The African continent is experiencing an expanding population. Producing enough food to feed this ever increasing population who are mostly in the rural areas, engaged in smallholder farming while mitigating climate change and conserving the environment is the key challenge of the century. Many researchers and policy makers have concluded that the solution to these challenges is increasing agricultural productivity irrespective of the means. Over the years, governments have pursued agricultural intensification which involved mechanization, use of inorganic fertilizers, use of improved seeds aimed at increasing agricultural productivity. While agricultural intensification has increased agricultural productivity marginally, smallholder farmers located in the rural areas have not improved their welfare as most of them are becoming poorer and poorer due to land degradation, deforestation, over-extraction of groundwater, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Though, food is not enough to feed the ever increasing population in sub-Saharan African countries, the loss through harvesting, storage, packing, transportation and cooking leaves much to be desired. Many of the meals prepared and eaten by the rural smallholder farmers lack the necessary nutrients required for growth, protection against diseases and energy.
This intervention project proposal aims at introducing and up scaling Conservation and Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural (CaNSA) in the rural areas of Ghana. Conservation Agriculture (CA) as explained by Food and Agriculture Organization is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. It is a farming system that encourages the maintenance of permanent soil cover, minimum soil disturbance (zero tillage) and diversification of plant species. The specific objectives of this CaNSA project are to:
1. Increase smallholder farmers’ knowledge and benefits about CaNSA
2. Introduce CA technologies to smallholder farmers and help them to adopt these technologies.
3. Introduce nutrition sensitive agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers and help them to adopt these technologies
4. Introduce improved postharvest management technologies to smallholder farmers and help them to adopt these technologies
5. Form cooperatives for small holder farmers as community sourcing to cut down cost of production and boost productivity.
The project intends to use participatory approach to achieve the objectives. This will involve the bottom-up approach were local smallholder farmers will be thoroughly engaged in the establishment of demonstration plots. Under this, farmers and agricultural extension agents (AEAs) will be trained on conservation and nutrition sensitive agriculture through farmer field schools on the demonstration plots. The CA practices to be introduced to farmers for adoption are minimal or zero tillage, permanent organic cover and diversification of crop species grown in sequences or association.
On the demonstration farms, the participant male and female smallholder farmers will be taught how to incorporate fertility-enhancing plants such as leguminous forages, shrubs, cover crops, and grain legumes as well as animal droppings to improve the fertility of the soil thereby minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers for cost reduction without compromising the yield of crops. The efforts of CA will be complemented through the use of animal manure, zero burning of the fields, zero tillage, mulching etc. The participants will be continuously assisted in terms of helping them to acquire the knowledge and skills required for them to be successful conservation agriculturists. Before the implementation, a baseline survey will be conducted and this will be compared with an end line survey. Also, the results from demonstration plots and the control plots will be compared.
Nutrition sensitive agriculture will also be propagated. Vitamins and bio-fortified varieties of crops will be promoted as the seeds that will be used for the demonstration and given to farmers in kind will contain minerals needed for growth. Nutrition value chain – starting with nutrient-rich seeds and soils that will improve the quality of the crops, and extending across the food system to other elements like food safety, food processing, food fortification and proper food preparation and consumption in households. Food crops from these farms and the fortified foods will be demonstrated on groups of children as against another group that will be fed on their old crops, and their growths monitored as evidence of the benefits of nutrition sensitive agriculture.
Once production is increased, there is the need for loss prevention during harvesting, transport, storage and processing. Farmers will be trained on basic improved storage technologies, food processing (such as fruits into juices in their season) and preservation. Food processing is essential for making nutritionally rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and dairy products, available year-round.
To enable the rural smallholder farmers improve household food security, nutrition and the economic status of their family and the community, the CaNSA Initiative will link farmers to market through providing electronic platform where each actors (input dealers, farmers and traders) can access market information. Farmers will be linked to produce aggregators and processors to ensure guaranteed market. Produce from these farms will be incorporated into the school feeding program, which will serve as a ready market, while improving on the nutrition status of these school children. Monitoring and evaluation will be ensured at all stages of the project through direct feedback from the farmers and also indirectly through the trained agricultural extension agents. Strategies that are working will be improved and those that are not working will be reassessed during the life cycle of the project.
3. Expected Results
It is expected that, at the end of the project, 95% of the participants will adopt conservation and nutrition sensitive agricultural practices. The spill-over effects are expected as non-participants will see the benefits of CaNSA and adopt the package. It is also expected that land degradation, soil erosion and soil fertility loss will be reduced by 75%. This will ensure sustainable agriculture. Malnutrition which is highly prevalent in farm families will be reduced at the end of the implementation of CaNSA project.
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