Ghana and the Kingdom of Morocco have launched a historic soil mapping and fertilizer expansion cooperation programme.
The programme dubbed the Ghana Fertilizer Expansion Programme was launched in Accra on Wednesday, December 11, 2019,
The cooporation is between the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the OCP Foundation of Morocco.
Over the last one year, the partners signed a number of agreements that seek to advance fertilizer development and expansion activities to benefit Ghanaian farmers and improve food security in Ghana.
The OCP Foundation is partnering with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Soil Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to implement the three year Cooperation Project Agreement.
The objectives of the Project Agreement is to equip Ghana’s fertilizer and soil laboratories for improved fertilizer and soil quality testing and sustainable management.
The OCP Foundation has provided a fully equipped wet laboratory for the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate.
The Foundation has also extended support to fully equip the Accra Soil Laboratory, which will be functional for the first time; and has provided additional equipment for the Kumasi Soil Laboratory.
These ultra-modern laboratories are to help Ghana operate in compliance with international standards.
According to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the programme is hinged on four core objectives.
He mentioned that the first objective is to develop the fertilizer industrial sector of Ghana by strengthening the fertilizer blending sector, and using natural gas resources to build a world class fertilizer manufacturing plant that will generate jobs.
It is also to make fertilizers affordable and accessible to Ghanaian farmers, thereby increasing crop yields and improving food security.
He noted that the program will develop the entire fertilizer value chain through improved agronomy services, training, capacity building and education of farmers, equip MoFA staff and laboratories to conduct better fertilizer quality checks, and develop soil fertility maps with corresponding fertilizer formulas that will improve soil and crop nutrition across the country.
It will also optimize or reduce the cost inefficiencies along the fertilizer value chain.
He noted that final objective is to drive fertilizer consumption by our smallholder farmers.
“As we are all aware, fertilizer consumption in Ghana has significantly improved in recent years; jumping from 8kg per hectare in 2016 to the current rate of 20kg per hectare; thanks to the National Subsidy Programme, where the Akufo Addo Government is subsidizing 50% of the cost of fertilizers for our small holder farmers,” he said.
According to him, ” the Planting for Food and Jobs Campaign that is reaching a greater number of farmers, now exceeding one million beneficiaries.”
Regardless of the growth in fertilizer consumption, we still consider 20 kilogram per hectare as very low – since it does not meet the target set by the African Union through the Abuja Declaration of 50 kilogram per hectare, the Minister pointed out.
Under the Ghana Fertilizer Expansion programme, he revealed, Ghana’s aim is to collaborate with its partners to double its current fertilizer consumption by 2024.
In order to achieve these set objectives, according to him, the Ministry is vigorously forging partnerships, including innovative partnerships with the private sector in order to synergize and fast track the implementation of our agricultural transformation agenda.
In addition to equipping the country’s stationed laboratories, the OCP Foundation has provided a Fertilizer Mobile Testing Laboratory Truck to support the work of the Ministry.
The innovative Mobile Laboratory technology, the Minister said, will support Ghanaian farmers by providing free live soil testing, analysis, and fertilizer recommendations for farmers in the most remote villages.
“Unfortunately, most of our small holder farmers do not know about soil fertility, or the most effective fertilizer formulas to apply to improve soil nutrition and crop productivity,” he said.
The Mobile Laboratory is an initiative that will address these specific challenges to help our farmers to apply the most appropriate farm inputs that will correct soil and crop deficiencies he said.
The OCP Foundation has again provided motor cycles and tri-cycles for the Directorate of Extension Services, and Ford Pick-Up Vehicles, computers, printers and other equipment, all to the tune of $1 million to support the implementation of the Ghana Fertilizer Expansion Programme.
Apart from the equipment provided, the Minister disclosed that the Project will provide training and capacity building for about 100 persons in various directorates in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Soil Research Institute, through practical training programmes for Soil Scientists, Laboratory Technicians, Extension Officers, and on Geographical Information Systems in both Ghana and Morocco.
” Those trained will serve as trainers for further trainings to be conducted for other officers and farmers at the regional and district levels,” he said.
Soil Fertility Map
According to Dr. Afriyie-Akoto, another important contribution under this project is the development of a two million hectare National Soil Fertility Map.
“This map is an important tool that will help us to assess the soil fertility in Ghana – as well as soil and crop nutrient requirements,” he noted.
“As Ghana moves from blanket fertilization to balanced fertilization, our strategic plan for fertilizer value chain development, includes the development of a national soil fertility map and nutrient mapping, research and development of new fertilizer formulas, on-farm validation of fertilizer recommendations, and mass sensitization and education of farmers on the responsible and profitable use of fertilizers,” he added.
The soil map, according to him, will also be digitized and mainstreamed into Government’s processes to ensure an Integrated Soil Fertility Management System.
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Ghana, Imane Ouaadil, highlighted the significance of the project to the agricultural development of Ghana.
She explained that agriculture can contribute to the development of Ghana and Morocco.
She noted that tremendous efforts have been made to enhance the bilateral relations of Ghana and Morocco.
BY Melvin Tarlue