Soya bean farmers in the Kunkua community of the Bongo District in the Upper East region, are benefiting from an agric-research intervention programme dubbed "Rhizobium Inoculum Technology Project".
The project is the brain-child of a research conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and its affiliate, the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), in conjunction with North Carolina Agriculture and Technical University.
That research was christened; "Using Rhizobium Inoculants and Best Production Practices to Propel the Ghanaian Soybean Value Chain for Accelerated Poverty Reduction".
A SARI Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Issah Sugri, on Wednesday, led a team of US partners to the project experimental farms at Kunkua to interact with beneficiaries and to have a hands-on feel on how the intervention was running in the area. He told the farmers and the US team that, the inoculant was a biological fertilizer that had the capacity to increase yields of leguminous crops such as soya beans if farmers adhered to simple farm techniques SARI had introduced to them.
The CSIR and its affiliate, SARI are the lead implementers of the intervention with funding from the United Sates Department of Agriculture through the Scientific Support Research Programme. The two research institutions are also receiving technical support and other forms of expertise from the North Carolina Agriculture and Technical University among other local partners for the effective implementation of the project.
According to Dr. Sugri, inoculants, which are produced by SARI, are easy to apply and were cheaper than traditional chemical fertilizers. He disclosed that the farm size for the Kunkua experiment was four plots measuring 20 by 30 metres each and that in 2018, a similar intervention was made available to farmers in the Feo and Ayelbia communities also in the Bongo District. He said the farmers were often guided on how to cultivate an inoculated farm side by side an un-inoculated farm so that at harvest, a comparison is drawn based on the outcome of yields. He emphasised that from previous trials, the inoculated farms always did better.
He explained that the focus was on soya bean because, it is a nutritious crop and has several potentials such as being rich in proteins and excellent for production of food products including weaning foods for babies. He added that, soya holds huge economic potentials as it could also be sold in larger quantities to oil manufacturing firms thus bringing bigger profits to the rural farmer.
According to him, the Kunkua farmers were recently supplied with a new soya variety known as the CSIR-Favour, a high-yielding soya bean variety, as part of the project. He cautioned farmers against applying just any fertilizer on their crops stressing that, specific crops had their corresponding specific fertilizers and that when in doubt, they should always consult the technocrats such as SARI staff or extension officers from the district's Department of Agriculture.
A partner researcher on the project, Professor Osei Yeboah, who is also the Coordinator - International Agricultural Development & Engagement Certificate Programme, North Carolina-USA, observed that, if the rural farmer was to rake in any meaningful income, he/she could not continue doing same things on the farm as in 30 years ago.
Prof. Yeboah, who has been lending expert support to SARI for six years now, stated that any crop that grows vertically, gives the farmer more room to sow more on the same farm land thereby increasing yields. He, thus, noted that, soya farmers were in good business only if they followed the instructions given by the SARI field officers. He espoused his own formula for making money from the farm as strict rhizobium application, good soil, use of certified seed and adopting proper planting density.
Associate Dean of Agricultural Research and Environmental Sciences at the North Carolina A&T State University, Dr. Shirley Hymon-Parker, was one of the authorities that gave approval to proposals written by Prof. Yeboah for funding to the project. She followed up for the first time to see the impact of the project and expressed satisfaction with work done so far. She pledged to act expeditiously on future proposals submitted to her in order to ensure that more funds were released to help scale up the intervention in Ghana.