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General News of Sunday, 3 March 2013

Source: Thompson, Kofi

FEATURE: Organic produce can create wealth in rural Ghana

By Kofi Thompson

If the bulk of Ghana's agricultural produce was organically produced, we would be a far healthier people - as we would ingest less of the cancer-causing synthetic fertilisers and pesticides applied by smallholder farmers who grow the bulk of the food we eat.

Our agricultural sector would also earn more from export markets - helping to improve our balance of trade and contributing to an increase in Ghana's GDP in the process.

Ghanaian farmers, such as those producing cocoa and mangoes for export, would also be better off - as the global demand for organically produced cocoa and mangoes - which command a premium price - far outstrips supply.

Currently, there are many organic agricultural inputs such as natural pesticides made from neem seed oil and organic soil-improving agents that lessen or obviate the need for synthetic fertilisers, available on the world market.

Yet, vested interests work hard to keep them from entering Ghana. They also work extremely hard to ensure that organic farming never takes hold here.

That is the main reason why those who succeed in bringing organic agricultural inputs into Ghana, face such an uphill task persuading organisations like the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board (COCOBOD) to have them tested by state research institutions including the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

Yet, consumers in the nations that are the main buyers of Ghana's cocoa beans are switching to eating organic food for health reasons.

We cannot ignore that trend forever without Ghana's cocoa beans losing market share in the export markets for cocoa beans eventually.

Put simply, if we don't switch to growing cocoa organically, Ghana will no longer be considered to be producers of high quality cocoa beans - the unique selling point of Ghanaian cocoa beans for decades.

Tiny Cape Verde's private-sector is taking advantage of this new trend for healthy eating - and some players in the industry there have carved a niche for themselves as producers of organic chocolate: exporting their products to the UK and Europe.

Kenyan coffee growers are also exploiting an export market niche as producers of organic coffee - and gaining extra income from the premium organically produced coffee commands.

An organic fertiliser manufactured in Latvia, has played an important part in Kenya's coffee industry's switch to organic coffee production. Its effect has to be seen to be believed.

President Mahama can see his dream of mango farming transforming the lives of marginalised young people in the regions covered by SADA becoming a reality if this miraculous organic fertiliser is made available to them by SADA.

The president's National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime can easily achieve its goal of Ghana producing over 1 million tonnes of cocoa beans, if the COCOBOD also makes it available to cocoa farmers in Ghana - and use it in the so-called high-tech mass-spraying programme.

The present administration can transform Ghana's agricultural sector by providing funding for research work to enable the Latvian organic fertiliser to be tested and approved for use in Ghanaian agriculture, by the relevant state research institutions under the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research; the research departments of the state universities and CRIG.

It will increase yields for farmers, and lessen post-harvest losses - because it strengthens crops it is applied to when growing and gives them long shelf-life when harvested.

The time has come to break the stranglehold of the companies that supply synthetic fertilisers and pesticides as well as other synthetic agricultural inputs in Ghana, once and for all.

If they want to continue in business, let them switch to selling organic agricultural inputs - for that is what has a future in a nation whose citizens are now waking up to the dangers of eating food grown with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

President Mahama can also see his dream of wealth being created in rural Ghana on a sustainable basis realised within his tenure, if his administration takes the necessary measures to enable Ghana to switch to exporting organic cocoa and mangoes. SADA and COCOBOD hold the key to that. A word to the wise...