The government has been urged to prioritise organic fertilisers as part of the implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme for the benefit of farmers and consumers as well as ensure food security in the country.
Mr Edward Kareweh, General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress, who made the call, said this would enhance the fertility of soils, increase food production, ensure healthy foods, and empower farmers such that they would not always rely on the government for support to purchase chemical fertilisers for their fields.
Mr Kareweh made the call while making a presentation at a policy and advocacy workshop on the topic: “Opportunities available in the Agricultural Policy Frameworks that promote Agroecology Advocacy”.
The two-day workshop, which ended in Tamale on Wednesday, was organised by the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS), a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the African Biodiversity Network with support from the Bread for the World, Germany.
The workshop was to improve the opportunities for the mainstreaming of agroecology into the country’s policies and to enhance the capacity of partners and farmer groups to effectively influence policies and advocate for change.
It formed part of the SEWOH project, which seeks to ensure food sovereignty and improved livelihoods in Africa through strengthening the ability of local communities to save and preserve biodiversity.
Participants included Regional and District Directors of the Department of Agriculture and some farmer groups drawn from the Northern Region.
The government’s major agricultural intervention is the PFJ, which seeks to increase food production through the increase in the use of chemical fertilisers.
Mr Kareweh said chemical fertilisers polluted water bodies through leaching, which had consequences for human health, adding that their continued application also led to poor yields in the long run because they destroyed the natural state of soils.
He said besides the negative effects of chemical fertilisers, it was also not sustainable for the government to continue subsidising chemical fertilisers as part of the PFJ hence the need to prioritise organic fertilisers, which also included farm practices such as no bush burning, minimum tilling of land, use of animal droppings amongst others, which would reduce the cost of farmers.
He cited the inability to supply subsidised chemical fertilisers to farmers this year, arguing that this showed that “Farmers can no longer rely on chemical fertilisers because at the time they will need them, they will not be available for them to use, which will affect food production.”
Dr Charles Nyaaba, Head of Programmes and Advocacy, Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, who also made a presentation during the workshop, said “Whatever policy government intends to implement in the agricultural sector, there should be a provision in the budget for training of farmers on agroecology practices.”
His topic was: “Progress and Constraints to the Development of Agroecology in Ghana”.
Dr Nyaaba further called on the government to come out with good organic pesticides, and fertilisers that farmers could easily use, and which would have no or limited impact on the soils.
Mr Hardi Tijani, Executive Director of RAINS said “An important challenge to agriculture for many countries including Ghana is achieving the balance for the need for increased crops yields towards food security and maintaining the health of the ecosystems.”
Mr Tijani added that “With increasing concerns of the relatedness between conventional agricultural practices and some environmental associated risks, the promotion of sustainable agriculture practices is considered the best option for sustainably managing soil fertility, water management, and agro-biodiversity.”
Some participants expressed the need to register all farmers such that their farming practices and purchase of inputs could be tracked to know, which farmer was adopting agroecological practices.