Scientists are casting doubts on the efficacy of fertilizers used by Ghanaian farmers cross the country as research points to consistent low yields despite fertilizer application.
This was revealed at a dissemination workshop on research findings on Ghana’s Soil Fertility Management (GSFM) and Fertilizer Subsidy Programme (FSP) in Accra.
The scientists presented a report on the state of soil fertility in Northern Ghana which draws attention to the problem. They also called for immediate measures to deal with the problem.
The study was undertaken by two United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implementing partners, namely the Agriculture and Agribusiness Unit of the Real Sector Division of the Ministry of Finance and the USAID Ghana Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP).
The workshop, therefore, aimed to disseminate the findings of two related studies conducted on Ghana’s Soil Fertility Management and the Impact of government’s Fertilizer Subsidy Program (FSP) for evidence-based recommendations to feed into the country’s Agriculture Sector Policy formulation and implementation.
The workshop had the overall objective of identifying some of the achievements and challenges of FSP and to devise strategies to mitigate the challenges. About 70 participants attended the workshop which was organized by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in collaboration with USAID Ghana Feed the Future APSP.
In an address, Mr Kwabena Oku Afari, Director, Real Sector Division, MoF, pledged government’s commitment to partnering all stakeholders with the necessary policy measures to safeguard the agricultural industry to enhance its enormous contribution to national development.
Mr Afari said government, in 2008, introduced FSP to encourage farmers to increase the use of fertilizer in food crop production. He said following the introduction and implementation of FSP, fertilizer use rate by farmers in Ghana increased from 8 kilograms to 10 kilograms per hectare.
The study on FSP, he explained, was, therefore, to assess the impact of the Program on Ghana’s economy after its implementation.
In a presentation, Dr Kolavalli Shashidhara, Country Program Manager of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said the use of fertilizer in agriculture had been identified as very critical in view of the fact that soil played a key role in the determination of agricultural output and the quality of Africa’s soil which is described as the poorest in the world.
Dr Shashidhara recommended soil testing for the determination of its nutrient and fertility levels as an essential requirement for fertilizer use.
For her part, Dr Irene Egyir, Technical Advisor, Agriculture and Agribusiness Unit of the Ministry of Finance, noted that over the 8-year period of its implementation, fertilizer use and crop yields increased moderately.
Dr Egyir said for FSP to attain the desired objectives, there was the need for government to fully finance the program. She said a sustainability plan, an implementation plan and a monitoring system were also essential for FSP to make significant impact.
In her remarks, Mrs Edna Baffoe-Bonnie, Head, Agriculture and Agribusiness Unit, Real Sector Division, MoF, said her Unit was one of the first to be established to cater specifically for agriculture and agribusiness, in view of the strategic importance of agriculture to the economy.
In Ghana, Agriculture contributes about 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employs more than half of the country’s total workforce, constitutes the main source of income for rural households and serves as the main source of food.
In 2014, the sector contributed about US$ 2.639 million in foreign exchange earnings, representing 21 per cent of GDP.