A myriad of agronomic challenges have hampered efforts towards achieving higher yields in rice production in Ghana and two other African countries, a report has said.
According to the survey, conducted by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), soil nutrient depletion and imbalances, as well as the impact of Climate Change were the key challenges hampering the work of smallholder rice farmers in Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Although African farmers were beginning to innovate, increase productivity, and drive unprecedented progress across entire economies, the survey discovered that climate change and a surge of new pests and diseases threatened these gains.
“Many rice farms are being abandoned in these countries as a result of Climate Change, with the high accumulation of salt leading to salinity, which causes environmental degradation,” the survey found out.
It said the impact of Climate Change, pests, and diseases was severe because a large percentage of the farmers in these countries continued to rely on rain-fed agriculture, the use of unimproved seeds, the lack of machinery to support commercialization of rice production; and the low use of fertilizers.
It said, although all three countries are prone to drought, only nine percent of rice farmers surveyed in Uganda and 10 percent in Nigeria practice exclusive irrigation farming.
The survey discovered further that a large number of these farmers, 52 percent (Ghana), 78 percent (Nigeria), and 83 percent (Uganda), depended on seeds saved from their harvested crops for planting in the following season, leading to low yields.
In addition, the report said the low regime of fertilizer use, where for example, only 20 percent of the farmers surveyed in Uganda applied fertilizers also contributed to the low crop yield.
Rice is the second largest staple cereal in both Ghana and Nigeria, and the third in Uganda, but rice production mainly involves peasant farmers.
The report, however, said there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon with an emerging trend of youth increasingly gravitating towards roles in rice farming in the three countries.
“For Africa to achieve desired growth in its agriculture sector, and to create jobs for the youth and achieve food security, there is a need to put in place reforms necessary to unlock agriculture’s potential,” Kayode Sanni, rice project manager at AATF said.
He added that the reforms needed include access to land, improvement of infrastructure, enhancement of extension services and farmer education, access to markets, finance and quality seeds, and the adoption of new technologies. Enditem