In our efforts to promote organic farming in Ghana, the Coalition for the Advancement of Organic Farming (CAOF) with the support of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ghana and Christian Aid Ghana seeks to develop the vegetables value chains in Ghana.
VSO Ghana under its livelihoods works stream has been partnering with Christian Aid and has placed a volunteer by name Peter Okoth from Kenya with Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana (a partner of Christian Aid) based in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region to develop organic farming. The partnership supports CAOF in the vegetable value chains development for organic vegetables. Through this partnership the Sack bag garden technology was introduced to farmers in the Upper East Region.
The technology supports women who have no access to land and the landless in major towns, cities, refugee camps and those in dry areas with little or no water for major farming activities. The technology is a cheaper way of producing vegetables for the market with little labour requirement, little water, controlled pest and disease attack, little space and use of little energy to manage the farm. The Upper East falls within the Savannah area; it is dry and experiences a short and erratic rainy season with longer periods of drought.
The Volunteer piloted the technology with staff of Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana at their office during the short rainy season. This demonstration used ten sacks to grow tomatoes within the office. It was also an opportunity for staff to learn the technology, in the end the demonstration was successful. During harvest time staff usually went home with tomatoes in their bags.
The introduction of the Technology to Farmers
After a successful demonstration of the Sack Bag gardening technology with staff of Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana within their offices, the said VSO Volunteer with the support of CAOF introduced it to support farmers who have little or no access to irrigation water during the long dry season. This was done by demonstrating the technology to selected farmers and field officers of CAOF member organizations at Nyariga in the Bongo District of the upper East Region. Another Demonstration was done for staff and students of the Ghana Institute of Organic Farming at Sirigu in the Kasena Nankana East District. This intervention though new has seen high adoption among farmers and it’s beginning to record some successes.
The Case of Malam Iddrisu Akolbire’s Farm
Malam Iddrisu is an accomplished farmer in Nyariga in the Upper East Region. He has practised irrigation farming since he was a child and has travelled extensively to learn about the farming business. Currently he is a nucleus farmer who trains others on best practices and has also adopted organic farming on a small scale.
After his wide range of travels, he had heard of the technology but had never practiced it. The CAOF team followed Iddrisu who is a Trade Aid farmer very closely after the training and his adoption of the technology is amazing. After the training Iddrisu planted 10 sacks of tomatoes (equivalent to ½ acre on a farm land) and five sacks of pepper. According to him, “… the technology is good and reduces the farmers’ costs of production by more than 50%…. and from what I have seen from the flowering stage, the performance will be very good, better than what I would have harvested if I planted in an open farm.”
Iddrisu, being an organic farmer, prefers this technology because he can get soil from anywhere away from the farms, which have been polluted by excessive use of chemicals thereby have reduced farm productivity. According to him, vegetable production in this area has been threatened by excess chemical application and no longer profitable to the farmer and this technology, if can be adopted by all, can help them have an alternative way of farming to allow the farms to rest and regenerate their fertility. Iddrisu’s position was confirmed by a soil and water nutrient analysis that was carried out by CAOF in August 2015, which found the soils to be more acidic, and if an alternative method is not found, then the soils would be rendered dead soon.
One sack bag of 90kg can carry up to 60 seedlings of tomatoes. In an open field, 1acre of farm can plant up to 1,200 tomato seedlings under normal spacing of 60x75cm. This means only 20 sack bags around your house is equivalent to one acre of tomatoes in the field. Farmers can always increase the number of sack bags to achieve the total number of target outputs they want. Expected output in a sack bag is 20tonnes of tomatoes per 20 bags (the same as in an open field), only that here, costs and energy are reduced by more than half. It is highly flexible, you can set the farm anywhere you want it.
From our study of Iddrisu’s farm the average yield per tree with the sack technology is 28 fruits as compared to 15 fruits per tree in the open fields around him. This was attributed to the poor nature of the soils as stated earlier. The yield was good and he harvested consumed and sold tomatoes from the sack bag garden. He has also train some farmers from the surrounding communities on the technology.