Productivity on rice farms in the Atiwa District has improved following support to farmers from AGRA. Through the “Public-Private Partnership for Competitive and Inclusive Rice Value Chain Development” project, improved seeds have been bred for farmers, village-based advisors (VBA) have been trained to support them, and linkages have been created between farmers, input dealers and markets.
Godfred Mensah Amenyo, a farmer says; “the inputs are helping us increase productivity. I got 65 bags of rice from my 4-acre field this year.” That same size of farm previously gave him only 20 bags. “It is very encouraging. Through the project, poverty has gone down,” Reindorf Nakuja, a VBA observed. Generally, productivity on rice farms has increased from between 1.8 and 2.5 metric tonnes per hectare to between 3 and 5 metric tonnes per hectare in some project communities.
“We’ve been able to increase our production to even 5 tonnes per hectare as of the last production season. We’ve also developed the Atiwa Rice brand. So marketing is not a challenge because we have been able to bag some of our rice,” Atiwa East District Director of Agriculture Samuel Ofosu explained during a visit by managers of the project.
Through the Ghana Rice Project, more than 3,000 metric tonnes of certified and improved AGRA rice seeds produced by the Crop Research Institute in Kumasi have been multiplied and distributed to farmers. Also, more than 200 agro dealers and about 256 village-based advisors have been trained to support farmers. The capacity of more than 46 rice millers has been built. Hundred thousands of dollars have been invested in farm infrastructure including, in the Botanga Rice Irrigation Scheme for the benefit of farmers.
Challenges with Ghana’s rice sector
Rice remains one of Ghana’s major staples. On the average, every Ghanaian consumes about 63kg of rice annually. According to the Oxford Business Group, in 2017 alone, 1.3 million tonnes of rice was consumed in Ghana. The only problem is that out of that, only 720,000 tonnes representing 55% was produced in country. The rest were imported from Thailand, Vietnam, India and other nations. The Group estimates that in 2015 alone, Ghana spent US$1.2 billion in foreign exchange importing rice. On the average, Ghana spends over US$600 million annually on rice imports. “It’s really scary that we have lands in Central, Ashanti, not to talk of the Savannah zones which can feed almost half of West Africa, and we are spending almost half of our major cocoa export proceeds (US$1 billion) on importing rice. It’s a disaster,” Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto who is Minister for Food and Agriculture said at a recent forum in Accra.
In 2018, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) rolled out the project in partnership with Hopeline Institute, John A. Kufuor Foundation, Sparkx Farms, Volta City Farms and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The 2 million Euros project seeks to enhance the capacity of over 128,000 smallholder rice farmers across the country to ensure efficiency and profitability of operations. It also seeks to strengthen and expand small-holder farmers’ access to input and output markets for increased production and income. The project also aims to encourage increased consumption of Ghana rice.