I spent the past two days in rural communities in the Tolon/Kumbungu District of Northern Ghana. Both Kunguri, and Wantugu are communities that have farmer groups participating in an AGRA funded Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) project. The project aims to educate farmer groups on improved soil management practices by demonstrating various packages of technologies that have the potential to increase yields and reintroduce nutrients into the soil.
For example, a technology package for improved Maize production that is being demonstrated in Wantugu is;
Plot Size = 2 Acres
T1 – Maize with no Fertilizer
T2 – Maize + NPK @ the recommended rate
T3 – Maize + Fertisoil (Organic Fertilizer) @ 3t/ha + SA (Sulphate Ammonia) @ 2½ bags/ha
T4 – Maize + Farmyard Manure @ 2.5t/ha + ½ NPK recommended rate
And at Kunguri, the following technology package is being demonstrated for improved Soya Bean production;
Plot Size = 2 Acres
T1 – Soybean with no Fertilizer
T2 – Soybean + rhizobium inoculation
T3 – Soybean + (60 kgP2O5+30 kg K2O)/ha
T4 – Soybean + (25 kg N+60 kgP2O5+30 kg K2O)/ha
T5 – Soybean + rhizobium +(60 kgP2O5+30 kg K2O)/ha
Both of these technology packages are interesting to see in the field. Farmers are very capable of identifying which technologies are working the best on their demo plots. Furthermore, the demonstration plots are to be produced for each of the 3 years of the projects reinforcing farmer knowledge, and hopefully technology adoption. This is the second year of the project, so it’s the second time farmers are seeing the technologies demonstrated.
As I mentioned, farmers are able to determine which technologies are having the best results (defined as yield). However, after interviewing 21 farmers from across the 2 farmer groups (50 farmers total), I started to notice something quite intriguing. Although, farmers know which technologies are best suited to their land and are resulting in the best yield, they are not necessarily adopting those technologies.
When asked why, the answer I got over and over again is that both 1) Fertisoil, and 2) Soya Bean Inoculant are not readily accessible. These technologies have been identified by farmers as producing the best results while taking into consideration financial constraints. So here you have a project demonstrating some pretty amazing products without providing any information on how to access them. The market facilitation aspect of the project has been lost behind the focus on the technical results, and farmers subsequently are not enabled to adopt the technologies that are proving to result in higher yields.
Out of 10 farmers in Kunguri, 1 managed to get his hands on Inoculants through a connection to the Technical Officer for the project, and 5 mentioned that they would have rather used Inoculants instead of NPK fertilizer but they had no idea where to purchase inoculants or how much they cost. They also didn’t fully understand all the technical details of how inoculants work. Since the markets for these new technologies are not yet established their demonstration is somewhat fruitless.
So then, one begs the question, what is the point? It’s almost a bit of a tease for the farmers – showing them potentially food securing technological practices but not linking them to markets for the necessary inputs. I think the demonstration plots if done well have the potential to disseminate great agricultural practices to the farmers, but they need to go beyond this. They need to also provide opportunities for farmers to participate in sustainable markets, that increase the accessibility of the necessary inputs.