Why Ghana doesn’t really have a fertilizer crisis


There’s been a lot of media brouhaha about the fertilizer crisis in Ghana, focusing on recent huge price increases for inorganic (synthetic) fertilizer. Indeed, the price of inorganic fertilizer in Ghana has gone up about 5-fold in the last two years (and for those lucky enough to receive government subsidised fertilizer two years ago, more likely close to 10-fold).

In the years up to 2020, Ghana had been increasing its inorganic fertilizer use, which was also helping increase crop yields. In 2020, inorganic fertilizer accounted for about 99% of Ghana’s fertilizer market spend according to Ministry of Agriculture statistics, as well as costing over $200 million in import costs. But with the recent sharp rises in inorganic fertilizer prices, and budget constraints for both farmers and government, Ghana’s total inorganic fertilizer imports dropped sharply  in 2021, with a slight recovery in 2022. The 2022 recovery is partly driven by a big program by Yara (a leading inorganic fertilizer manufacturer) that provides “buy 2 get one free” inorganic fertilizer to Ghanaian farmers. Yara’s initiative is commendable for providing immediate help to farmers, but unlikely to be sustainable over the long term, as inorganic fertilizer prices look set to stay very high.  So inorganic fertilizer is not only far too expensive for many Ghanaian farmers to access, but at current prices may often not be economically beneficial, with its costs outweighing its yield benefits.

Many Ghanaian farmers are reducing the size of their farms, or giving up farming altogether because they don’t believe they can get enough yield without the inorganic fertilizer which they cannot afford. Others are continuing to farm without fertilizer inputs and therefore getting lower yields. The outcome is very serious:  reduced incomes and livelihoods for millions of farmers, and increased food insecurity for the whole country.

So yes, there’s definitely a crisis. But it isn’t really a fertilizer crisis.

Why not? Because Ghana is in the fortunate position of having an innovative locally made organic fertilizer, OFA (Organic Farming AId), which is effective for all crop types, very efficient, and far cheaper and more cost-effective than inorganic fertilizers, whether used on its own or in combination with inorganic fertilizer or other organic fertilizers.

OFA works in a different way from both inorganic and most other organic fertilizers. It increases the efficiency of the plant’s nutrient uptake system, rather than the usual approach of putting bulk nutrients into the soil for the plant to absorb. This allows OFA to be extremely efficient, with one litre of OFA being equivalent to between 100 and 350 times its weight in inorganic fertilizer, in terms of yield impact. This ratio is even bigger when comparing OFA to most other organic fertilizers.

The Ghanaian-owned company HJA Africa started making and selling OFA 5 years ago, and has been working continuously nce then on selling it to farmers of all crop types across Ghana  and asking for their feedback. The feedback has been amazingly positive. The company has also been conducting its own research and field trials, and receiving numerous research reports on OFA from independent researchers, all of which is shared with stakeholders at its annual Stakeholder Forums. All this work gives real confidence in the huge benefits that OFA brings farmers.

For example, recent independent research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) on maize showed a farmer could use just 1 litre of OFA to treat a whole hectare of maize, at a cost of just 55 cedis, and increase their yield at harvest by 2000 cedis, which is an amazingly good return. Equally important, this low level of upfront investment in fertilizer can be afforded by virtually every farmer.

Furthermore there  need be no concerns about availability, as HJA Africa’s existing  production capacity for OFA is sufficient to provide more total fertilizing power (in terms of the  increases in yield that can be achieved) than even the highest level of usage of inorganic fertilizer in Ghana to date (in 2020), for less than 5% of the cost! And as a local product there is no need to find foreign exchange to buy OFA.

OFA is also an all-in-one product that repels pests and stops fungal attacks, in addition to its fertilizer benefits, further increasing the outstanding value it gives farmers.

In short, OFA is a highly effective, readily available and cheap alternative to inorganic fertilizers; or it can also be used as a complement to inorganic fertilizers or to other organic fertilizers, to reduce the quantities needed of these latter, whilst maintaining yields.

So there is no fertilizer crisis in Ghana. But there is indeed a highly dangerous knowledge gap, whereby most Ghanaian farmers are not yet aware of how OFA is available near them and can transform their profitability at an extremely affordable cost.

Taking a wider view, Ghana’s President Nana Akuffo Addo’s address to the nation on Sunday 30 November 2022 about Ghana’s economy highlighted the urgent need to reduce imports, and to make and sell more products locally, in order to help improve Ghana’s balance of trade and foreign exchange positions.

OFA already addresses all these requirements set out by the President.  All that’s required now is to scale up use of OFA as quickly as possible, so as to get the full potential benefit for the economy, for food security, and for farmer livelihoods. We will also all get major environmental benefits by switching to OFA as it is a safe organic product; and OFA also brings major climate change emission benefits by reducing the need for inorganic fertilizers, which are responsible for close to 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

OFA usage will soar as knowledge spreads of the huge profitability benefits OFA brings farmers. Once farmers see these benefits for themselves, they will buy OFA – which is so cheap there is no need for the government to subsidize it to make it more affordable  – and boost their yields. This is a simple, sustainable and self-determined business model where farmers choose to make affordable investments in OFA year after year, without needing external support,  to gain on-going big returns in yields and profitability, as well as major environmental benefits.

Let’s spread the good news that there’s no fertilizer crisis in Ghana but rather an OFA Opportunity, to all our farmers, agriculture NGOs,  and policy makers!

The author, Henry Abraham, is the CEO of HJA Africa, makers of OFA (Organic Farming Aid). He can be contacted by email at [email protected], or visited at HJA Africa’s offices which are located within the compound of our partners, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Institute of Industrial Research, in East Legon, Accra.

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