Ghana goes organic to build resilient food systems
Agbogbloshie is a major market centre in Accra. Known for its brisk activities with almost everything on sale, Agbogbloshie is a one-stop shopping centre and a huge source of crop production for many food vendors and restaurants in and around Accra. There is never a dull moment here. However, this vibrant market, like all others, is bearing the brunt of the rising costs of agricultural inputs around the world, including seeds, fertilizers, or equipment.
According to sources from the Ministry of Agriculture for example, the price of inorganic fertilizer, which the country largely depends on, has shot up to over 300 per cent since February 2022 to December 2022, making access difficult for many local farmers. Therefore, promoting organic fertilizer in Ghana is key to mitigating the impact of the high cost of agriculture input on food security and strengthening food systems resilience in the country. Yet, public awareness and knowledge on the efficacy of organic fertilizer is limited.
Mohammed Ibrahim, a vegetable farmer, belongs to the Korle-Bu Vegetables Growers and Marketing Society in Accra and supplies the Agbogbloshie market with vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, pepper, carrot and cucumber from his half-acre farm. Mohammed was among a group of farmers who recently participated in a workshop by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) who learned how to scale-up the production and use of organic fertilizers in farming. A proponent of organic farming already, he believes that farmers’ exposure to information on organic fertilizers will go a long way to boost yields even in these difficult times. Mohammed says when produced locally, farmers, especially small-holder farmers like himself will have easier access to organic fertilizer input at a cheaper cost. This, he agrees, will also lead to cheaper farm produce and subsequently cheaper food prices.
Keeping markets like Agbogbloshie alive and farmers like Mohammed thriving to help feed the country, will depend on timely interventions to curtail these rising costs. The Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, is now taking steps to promote organic fertilizer production and uptake among farmers and enhance investment in its production and marketing.
As part of UN’s support to the Government to transform and strengthen the resilience of Ghana’s food systems, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Charles Abani, led the UN Country Team to secure grant funding of US$250,000 from the Joint SDG Fund and complementary funding of US$60,000 from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for sustainable and transformative food systems solutions. This forms part of the wider UNCT policy advisory services and development solutions being led by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office to enable Ghana to mitigate the impact of the three-dimensional food, fuel and financial crises. Now, a UN Joint SDG Fund Development Emergency Modality project being implemented by the FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) is working closely with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to undertake joint solutions.
One important step the Ministry has taken is to develop an Organic Fertilizer Guideline to regulate the industry. This is targeted towards all actors in the agriculture industry including farmers, fertilizer producers and agriculture experts. The Ministry has further initiated processes to set up organic fertilizer plants in all the 16 regions across the country and increased the quota for organic fertilizer supply in the Government’s flagship programme - Planting for Food and Jobs. With the support of the Joint SDG Fund Project, a National Technical Team on Organic Fertilizer Promotion has also been set up within the Ministry to provide technical and policy guidance on activities and processes for promoting organic fertilizers in the country.
Growing institutional change
“This project is catalytic in that it seeks to scale up food security and financial systems resilience in Ghana through short term interventions such as the support to promote organic fertilizer in the country which will eventually respond to the budding food systems crises and towards long-term transformative actions,” says Peter Aidoo, Economic Advisor at the Resident Coordinator’s Office with United Nations in Ghana.
With the creation of the National Technical Team, efforts to promote organic fertilizer is expected to be streamlined into the work of a decentralized agriculture system to help rural communities and farmers improve livelihoods and increase agricultural skills, productivity and yields.. So far, the Ministry has developed extension materials on organic fertilizers, launched an online advocacy campaign, dubbed, ‘Ghana Goes Organic’ for the promotion of organic fertilizers and ran radio programmes, starting with 9 out of the 16 regions in the country.
Mr. Michael Owusu, a Deputy Director at the Crops Services Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the support by the UN is a major step towards advancing the promotion of organic fertilizer in the country. “There has never been a time in my years at the Ministry when so much attention is paid to the potential of organic fertilizer”, he noted, and assured of the Ministry’s continuous effort to sustain the gains made as a result of the implementation of the project. “We thank the UN for supporting the Ministry to not only identify good organic fertilizers, but more importantly for helping to develop a repository to market them and promote them in a strategic and systematic way to help farmers understand their efficacy and access it.”
Data for decision-making, investments and partnerships
Furthering this, the technical team has also drafted an organic fertilizer investment repository that will provide industry players in the agriculture, compost and fertilizer production value chain as well as investors with information on raw material sources and locations for setting up factories. The repository will open doors for private sector investment and enhance business approaches in the sector.
Linda Isaka is one such entrepreneur, who has been in the fertilizer business for over 10 years and is looking to find better ways of transporting raw materials for her compost business. Enthused about what she learnt from the recent workshop led by the FAO on the repository, Linda said the government’s interest in supporting the production of organic fertilizer in the country is an indication of the potential of the industry to respond to the global food crisis. “We need to build a strong stakeholder network to support each other” she stated. Linda says she looks forward to more collaboration and support from investors to help her expand her business.
As part of the continuous support for the economic recovery programme and development priorities, the UN in Ghana will continue to work with policymakers, private sector and communities on the frontline to help transform Ghana’s food systems in the months to come.
This article was developed by UNIC Accra and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Ghana with editorial support from UN DCO in New York. For more information about the UN’s work in Ghana, please visit ghana.un.org.