Chief Bukari Issah was born into a family noted for cultivating groundnut in the Bawku Municipality of the Upper East Region and continued the family’s legacy, but dumped it recently because of poor yields, and inability to break even after harvest.
In 2019, he heard about a new groundnut variety called SARINUT 2. He acquired some (SARINUT 2) to cultivate an acre of land in his community at Gentiga in the Bawku Municipality. He was surprised that he got yields that were four times more than what he usually got from his old variety.
He told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that “The major variety I am doing now is SARINUT 2. We were growing the old varieties, which were not helping us but when we moved to SARINUT 2, we have seen improvement; if you harvest one acre, you can get almost 24 bags, but other varieties will only give you less than four bags. So, SARINUT 2 is helping us. That is why I am using it.”
He added that “In the olden days, our forefathers started with groundnuts. You know groundnuts look like a beautiful lady; anybody who sees it is happy, but people decided to reject them when we were not getting yields. So, when SARINUT 2 came to my community, people were harvesting, and they were happy. So, a lot of farmers in the area now go for SARINUT 2. So, as for SARINUT 2, we want all farmers at Bawku to cultivate it so that we can harvest more to feed the nation.”
Mr Mwinipuoba Simon, a young farmer from Nadowli-Kaleo District in the Upper West Region, also shared his experience saying “I have benefited a lot from SARINUT 2. The yield is high, and I will advise farmers to patronise SARINUT 2. I bought four sheep through it, which have increased to six.” He said “I used to farm other varieties, but SARINUT 2 is far better. When I farm one acre using SARINUT 2, I get more than three times the yield compared to what I get from other varieties. I now cultivate only SARINUT 2 because it is a good variety for farmers.”
Ms Maria Johana Yuorpor, Chief Executive of Mara Foods, a processor of indigenous foods at Nandom in the Upper West Region, said “I have been processing SARINUT 2 for the past two years and I will say that it is nutritious compared to others. Besides, it gives me an extremely high product yield and quality. It is tasty and delicious. It comes out crispy and nice when I process it into peanut butter chips.” She added that “The women farmers in my area whom I buy my raw groundnut from for processing like to cultivate it too. They say it matures early and it is resistant to diseases.”
The testimonies of Chief Bukari, Mr Mwinipuoba and Ms Yuorpor are just a reflection of what many farmers and agro processors in the northern part of the country, who have shifted to cultivating SARINUT 2, are experiencing.
Many of the farmers in the northern part of the country, who embraced the SARINUT 2, told the GNA that not only did it mature early, but it also gave them high yields.
They said their living conditions had improved since they started cultivating SARINUT 2 as the high yields led to improved incomes and household nutrition through increased sales and consumption of the crop.
Importance of groundnuts
Groundnut is one of the most important legume crops grown in the semi-arid areas of the West African region for food, feed and use in cropping systems.
In Ghana, groundnut is an important source of income for farmers. Groundnut is a major cash crop for many rural households accounting for up to 50 per cent of cash income, and it is a nutritious food rich in protein, oil, and micronutrients such as iron and zinc that contributes to improved nutrition and health of the rural population.
It also contributes to soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation and using the haulm after harvest. The haulm is also a useful source of animal feed.
Challenges associated with groundnut cultivation
Despite its importance, the cultivation of groundnuts in Ghana is confronted with many problems such as the effects of climate change, climatic factors, diseases and pests, low soil fertility coupled with poor agronomic practices, poor access to quality inputs including excellent quality seeds, and institutional and socio-economic challenges.
These constraints result in low productivity of groundnut to about 60 per cent of the world average. Among these constraints, the low access to inputs especially quality seeds is crucial because the seed is known as one of the most key factors influencing crop productivity; the use of quality seeds alone can contribute to a 15-40% increase in crop production.
What is SARINUT 2, and how did it come into the system?
Bearing in mind the importance of good seed to crop productivity, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in partnership with the national agricultural research systems has undertaken intense breeding programmes to develop and promote groundnut varieties aimed at mitigating the effects of production constraints, since the 1980s.
Unfortunately, these efforts have not fully yielded the expected results since many farmers continue to use old and poorly performing varieties. It is against this backdrop that the “Upscaling improved groundnut varieties through integrated seed systems for improving income and nutrition in dryland of Ghana and Mali (NWO-WOTRO groundnut)” project came into being.
The NWO-WOTRO groundnut project was implemented from 2019 to 2022 by a consortium led by the ICRISAT, with Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), Institute of Rural Economy (IER), Mali, Heritage Seeds Ghana, and SAPROSA Seed Company, Mali as members.
The project sought to improve the groundnut seed systems for the upscaling of improved groundnut varieties for enhancing the incomes and nutrition of men, women, and youth smallholder farmers in the dryland of Ghana and Mali. Through the project, SARINUT 2 groundnut variety, (which is high yielding [2.4 t/ha], early maturing [95 days (about 3 months) to maturity], disease tolerant with bold tan seeds and adapted to the Sudan and Guinea Savannah Agroecologies) was demonstrated and promoted among farmers for cultivation.
Perspectives of the research institutions
Dr Francis Kusi, Director of CSIR-SARI, speaking at the close-out workshop on the NWO-WOTRO groundnut project in Tamale, said it was one of the successful projects implemented by the CSIR-SARI saying most farmers in the northern part of the country were now cultivating the variety.
He said “I gave a bag of the variety to one of our serious out-growers in the Upper East Region to try. He planted it and during harvest, he invited some members of his community to assist him. When those assisting him realised that the variety was good, during the process of harvesting, every day they pocketed some. The following season, they also planted it, and some even came to CSIR-SARI to request it. That is the beauty of seed dissemination and upscaling.”
He expressed appreciation to donors and partners for their support in implementing the project, underscoring the need for successes chalked under the project to be scaled up to reach many more communities for sustainability.
Dr Haile Desmae, Principal Investigator of the project at ICRISAT, Mali, speaking in an interview with the GNA on the sidelines of the close-out workshop on the NWO-WOTRO groundnut project in Tamale, said the project had increased awareness on improved varieties and had reached many farmers through different approaches including demonstration of technologies.
He said now that SARINUT 2 was highly sought by farmers, “We will build on the success and extend the variety to other communities so that we create a bigger impact.”
The way forward
The 2020 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) undertaken by the Ghana Statistical Service and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture with technical and financial support from the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed elevated levels of food insecurity amongst the population with elevated levels of malnutrition amongst rural households in the northern part of the country.
However, it is gratifying that the SARINUT 2, which is proven to be highly nutritious, has been well promoted amongst farmers in the northern part of the country, where the soil is suitable for groundnut cultivation. While the acceptability of the SARINUT 2 has been encouraging so far, it is important that many more farmers in the northern part of the country join the party by adopting the variety (SARINUT 2) for increased cultivation.
There is also need for stakeholders such as seed producers, research institutions, the government and other industry players to strengthen their collaboration to ensure that the SARINUT 2 is readily available in every community in the north to make it easily accessible to farmers for cultivation.
This way, farmers will record high incomes and consume it with their households to improve their nutritional status to ensure a healthy population while improving the fertility of the soil.