AGRIBUSINESS: Cardinal Turkson Looks At Future Of Ghana’s Agriculture
Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson visited Des Moines last week during the world Food Prize, and says farmers in his country are taking steps toward sustainability.
In Ghana, Turkson says there are two types of agriculture; commercial ag, and subsistence farming. He says commercial ag spans mainly cocoa, Ghana’s main export, and citrus. The capital input required for commercial farming excludes many subsistence farmers from transitioning. Instead, Turkson says many of the farmers work long days, alone, starting at 4 in the morning.
“They’ll spend the day on the farm, work as much as they can until the sun gets warm,” says Turkson. “So this’ll be about 11 o’clock, 12. Then they take a break. Then probably about 3 o’clock, they begin again and that’s about when they gather what they want to bring home. Pull up a bunch of tubes of cassava, cut a bunch of plantains of banana, or if the wife needs some firewood in the house, that’s the time they’ll gather firewood. Then about 5 o’clock they begin to make their way back.”
Turkson says that the future of Ghana’s subsistence farmers, at least in the short-term, will hinge on a government initiative that absorbs 50% of the cost of fertilizer. Before the program Ghanaian smallholder farmers would simply leave land fallow after roughly five years of use, at which point soil nutrients were more or less depleted. They then removed swaths of forest to make more arable land, which the program hopes to curb. However several unintended consequences have arisen because of the manure discount program, including difficulties for private-sector fertilizer market development in rural areas, and an illegal industry of smuggling fertilizer to nearby countries where prices are higher.