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Ghana: Fertilizer guidance draws in private sector

20 April Harrison Rware, from the OFRA implementation team, writes:

A research brief published by OFRA partners in Ghana, the Soil Research Institute (CSIR-SRI), recommends a new approach to fertilizer production and distribution.

The brief specifically targets the private sector and recommends that fertilizer producing companies work closely with CSIR-SRI in the development and validation of fertilizer blends, with small scale farmers, to support improved cropland productivity for food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustenance.

The brief also states that for farmers to reap the maximum benefit of fertilizer use, they have to be trained on the 4 Rs of fertilizer application:

  • Right timing
  • Right quantity
  • Right placement
  • Right quality

The priority area for implementation are the Forest-Savannah Transition and Guinea Savannah zones of Ghana, the area covered by the OFRA research program.

The Soil Research Institute remit includes soil fertility management; including fertilizer recommendations for various crops. In the brief CSIR-SRI notes that Ghana’s agriculture is characterized by low crop yields, mainly due to low soil fertility, soil erosion and inappropriate land use leading to soil degradation. Fertilizer application in Ghana is approximately 10 kg/ hectare and soil depletion rates are among the highest in Africa. Food security is therefore at risk, making the country more dependent on food imports.

A key limitation to farmer’s use of fertilizer in Ghana is lack of fertilizer recommendations that could result in high yields and good profits for farmers. The brief explains that the updating of fertilizer application rates was undertaken to provide accurate recommendations for the new crop varieties that have been introduced over the past 3 decades.

The core of the OFRA project was providing fertilizer recommendations for small scale farmers in countries including Ghana, within a framework of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) based on maximizing the return on fertilizer investment. The project is funded by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) through CAB International with technical support from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This project was implemented in 13 Sub-Saharan African countries.

AGRA organized a stakeholder workshop in Ho in September 2016 to harmonize all fertilizer recommendations from OFRA/SRI and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) as well as information from Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) and Ghana Soil Information Services (GhaSIS) soil maps to guide the formulation of fertilizer blends for farmers in the breadbasket zone.

In addition, the Ghana Soil Health Consortium organized a follow-up workshop in Kumasi bringing all stakeholders together especially the policy implementers from Ministry of Food and Agriculture, soil scientists, fertilizer blending companies and SRI/OFRA and SARI to validate the fertilizer recommendations.

Fertilizer use in Ghana is increasing year on year since the introduction of subsidy on fertilizer (Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 2011). Farmers have started to realize the economic benefit of fertilizer application to key staple crops which currently enjoy good markets. Farmers are willing to follow good agricultural practices to improve yields and income. The brief indicates that these factors make it an opportune moment to fine-tune fertilizer recommendations for improved fertilizer use efficiency and improved soil and crop productivity.