantages complement or promote other relevant interventions as far as small-holder farmers and agricultural enterprises are concern.

The innovative technology aggregation hub aimed at holistically aggregating cassava, maize, rice, vegetables and other food crops processing technologies, with technical expertise from scientist from Ghana, South Africa, USA and experts from around the world.

Small-holder Farmers working on the PFG demonstration field


1.2.1 Food Crop Block

The food crop section of the center provides a foundation to demonstrate to smallholder farmers the new technology of farming. This section consists of highly improved varieties of maize, cassava, plantain, and legumes among others. The planting of these crops has been well demarcated adopting more scientific approaches to farming. The regenerative or ecological farming concept has been the hallmark of the project; therefore, the layout of the demonstration center has an ecological philosophical background. The center is a one-stop-shop, where smallholder farmers get access to all their training needs including access to seeds and crops of interest to increase yield. The center, mindful of SDGs 1, 2 and 15, has incorporated the planting of dual-bunch plantains, bananas, and important leguminous plants to help address food insecurity and poor soil condition challenges. According to FAO (2011), high production and value addition are the gateway to small-holder farmer economic freedom. The center employs innovative technologies in value addition. Studies have shown in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) alone, which unfortunately is home to over 230 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment, 30-50% of production is lost at various points along the value chain. Thus, high post-harvest losses in SSA, exacerbate the vulnerability of small-holder farmers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about two-thirds of the developing world’s 3 billion rural people live in about 475 million small farm households, working on land plots smaller than 2 hectares. Many are poor and food insecure and have limited access to markets and services. Their choices are constrained, but they farm their land and produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population. Given this circumstance in the context of the growing population and global economic crisis, this project has strategically instituted this intervention to address the needs of smallholder farmers through innovative technologies.


Innovations have been an important part of the process of economic development. Technological progress is a major contributor to productivity improvements and income growth. The rise in world population has increased the demand for food and stimulated the need for innovations to increase food production and feed the growing human population. Addressing this challenge must start with the rise in agricultural technological approaches. It's against this backdrop that the project has established this agriculture technology aggregation center to train farmers to meet the food needs of the growing population. Given that farmers learn better by doing, the center has the necessary field demonstration layout which covers crops, and livestock among others.



Legume cover crop nursery beds


2.0 ProFarms Gateway Training Sustainable Model

As a roadmap to the ProFarm Gateway sustainability strategy, at least one member of the household of smallholder farmers is selected and trained in basic business management skills to complement the business of the small-holder farmer at home. Specifically, basic records keeping, and financial management skills including farm yield records, input, and sales records as well as marketing skills are given to the selected persons from the household. Previous experiences have shown that moving small-holder farmers from the sustenance farming approach to a more commercial market system is the way to achieving poverty reduction and agenda 2063.


In most parts of Ghana and Africa, even with the growing domestic and regional markets, the transformation of small-scale sustenance farming to more commercially oriented farming has been slow and difficult. The concept of market orientation has been related to following market signals, producing more marketable products, pursuing a profit motive, organization-wide market intelligence and organizational business culture. The transition of smallholder subsistent farms to market oriented commercial farms is expected to drive the modernization of Africa’s agriculture and helping to meet the SDGs. PFG, mindful of the challenges predating the 1990s has instituted the “small holder farmer business management skills” training for household member to help address the persist low business management skills of small-holder farmers.


Conclusion

The PFG project believes that by providing the necessary technological training to small-holder farmers, the over dependence on world food production giants can be reduced by 50%. This will translate to reduction in poverty and food insecurity across Africa.



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