Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Experts recommend actions for fertiliser, soil fertility challenges



By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
The experts at the workshop with Shashidhara Kolavalli doing a presentation
 A team of agricultural scientists and stakeholders who met in Accra last Monday, has offered recommendations to aid the government and the country to overcome its fertiliser subsidies and soil fertility challenges.


Available figures show that a total of GH¢862.39 million was spent on fertiliser subsidies between 2008 and 2011 by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).

Presenting options for improving the government’s subsidy programme in the short term, the Chief of Party, USAID West Africa Fertiliser Programme (WAFP), Dr Kofi Debrah, listed the key challenges as the uncertainty and unpredictability of the programme, the increasing cost of subsidies to the government, and the blanket use of fertiliser.

Dr Debrah said the challenges in the medium term, that is from 2016 to 2018, that needed addressing, were fertiliser use efficiency, sustainability of the programme and the smuggling of subsidised fertiliser to neighbouring countries within the ECOWAS sub-region.

Others are the delays in the payment of importers of fertiliser, timing and delayed delivery of fertiliser to farmers.

Recommendations

Recommended actions for the government to address the issues included the publication of the 2015 tender, further public announcements, a cost-effective analysis to assess the impacts on stated objectives and the sensitisation of importers and farmers to the impending changes of the fertiliser subsidy programme tenders.

Dr Debrah also tasked the National Input Subsidy Committee, to, in collaboration with private sector stakeholders, employ region-specific data on soils as basis for the type of fertiliser imported and include such data in the tender to award contracts, offer support for soil fertility management and ensure that imported fertiliser suits agro-ecological zones and crops.

The Minister of Food and Agriculture was specifically tasked to endorse the policy of gradual reduction in the subsidy rate, along with reforms towards a smarter subsidy and also adopt relevant aspects of the Burundi and Nigeria models.

Sustainable agriculture practices

A Senior Research Fellow of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Mr Shashidhara Kolavalli, said the objective of the experts and stakeholders’ meeting, was to identify options for the government to come out with strategies for sustainable agricultural policies.

He stated that the annual expenditure for fertiliser in the country had increased and that the subsidy programme began with a target of fertilising 40,000 hectares in 2003.

During his presentation, the leader of the team of experts, Mr Thomas Stuart Jayne of the Michigan State University, showed that acidification and the late application of fertiliser were two key elements that affected soil fertility in Ghana.

“Many soils in Ghana are very low in soil organic matter. Raising inorganic fertiliser use is crucial. However, the greatest payoffs occur when farmers use both organic and inorganic fertiliser,” he said.

Mr Jayne advocated the addressing of bush fires, the increase in the supply of organic manure and the conversion of waste from cities, in the medium and long terms to improve soil fertility.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Crops, Alhaji Yakubu Alhassan, who chaired the meeting, said a district specific soil mapping had been conducted and lodged with the Soil Research Institute (SRI).

Writer’s email: edmund.asante@graphic.com.gh

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on February 4, 2015


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