Cocoa farmers and tree crop nursery operators in the Atwima- Mponua District of the Ashanti Region have undergone ‘innovative farming practices’ training for enhancement of their crop/tree farming and nursery businesses.
Organised jointly by the local Kokoo Pa Farmers Association, the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Sunyani and Royal Tropical Institute, the Netherlands, the one day maiden ‘Cocoa Target Learning Platform’ was held at Bibiani in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai Municipality of the Western North Region on the theme “Crop and Tree Nurseries: Exploring Opportunities for Rural Women and the Youth”.
The programme was designed to give the farmers opportunity to engage stakeholders in the agricultural sector to become abreast with best modern and innovative farming practices to improve on their agro-economic income generation.
The participants, about 90, comprised more females of youthful ages between 15 and 35 from Donkoto, Akantansu and Debra Camp, farming communities in the District.
Other stakeholders brought together by the platform were researchers, agricultural and forestry officers, technocrats from public and private sector institutions that work with farmers at the district level to exchange knowledge, learn from each other and share practical innovative ideas to improve the participants’ crop/tree businesses.
The institutions included; the Seed Production Division and Cocoa Health and Extension Division of Ghana Cocoa Board, the Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission and Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
The participants were thought and sensitized on practices affecting the land fertility, rainfall patterns, causes of climate change and weather conditions, soil types and required crops to cultivate, importance of crop nursing, the right nursing methods and planting time to increase crop yields.
They were also given seed support opportunities, accessing tree seedlings for commercial farming, organic pest and diseases control knowledge, importance of trees on farms and the benefits of trees for farmers.
Addressing the participants, Dr. Mrs. Mercy Derkyi, the Dean of School of Natural Resources at UENR and a facilitator said the purpose of the learning platform was also to link agricultural experts from different backgrounds direct to the farmers and build a network that would help them to get the requisite farming knowledge to increase harvest gains.
She entreated the participants to endeavour to do proper farming records keeping and form farmers’ organisations as part of best practices to enhance their chances for easy access to funding to improve their agri-businesses.
Sponsored by the Government of Netherlands through Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, Dr. Mrs. Derkyi said the learning platform formation started in Tepa and Mankranso in the Ahafo Ano North Municipality and Ahafo Ano South District respectively of Ashanti Region, Kade in the Kwaebibirem Municipality of Eastern Region, Sunyani and Atwima Mponua.
The ultimate goal, she said was to develop and strengthen climate-smart strategies in cocoa production systems to improve the livelihood and incomes of Ghanaian smallholder farmers whose main source of income depended on cocoa.
Later in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Dr. Mrs. Derkyi explained the cocoa target project embarked on 21 days field research aimed at exploring scenarios under which crop/tree nurseries could be an attractive business opportunity for rural women and the youth.
She said that field research used “citizen science tricot approach” to improve climatic and agro-ecological targeting of varietal recommendations and planting materials accessible for cocoa farmers in Ghana.
It ascertained types of nursery models existing, women and youth perspective and interest in operating nurseries and local innovations in relating to crop/tree nurseries, Dr. Mrs. Derkyi added.
She stated the project was part of a four-year Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGAIR) research programme, seed systems development, enabling and scaling genetic improvement and propagation materials.
Dr Mrs. Derkyi said project partners comprises Royal Tropical Institute, Alliance of Biodiversity International and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and the World Cocoa Foundation.
She said the field findings touched on communities and their perspective of nurseries, developments affecting crop/tree nurseries, opportunities and gains, challenges and pains of operating crop/tree nurseries and usage of nursery products and services.