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Business News of Friday, 7 February 2020

Source: Business & Financial Times

B&FT Editorial: Soil health is crucial for agricultural sector's growth potential

Inappropriate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by farmers has been identified as one of the main causes of land degradation and contamination of the environment.

This has vindicated the long-held position of the B&FT and other environmental advocates about the need to promote organic farming since it is in vogue, particularly for an increasingly health-conscious global population, and brings premium prices.

Conservative estimates have it that 69% of Ghana's total land surface is prone to severe or very severe soil erosion - the main manifestation of land degradation in the country, Declining soil fertility is a result of inappropriate land management practices is increasingly affecting soil resources and conditions in the country, thus undermining the agricultural sector's growth potential.

Although the agricultural sector's share of the GDP has reduced from over 50% to 21% as of 2018, the sector remains an important one-employing over 50% of the country's working population.

Therefore, in order to maintain and increase crop production,it is important to adopt practices which prevent or minimise soil and land degradation.

Realising the threat of land degradation to the country's food security, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) devoted Objective Four of its policy document 'Food and Agriculture Sector Development Programme (FASDEP II) to sustainable management of land and the environment.

Currently, the United Nations FAO in collaboration with MOFA is implementing a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) on conservation agriculture and integrated pest management, with the objective of contributing to sustained increased productivity and improving environmental management aimed at attaining zero-hunger and resilient rural livelihoods in at least 12 selected districts.

Conservation-agriculture is a farming system that maintains a permanent soil cover to assure its protection, avoid soil tillage and cultivates a diverse range of plant species to improve soil conditions, reduce land degradation and increase water-and nutrient-us efficiency. Additionally, one of the sub-components of the Ghana Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (GASIP) is dedicated to mainstreaming climate change resilience and conservation agriculture practices into small holder agriculture in Ghana.

A report profiling conservation agriculture practices in three agro-ecological zones of the country was disseminated to agricultural experts at a sensitisation workshop this week. It is therefore our expectation that GASIP and farmers will take the process forward, as the report provides a good basis for rolling out appropriate conservation agriculture technologies for national adoption.