Farmers in the Upper West Region are being exposed to new soil conservation technologies for adoption to reduce environmental degradation and climate vulnerability in order to promote food security in the region.
Some farmers in Busa-Tanzu in the Wa Municipality and Nyoli in the Wa West District got improved yields last season by producing cowpea, soya bean and maize using zero tillage and residue and integrated management experiments under the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM) Project.
Food insecurity is a major challenge in the Region due to increasing soil degradation caused by bad management practices such as intensive cultivation, removal or burning of crop residue and erosion leading to organic matter decline.
To inculcate best practices into farmers in the Region, the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) under the SANREM project organized a three-day workshop at Wa during which the participants visited some farms to see how conservation agricultural technologies were being applied to improve soil nutrients and crop yields.
At Nyoli in the Wa West District the participants saw the zero tillage method of cultivation in which the farmer only needed to apply herbicides to the weeds before sowing the seeds and thereafter wait for harvesting after applying fertilizer.
SANREM is a five-year action research for conservation agriculture project, which started in the Region last year.
It is being implemented by SARI and the Agronomy Department of Kansas State University in the USA with funding from the USAID (United States Agency for International Development).
Farmers from six community-based organizations in the Wa Municipality, Wa West District, Nadowli District and Nandom in the Lawra District benefited from the workshop.
The workshop among other things also trained the farmers in simple book and record keepings to document their operations and to develop success indicators that could be used by farmers and other stakeholders to plan, manage and assess conservation agricultural practices.
It also disseminated conservation agricultural technologies under research that was being field tested to other farmers in the Region and nationally through farmer-to-farmer exchanges and field visits.
The overall goal of the project is to provide food security by increasing economic return to small holder farmers.
Dr Jesse Naab, Senior Research Scientist at SARI said the goal was being implemented through gender sensitive participatory development and dissemination of sustainable conservation agricultural practices that improve soil quality, water use efficiency, crop productivity and efficient use of farm input and labour.
He said the results so far showed that 20 farmers had started using zero tillage on their own for crop production leading to higher yields of between 15 to 20 per cent at lower costs per acre.