Catholic Diocese builds capacity of farmers

The Navrongo-Bolgatanga Catholic Diocese in the Upper East Region has launched a three-year Diocesan livelihood and Advocacy project to build the capacity of farmers to cope with the changing climatic variability to increase food security.

The project, which is in partnership with MISEREOR of Germany, would be implemented in four districts; Builsa South (the Fumbisi valleys), Bongo and Tongo Districts of the Upper East Region and the West Mamprusi District of the Northern Region.

Speaking at the launch held on the theme: “Strengthening of Smallholder Farmers Resilience Towards a Changing Climate,” Most Reverend Alfred Agyenta, Catholic Bishop of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese, said the project sought to reach out to eight thousand farmers in sixteen communities in the four districts.

He said with an average family size of eight, it would bring the total beneficiary families of sixty-four thousand, of which forty percent would be women farmers.

He said agricultural lands in the Upper East and parts of Northern Regions were largely marginal, infertile and dry, which was a major challenge to agricultural production.

He said the literacy level among smallholder farmers compelled them to use inorganic fertilizers and other chemicals which translated into low incomes and rendered them vulnerable to all shocks and deprivation.

Most Rev Agyenta observed that traction services by tractors or farm animals were still limited to very few farmers, which posed challenges to increasing agricultural productivity since peasant farmers could not meet timelines of ploughing, planting and weeding to improve crop yields.

“It is often difficult to access traction service at the right time and for that matter, planting is quite sporadic and therefore the associated yield is also low.” He said, adding that access to farm transport would also improve productivity and reduce farm drudgery, especially for women who walked long distances to undertake farm activities.

The Bishop said the growing trend in the use of agro-chemicals without safe and appropriate measures, was capital intensive for smallholder farmers beside the side effects, “the new and developing trend needs concerted attention since it could derail the efforts on sustainable agricultural practices on smallholder farmers.” He added.

He said even though climate change was the main problem, the project intended to address, Pope Francis in his latest encyclical on “The care of our Common Home”, stated that, the church does not want to pronounce on the merit of the current debate on climate change. “This is the work of our Scientists.”

According to him, the Pope tried to “open the eyes of the world to the reality on the ground; our home is being gradually destroyed and we cannot resolve or stop the process without asking serious ethical questions that border on the conduct of citizens. The Pope said we have let God down, disappointed him in our care of the gift of creation.”

Most Rev Agyenta said the project would be fruitless if humans who were the factors at the root of climate change did not change their attitude towards the environment.

Professor David Millar, the Chancellor of Millar Open University, said the fertilities of the soils were very poor and needed to be supplemented with fertilization, and was quick to add that it should not be chemical fertilization, “we prefer organic fertilization and we can produce organic fertilizer like the chemical fertilizer, bag them for farmers to use.”

He stressed that the organic fertilizer could be used for any type of crop unlike the chemical fertilizer which was specific, and advocated a large scale production of organic fertilizer, which would be affordable and simple to use by farmers.

Professor Millar expressed worry about the politicization of fertilizer in the country by both current and previous governments, “we are doing ourselves a disservice, the more chemical fertilizer you bring in, the more you are destroying the soils, so why should I vote for you to go and bring poison into the system.” He quizzed.

He said the production of organic fertilizer was less expensive as compared to the cost involved in importing chemical fertilizer when groundnut husk and its leaves put together was a simple form of producing organic fertilizer.

“We spend a lot of dollars coming to buy sickness into our farming system when we can produce quality material locally which would create all the jobs and value addition, and all the support for the agricultural services.” He said.

Source: GNA

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