Science and technology improve efficiency in Ghana's agriculture sector

 

With only a few remaining years to accomplish the goals of Ghana Vision 2020, the country is pushing forward to integrate science and technology into government initiatives, especially in the agriculture sector. In January 2017 President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the state’s renewed commitment to technology in agriculture, emphasising the need to digitise land records, introduce mobile agriculture extension services and increase access to finance. “ICT provides easier access to markets and information resources, and I have no doubt that if this is mainstreamed into our agricultural practices, productivity within the sector will be increased to ensure that not only will farmers’ input increase, but also the nation’s food security will be guaranteed,” President Akufo-Addo told local press.

Progress To Date

The country has already made important strides when it comes to using ICT to facilitate agriculture. The World Bank’s “Enabling the Business of Agriculture 2017” report ranked Ghana 22nd in terms of use of ICT among 62 countries representing all regions and income groups, ahead of Burkina Faso (59th), Cameroon (52nd) and Nigeria (37th). This is based largely on increased mobile licensing, a practice that allows farmers to make and receive mobile payments, which in turn cuts bank transaction fees. The report also highlights improved branchless banking, with amendments to agent guidelines and guidelines for e-money issuers in Ghana 2015 that allow individuals and businesses to operate as agents, offering financial services where bank branches would be uneconomical.

In its “Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017”, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an agriculture organisation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, notes the progress Ghana has made in bringing research and development networks to farming, highlighting the use of DNA-based molecular diagnostic methods to support the work of researchers from the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International Africa and the Cocoa Research Institute. The private sector is also bringing the benefits of technology to farming, with local firms such as Farmerline providing real-time, customised advice to farmers via mobile devices.

Government Support

Technology forms one of the five pillars in the government’s flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme (see overview). As described by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, this entails improving the efficiency of the existing e-platform, creating a national farmer database and incorporating the use of smartphones in extension services.

The scheme would also include electronic methods for distributing and tracking inputs, collecting timely data and providing field monitoring feedback. Peter Obeng-Koranteng, board member of Yara Ghana, an agriculture solutions firm, was optimistic about the plan. “E-monitoring could be a solution, because real-time data could be assessed during the season and we can create solutions in due time,” he told OBG.

Genetic Modifications

Another technology with the potential to change production is genetic modification of crops. In 2011 Ghana passed a Biosafety Law that permits genetic engineering trials for food production. Since then, research on products such as cowpea, cotton and rice has started. Although using genetically modified seeds for commercial purposes is still prohibited, Ghana will reportedly allow the use of certain varieties developed by the government-run Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. “Researchers working on the trials are expected to release their work sometime in 2018, now that the research has gotten to an advanced stage,” Joseph Opoku Gakpo, a journalist on the environment desk at Multimedia Group, told OBG.

As noted in the African Capacity Building Foundation’s 2017 annual report, agriculture is a priority sector when it comes to the use of science, technology and innovation. While the application of new technology to traditional fields can have a steep learning curve, Ghana is taking steps to address this and harness the benefits that technology can offer its agriculture sector.

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The Report: Ghana 2018

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Ghana 2018

The Report: Ghana 2018

The Report

This article is from the Agriculture chapter of The Report: Ghana 2018. Explore other chapters from this report.

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