Maize (corn) is the most important staple and food security crop in the western Africa country of Ghana. Production is predominantly carried out by resource constrained smallholder farmers under rain-fed conditions (no irrigation). These resource constraints often limit the ability of smallholder farmers in Ghana to efficiently produce maize, resulting in maize yields that are well below what is possible with good crop and nutrient management practices.
In northern Ghana where the 4R Solution project is being implemented, annual maize production is approximately 170,000 metric tons, representing 10 % of total annual maize production in Ghana, and placing the region among the top five maize producing regions in Ghana. However, with current maize yields on smallholder farms at 1.7 tons per hectare compared with attainable yields of 8 tons per hectare when good crop and nutrient management practices are incorporated on these farms, opportunities exist for farmers to sustainably enhance maize productivity through efficient production practices.
To assist smallholder farmers in northern Ghana sustainably increase maize production on their farms, the 4R Solution project is leading efforts aimed at identifying and addressing key constraints to efficient maize production. Baseline studies conducted within focal project districts of East Gonja, Nanumba North, Nanumba South, and Kpandai have identified limited use of fertilizers, low soil fertility due to continuous cropping with minimal application of nutrients, pests and weed infestations, and poor crop and fertilizer management practices as the key constraints to efficient maize production within farms in these districts.
To address these constraints, the 4R Solution project is establishing multiple on-farm 4R learning sites for farmer training on efficient maize production based on the 4R concept of “using the Right Source of nutrients, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Place, and in the Right Time”. To ensure increased farmer reach beyond communities residing close to 4R learning sites, the 4R Solution project is additionally working with key local stakeholders such as researchers, extension officers, development partners, and local farmers cooperatives to develop locally adapted 4R training materials for efficient maize production.
This locally adapted 4R contents will be reflective of typical farm conditions in northern Ghana, and of specific gender-based crop 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 northern Ghana achieve the ultimate goal of efficiently producing high maize yields based on locally adapted 4R practices.
Contributed by: Samuel Njoroge, Agronomist – 4R Nutrient Stewardship Project, APNI