The Planting for Food and Jobs program in the Upper West Region could suffer some major setbacks later this year.
This is because more than 60 acres of maize seed farms have been ravaged by bush fires in the Daffiama-Busie-Issa (DBI) District. The produce from the farm was to be distributed to farmers in the region as improved seeds under PFJ.
One farmer in Jollinyiri in DBI whose 28-acre maize seed farm was destroyed by bush fire on December 29, 2019, said he is left distraught as he has no alternative means of paying debts incurred on the farm or caring for his family.
“I was here with my workers, we were about 27 workers here on that day when fire came and destroyed everything. We tried everything but what we were able to rescue was only 2 acres,” he recalled.
Another farmer at Kenkeley, Issifu Ndiifen who lost maize seeds from his 35-acre farm on the 3rd of January this year said he suspected foul play although he was at a loss as to who would have committed such an act. Mr Ndiifen said he was able to salvage just about 31 bags from the more than 320 bags he would have gotten.
He said the salvaged maize seeds cannot be sold because of its burnt nature stressing that “even hens do not want it”. The farmer mentioned that if well-meaning individuals or organisations did not go to his aid, he would be unable to pay his debts or feed his family.
Under the Planting for Food and Jobs Program in the Upper West Region, the Department of Agriculture has outsourced the production of maize seeds to the seed growers. These seed growers then again contract farmers to grow the seeds by supplying them with inputs like foundation seeds and fertilizers.
The District Director of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), David Kuubini said despite the continuous education, bush burning persists in the DBI area.
“We are doing our best, why the people are not listening to us is what we cannot tell,” he quipped.
He blamed the fires on hunters who set fire to the bushes, cattle herdsmen who also set fire to the bushes to enable the sprouting of fresher grass to feed their animals. The District Manager for NADMO said because fires spread easily during the dry periods, they have been unable to get the culprits who start the fires.
Mr Kuubini advised farmers to harvest their produce early to prevent losses caused by bush fires saying “When it is getting to this particular season [dry periods], we normally start our sensitisation around October and during that time, the grasses are always still green such that people can prepare. When you hear us [NADMO] on radio, the news or in the towns, know that it is getting to the period for bush fires”.
To enable farmers cut losses, NADMO is advising them to hire more farm hands to quickly harvest and thresh produce harvested.
The Regional Manager for NADMO, Ahmed Mustapha was unhappy that Traditional Authorities in areas like DBI had not taken up the task to ensure that people in their Traditional Areas did not burn. Mr Mustapha was full of praise for Traditional Rulers in Lawra for their commitment to end bush burning. He said during this period, only one bush fire had been recorded with very minimal impact.
Mr Mustapha said it was unfortunate that farmers had to invest huge sums of money into their farms only to have devastating losses at the end of the season.
The DCE for DBI, Nadi Imoro Sanda, said the Assembly together with NADMO is working to go to the aid of the farmers. Mr Imoro Sanda said plans are far advanced to institute by-laws to help reduce the incidents of bush fires across the district.
Story filed by Mark Smith.