Stakeholders in the agricultural value chain have expressed worry that seed growers in the Upper West Region continue to shy away from the production of cowpea seeds despite the huge economic advantages.
Last year, the region managed to produce only 5 tons of certified cowpea seeds despite having the best weather and soil conditions among the five regions of the north.
A Senior Researcher with CSIR-SARI, Dr. Francis Kusi said if seed growers, particularly those in Upper West do not take advantage of the suitable conditions and the availability of climate compliant cowpea varieties for uptake by the government, it would be forced to import certified seeds from neighboring countries for farmers under its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) program.
“We should not sit here [Upper West Region] for government to import seeds from neighboring Burkina Faso or even Southern Ghana. As a region, we need to produce our own seeds,” he said.
He said this while addressing seed growers in the Upper West Region at Wa.
Dr. Francis explained that over the past two years under the Kirkhouse Trust project, Climate Resistant Crop Varieties (CRCV) have been produced adding that some out growers and community seed producers have being trained on how to plant them.
He said this notwithstanding; the farmers seem uninterested in getting registered or following due process.
The regional stakeholder meetings with seed growers across the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions are therefore to enlighten seed growers on the advantages of using CRCV as well as the need for registration.
Dr. Kusi explained that if the farmers are not registered and do not go through the necessary channels, what they produce cannot be certified as seeds but can only be sold as grains for food.
The forum was also to link up out growers who have been trained on good agronomic practices to the seed growers in order to boost the capacity of the out growers.
Dr. Francis Kusi mentioned ‘Wang Kae’ and ‘Kirkhouse Benga’ as the two most appropriate seeds to grow in the Upper West Region out of the five varieties produced.
He said the varieties are resistant to the ‘striga’ disease which affects the cowpea crop.
Dr. Kusi mentioned that several tests have been conducted in the Lawra area which is the most prone to ‘striga’ and the result showed that the two varieties were resistant to the disease and still produced high yields.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) having identified the huge demand for cowpea on the local market added it to the list of crops under government’s PFJ program.
As with other crops under the program, government is expected to supply subsidized cowpea certified seeds to farmers.
The Upper West Regional Director of Agriculture, Emmanuel Sasu Yeboah encouraged farmers and seed growers to take advantage of the new cowpea varieties because of the huge demand.
He said when this happens, the Upper West Region can become a hub for the production of certified cowpea seeds and grains for food.
He added that legumes like groundnuts and cowpea, both new additions to the PFJ program, are very gender inclusive and as such would provide massive opportunities for women to go into farming.
An officer with the Ghana Seed Inspection Division under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Hafiz Mohammed Jawad admonished interested seed growers to register with the department.
He said if farmers do not do so, they would be prosecuted if they sell their produce to farmers as certified seeds.
“According to the act governing seed production, you cannot produce seeds without going through registration. After registration, we have to inspect your field by the Ghana Seed Inspection Directorate and then go to lab and test its quality,” he said.
He admonished the farmers to get registered as not doing so would mean going against the laws saying “you could either spend two years in jail or pay 200 penalty units”.
Mr. Mohammed Jawad explained that last year eight seed growers registered to grow certified cowpea seed but only 4 of them actually went through with production.
This year six seed growers have registered with the department. Mr. Mohammed Jawad expressed hope that more farmers would sign up to produce certified cowpea seeds.
The Head of the SARI, Wa Station, Dr. Alhassan Lansah Abdulai said the institution’s core duty is “developing agricultural technologies including the release of new varieties with appropriate qualities for our ecology as well as develop component technologies that will optimize yield from those varieties that we may develop”.
He said SARI would continue to reengineer crops to ensure that they are able to tolerate the stress associated with Climate Change.
Dr. Lansah Abdulai said the timing of the program by SARI is appropriate as it comes at a time where certified seeds account for less than 50 percent of seeds planted during the planting season.
He said if more seed growers produce certified seeds, it means ordinary farmers would be able to grow and be able to access certified seeds and in turn produce quality grain for final consumption.
Story by Mark Smith