Dr. Marie Rarieya from AGRA in elaborating on the opportunity of the launch expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to be in Ghana. She said that, the consortium was a good opportunity for different stakeholders to come together to improve on the productivity of farmers especially small scale farmers.
She hoped that Ghana’s soil health consortium would contribute towards attaining this. She mentioned the challenges relating to sustaining soil health on the continent and mentioned that different stakeholders have done their bit however, there was the need to synthesise and disseminate knowledge by different actors on the issue of ISFM. She mentioned that no country has a repository on information on ISFM because researches conducted in this area have been left on the shelf.
AGRA recognized this and mentioned farmers and other actors on the value chain could have their productivity enhanced if soil health can be improved using ISFM. The need to deliver knowledge and technologies is important. Thirteen countries in Sub-Sahara Africa are being supported along this line and country level soil health consortia have been created in 13 countries in Africa.
The purpose is to launch the Ghana Soil Health Consortia by scaling up impact of ISFM to farmers, improving use of limited resources, increase prospect of developing joint communication efforts and collecting legacy data needed for fertilizer recommendation.
Relevant local experts are also encouraged to give their best to attain these objectives. She mentioned a number of institutes that have been invited to the launch. She invited all stakeholders to contribute their resources to improve on productivity of food crops in the country.
She strongly believed that this launch was long overdue, considering the importance of soil health in our search for solutions to the numerous problems that confront our farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, whose livelihoods depend solely on agricultural productivity. She was delighted that the Ghana Soil Health consortium will contribute to the facilitation of a wider uptake of better adapted integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices with visible positive impacts on rural livelihoods. She continued and said that the African continent is facing a soil health crisis. This challenge suggests urgency in rethinking and reshaping the way agricultural development within sub-Saharan Africa, and Ghana specifically is engaged or realized.
Over the years, the national research institutions, CGIARs, NGOs and private sector have made great strides in addressing smallholder farmers’ challenges, but a lot more needs to be done in the areas of improving soil fertility. She reiterated that there was a huge wealth of new information on integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) that has been generated by the research institutions; however, little work has been done to synthesize and disseminate this knowledge in formats suitable for use by the different actors involved in farming systems development.
Currently no country in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has made concerted efforts to consolidate available information on ISFM and create a centralized repository to enable easy access of the information. This was partly due to the fact that most of the research findings remain on the shelves and do not get to the end users, in formats and language that was digestible.
She indicated that AGRA recognizes that agricultural productivity will not increase if the capacity of farmers and other actors in the agricultural value chain remains low, preventing them from innovating.
Guided by the vision of a food secure and prosperous Africa achieved through rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers who produce staple food crops, AGRA recognizes the importance of Integrated Soil Fertility Management practices and technologies as a major step toward improving soil health to support agricultural productivity.
She said AGRA also understood that knowledge and technologies must be made available and accessible to our partners and farmers for efficient use.
To this end, AGRA’s Soil Health Program is supporting the implementation of Country Level Soil Health Consortia to enhance dissemination of integrated soil fertility management technologies across 13 countries in Africa.
Over the years, AGRA has been working with and providing support to key stakeholders across sub-Saharan Africa, including the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Plant Nutrition Institute.
AGRA has also created the Country-level Soil Health Consortium program for eight countries in East and Southern Africa and five countries in West Africa including Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria to serve as a centralized repository for easy access to information.
Touching on the purpose of the consortium, she indicated that the purpose of the consortium was to facilitate a wider uptake of better adapted integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices with visible positive impacts on rural livelihoods by:
Building partnerships for scaling up the impacts of AGRA’s investments beyond current projects geographical locations
Minimizing duplication of efforts and improve the use of limited resources
Enhancing collaboration with and increase prospects of developing joint communication products along the agricultural value chain
Developing joint protocols for demonstrations and trials that are site specific
Helping in collecting and collating legacy data that is needed to develop fertilizer recommendations.
Assisting with mobilizing resources
The challenge therefore was to ensure that relevant local stakeholders have the opportunity to participate fully and effectively along the agricultural value chain within the consortia to achieve the desired goal of improving agricultural productivity in Ghana.