A 39-year old Ghanaian farmer has broken a record by becoming the first indigenous commercial farmer with over 425 hectares of farmland in a single location of the country’s northern savannah ecological zone.
Isaac Papanko, CEO of Idan Agro Ventures Papanko, started off by farming maize on 8 hectares and largely credits his success to training provided by the African Development Bank’s Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP).
“We the youth, under SAPIP TAAT-S programme, will soon be counting money in dollars that will blow the minds of Ghanaians,” says Papanko, when asked where he sees his business in the next few years.
Through the SAPIP project, Papanko received technical support, land development support and financing for inputs, and has now expanded to soybean production. Under the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation Savannah (TAAT-S), he also received access to improved seeds and fertiliser and has increased the use of technology in his work. He owns tractors, planters, boom-sprayers, corn-shellers and a combine-harvester to accelerate production and harvest activities. He supplies his produce to processing plants such as Premium Foods and Ghana Agro Food Co. in Tema.
Since 2017, the Ghana Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) has focused on building sustainable agricultural food value chains – ensuring food and nutrition security in the savannah regions, and contributing to the improvement of overall economic wealth in Ghana through agribusiness and agricultural productivity, and diversification.
Designed within the context of government’s national Shared Growth and Development Agenda, the programme is guided by Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy and supports other government initiatives in the sector: including the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign; the One Village, One Dam; and One District, One Factory programmes.
The project also leverages support from the Bank’s TAAT-S programme and is linked to the Ghana Incentive Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending.
Following its inception, SAPIP held demonstrations for farmers on conservation in maize and soybean production.
Alhaji Mohammed Mashud, CEO of Cudjoe Abimash Farms, is among the selected farmers to participate in the pilot programme and is the owner of Ghana’s largest soya field.
He says that the trainings introduced him to improved land development techniques, as well as other mechanisation interventions which he says have led to better yields in the field.
“I included conservation agriculture concepts in my business, [and] by 2019 the yield of my maize and soybean had respectively increased from 1.9 metric tonnes per hectare to 4.5 metric tonnes per hectare, and from 0.5 metric tonnes per hectare to 1.75 metric tonnes per hectare,” Mashud explained. He added that the land development principles have allowed him to grow his production area by 10-fold over the past two years.
Soybean farms of the Savannah
One challenge to commercial agriculture is the cost of developing land. SAPIP has thus intervened in Ghana and financed the development of more than 290 hectares of land to make commercial agriculture attractive. The project has also supported the production of improved seeds and fertilisers, which has boosted agricultural productivity for crops such as maize, soybean and rice.
Co-financed by the African Development Fund (US$39.01million) and government of Ghana (US$9.10million), SAPIP targets three agribusiness zones across several districts in the country’s north, near the city of Tamale.
Outgrowers adopting the use of hybrid seeds
The SAPIP project has targetted 50,000 direct beneficiaries through its different activities, based on a three-pillar strategy of crop productivity improvement, value chains and agribusiness development, and infrastructure development. It aims to increase farmers’ food/nutrition security and incomes through increased agricultural productivity and diversification.
To date, the project – which is expected to end in March 2020 – has reached roughly 28,500 direct beneficiaries through transfer of technologies related to crop nutrition, conservation agriculture and climate-smart agriculture. The tangible benefits are visible, with improved production for smallholder and commercial farmers.