Only 30% of farmers use improved seeds

improved seeds
Image Credit: New York Magazine
  • five years into Planting for Food and Jobs

With macroeconomic shocks linked to foreign exchange shortages, high fuel prices, economic contraction and other factors exacerbating fear of impending global food insecurity, only 30 percent of farmers in Ghana are using improved seeds five years into the implementation of government’s Planting for Foods and Jobs programme.

Launched on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Planting for Food and Jobs programme was expected to transform Ghanaian agriculture through the provision of improved seeds, supply of fertiliser, provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture.

“The truth is that investment in seeds is always profitable if you do the right thing. Seeds truly are not expensive. If you apply the right quality and quantity of seed with the right agronomic practices…the returns are always worth it. The issue is, are farmers always getting the seeds in the right quality and quantity at the right time?

“Over the past five years, for instance, only 30 percent of Ghanaian farmers have been using improved seeds,” Juliette Lampoh-Agroh, Ghana Country Manager-Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), told The Business and Financial Times (B&FT) on the sidelines of a deliberation about enhancing Ghana’s food security through improvements in the country’s seed systems.

This is largely because the Ghana seed industry is still young, as evidenced by the few seed producers with less than 20 local seed companies – none of which produces more than 4,000mt – explained George Bigirwa, AGRA’s Deputy Vice President Programme Innovation and Delivery during a presentation on qualify commercial seed production.

There’s therefore a need, to strengthen the seed quality control capacities within seed companies and growers, he suggested, saying: “The capacities of seed companies/growers are so varied that not all are able to observe the required quality control requirements.

“Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD), in collaboration with The National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) and Seed Producers Association of Ghana (SEEDPAG), should conduct an annual audit of each seed-company and grower to assess whether they adhere to these requirements and standards.

“In case there are gaps, then a plan should be put in place to address these gaps within a given timeline. Failure to address some of these gaps should lead to withdrawal of the grower’s or company’s operating licence.”

Continuing, he said while tremendous efforts have been made to develop and release new varieties of different crops, old varieties dating several decades are still being grown – and as a result, farmers are not benefitting from new special traits like drought-tolerance, disease and pest-resistance, let alone nutritional attributes.

Lilian Gichuru, Programme Officer, Seed System Assessment Tool (SEEDSAT)-AGRA, speaking on breeding variety release and maintenance of seeds said there is weak alignment of breeding programmes with the seed producers/traders to allow efficient seed production planning for all classes of seed; hence, a formal process should be established for determining early generation seed requirements.

This, she explained, will require institutionalising a joint decision-making mechanism with relevant stakeholders for final stage promotion of varieties/hybrids, using high-quality performance data.

“There is a need to understand farmer-demand and production issues through better linkages with seed producers. This will be strengthened through proper feedback channels to better align with smallholder needs to support release decisions. Variety promotion and advancement systems should be defined through verified datasets using best competitive cultivars. Finally, the release process needs to be assessed for adequacy, timeliness and cost-effectiveness,” she stated.

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