Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea Linnaeus) is an annual legume crop, and one of the most important food crops in Ghana. Groundnut is a rich source of edible oils (50%), proteins (25 – 28%), as well as carbohydrates (20%), making it an important crop for nutrition and food security. Groundnut consumption in Ghana varies from use as a weaning food, to extensive use as a culinary ingredient in many local dishes and soups, and as a snack food in form of roasted groundnuts. Groundnut is also commonly used as a source of high-quality cooking oil especially suited for frying foods due to the oil’s high smoke point. Consequently, annual per capita consumption of groundnut in Ghana is relatively high at about 12 kg, with consumption continuing to increase with rising incomes. Groundnut leaves, stems and roots are also a key source of livestock fodder particularly in the dry season.
Groundnut production in Ghana is predominantly conducted in Northern Ghana, with the region accounting for 94% of the annual groundnut production. Production is mostly conducted under smallholder settings characterized by small pieces of land and resource constraints. Frequently rotated with maize or other common cereals, groundnut cultivation forms an integral part of the mixed cropping-livestock system characteristic of Northern Ghana. In this region, over 650,000 households (representing about 74% of households in Northern Ghana) participate in groundnut production, with a total groundnut cultivated area of about 400,000 hectares. Across Northern Ghana, groundnut is prized for its higher profitability compared to commonly cultivated cereals such as maize and sorghum. Groundnut production in these smallholder farming systems is therefore almost always market oriented, making the crop a key income source for rural communities. This is particularly the case for rural women as the cultivation, marketing and processing of groundnut is primarily conducted by women.
While annual groundnut production in Northern Ghana is about 500,000 metric tons, mean farm yields are often low at about 0.9 tons per hectare compared to attainable yields of 2.5 tons per hectare. Low groundnut yields in Northern Ghana are mainly due to declining soil fertility and high disease infestations. Diseases such as leaf spot, rust and groundnut rosette result in yield losses of close to 100% in wet seasons, and up to 50% in moderate seasons. Yield losses due to low soil fertility and disease infestations mainly result from the minimal application of nutrients during groundnut cultivation, and the use of low-quality recycled seed and limited use of pesticides and fungicides respectively. The typical manual groundnut cultivation practice in these smallholder farming systems is also very labor intensive, with the time taken to sow, weed, harvest, and dry groundnuts preventing farmers from expanding cultivated areas in the absence of mechanization.
Groundnut production in smallholder farming systems of Northern Ghana can be enhanced through the use of certified seeds and increased use of pesticides and fungicides to control pest and disease infestations. Increased nutrient applications particularly in form of fertilizers is also required to substantially increase yields, as organic nutrient sources such as manure are inadequate in these farming systems. Resulting increases in groundnut yields would improve household incomes given the higher profits associated with groundnuts compared to other crops. Studies on current consumption and demand patterns also show that any increase in groundnut production can be readily absorbed by the Ghanaian domestic and export markets. This indicates huge potential for enhancing the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farming communities in Northern Ghana through implementation of strategies that enhance groundnut yields. This would be of particular benefit to women farmers as they form the mainstay of groundnut production, marketing and processing.
To address constraints related to groundnut production and support farmers to efficiently increase groundnut yields, the 4R Solution Project is helping farmers in Northern Ghana acquire best groundnut crop and nutrient management practices based on the 4Rs concept of “using the Right Source of nutrients, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Place, and in the Right Time”. To achieve this, the project has established multiple groundnut 4R learning sites where farmers are continuously accessing training and demonstrations on best crop and nutrient management practices for groundnut. A major component of these training is the demonstration of the benefits of right fertilizer use practices on groundnut yields as farmers in Northern Ghana do not traditionally apply any fertilizers to their groundnut crops.
Farmers are also receiving training on the identification and management of major groundnut diseases, as baselines studies indicated that most farmers interpret disease infestation symptoms such as drying of leaves as an indicator of groundnut maturity. To ensure increased farmer reach beyond communities residing close to established 4R learning sites, the 4R Solution project is working with key local stakeholders such as researchers, extension officers, development partners, and local farmer’s cooperatives to develop locally adapted 4R content for efficient groundnut production. These locally adapted 4R materials will be reflective of typical farm conditions in Northern Ghana, and also reflective of specific groundnut production constraints facing men and women farmers in Northern Ghana. Developed 4R content will also be translated into key local languages, and continuously disseminated in form of posters, handbooks, short television and radio programs, and mobile phone based short message services. This is expected to result in enhanced 4R training of more than 100,000 households in Northern Ghana both during, and beyond the 5-year project period, allowing farmers in this region attain the ultimate goal of enhanced groundnut productivity based on locally adapted 4R practices.