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Opinions of Saturday, 30 June 2018

Columnist: Samuel Adadi Akapule

Attaining food and nutrition Security through the Community Seed Production concept

The use of uncertified seeds and grains for planting results in low yield at harvesting The use of uncertified seeds and grains for planting results in low yield at harvesting

It cannot be underestimated that increased farmers’ access to improved quality seeds of crop varieties is one of the important strategies to addressing food and nutrition security problems.

Records have it that one of the major challenges confronting farmers in Ghana particularly smallholder rural farmers are how to access improved quality seeds for planting during farming seasons. It is not also a hidden fact that farmers in this country have been experiencing difficulties in accessing improved seeds of crop varieties for far too long.

Under such challenges farmers are compelled to use uncertified seeds for planting and ultimately leading to lower yield of crops and affecting food security.

In fact checks by this Writer reveals that apart from the fact that most of the agro-input dealers are stationed in the District and the Regional capitals depriving most farmers in the remote areas access to agro-inputs especially improved quality seeds, the established Government seed industry is also too formal, with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) controlling about 80 percent of the activities of the sector ranging from registration of seed growers, seed inspection and certification, cleaning and grading of seeds and packaging for sales only at the regional capitals.

This mostly results in delays in seed distributions to the farmers and the consequent loss of productivity. In other words the distribution systems from the certified seed production stage to the farmers are normally poor.

The demand for all categories of seeds are not also readily available thereby affecting production planning. For instance, farmers who benefited last year from the Government’s intervention of Planting for Food and Jobs(PFJs) complained bitterly about the untimely release of improved seeds or not even reaching them at all.

However all is not lost as the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR- SARI) with funding support from the “Kirkhouse Trust SCIO” based in the United Kingdom has initiated the move to help train communities in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions to go into Community Seed Production.

In the Community Seed Production concept, promising farmers are selected out of farmers residing in the same geographical area and organized into Farmer Based organization (FBO).The selected individuals are trained by Research Scientists in seed production, supervise and monitor their activities as well as facilitate the inspection and certification of their seed production by the respective regional seed inspection directorates.

Community-based Seed Production (CBSP) system is considered to be an important strategy to increase farmers’ access to diversified crop varieties in rural areas by bridging the gap between formal and informal sectors.

At a just ended Community Seed Production and Basic Principles of Planting Breeding Workshop organized at Manga Station of CSIR_SARI near the Bawku Municipal of the Upper East Region and sponsored by the “Kirkhouse Trust SCIO Project”, Dr. Francis Kusi the lead Researcher of the “Kirkhouse Trust SCIO Project” ,explained that Community Seed Production concept is one of the major interventions that could be adopted to address the challenges confronting farmers when it comes to access to improved quality seeds.

He said it is against this background that the “Kirkhouse Trust SCIO Project” at CSIR-SARI as part of its activities is training the project staff and collaborators in Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop. The participants consisted of Agriculture Extension Agents drawn from the Bawku Municipal, Bawku West, Binduri, Garu, and Pusiga Districts.

Others include Scientists and Field Technicians from CSIR -SARI, and MPhil and PhD students working on the project from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University for Development Studies, University of Cape Coast and University of Ghana. The focus of the project is to promote farmers access to the seeds of the five new cowpea varieties released by the project in 2016 under the sponsorship of the“ Kirkhouse Trust SCIO”.

Dr. Francis Kusi explained that participants are expected to go back to their respective communities to train selected farmers who are willing to go into cowpea seed production in their communities so as to improved quality seeds available to the farmers in their respective communities.

“The selection of the farmers will be based on their crop management skills and other factors. These individuals will then serve as sources of improved quality seeds to other farmers in the remote farming communities in Northern Ghana” he stressed.

Dr Kusi said the project intends to eventually link these community seed producers to private seed companies as out-growers and to facilitate the registration of some of them as seed producers as a sustainability measure before the end of the project.

He said apart from the project breaking the bottlenecks confronting the rural smallholder farmers in accessing improved quality seeds, it would also offer employment to the teeming youth and urged the youth to take advantage of the programme.

A former Senior Research Scientist of CSIR- SARI, Dr I.D.K.Atokple, who facilitated the training workshop said the effective implementation of the Community Seed Production would help complement the government ’s flagship programmes of PFJs, the One Village, One Dam and the One District, One Factory policies.

“The Kirkhouse Trust SCIO Project” will want a paradigm shift from farming as usual to farming as business and I impress upon you to take your work seriously by ensuring that your respective communities benefit enormously from Community Seed Production concept to help the country attain food security”, Dr Atokple stressed.

It is important to note that the concept of CBSP came as a response to the failure of the formal system to adequately supply seeds of diversified varieties in a cost-effective way in the rural areas.

Advancing his augment for the justifications of the Community Seed Production concept at the ToT workshop, Dr Atokple, said it could minimize costs in production and marketing because both production and marketing activities are handled at a local level with low transportation and management costs.

“Similarly, being an intermediary and less formal sector, CBSP does not require going through the complex ways involving long seed certification procedure adopted by government agencies but rather research and MOFA monitor the seed production plots and apply quality assurance techniques.

These conditions help them to reduce costs in the production phase”, he indicated.

Additionally, the former Senior Research Scientist of CSIR- SARI indicated that CBSPs are allowed to produce and sell seeds to farmers in their communities of selected improved varieties of their choice out of the numerous varieties developed by research institutes.

This, he stressed, would help CBSP to supply diverse crop varieties in accordance with the local needs that vary across the socio-economic and geo-physical settings.

In conclusion, there is the urgent need for MOFA and other development partners to team up with CSIR- SARI to expand the training programme to cover more farmers in the rural settings to go into more seed production of cowpea and other crop varieties such as maize, millet, sorghum, rice, soya beans among others to help improve upon food and nutrition security and job creation situations in the country.