WHERE WE WORK
Start Year: 1986
End Year: 2003
Country Program Director/Coordinator: Dr. Eugenio Martinez (1986-89); Dr. Marcel Galiba (1990); Dr Wayne Haag (1991-2003); Dr. Benedicta Appiah-Asante, National Coordinator (1997-2003)
History and Primary Activities:
SAA began its work in Africa in 1986 in Ghana (and Sudan). Africa from east to west was coming off of two years of serious to extreme drought. There was widespread hunger on the ground.
Former US President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter observe a Ghanaian woman collecting pond water.
SG 2000 worked with Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture, through the Agricultural Extension Services Department. For its first five years, the Global 2000 program of the Carter Center managed SG 2000-Ghana. Over its entire 17-year history, SG 2000-Ghana provided training and logistical support to nearly 1,000 extension agents. Training was provided to more than one million farmers. The productivity of maize and several other staple food crops was significantly increased.
Technology demonstrations were at the heart of the initial program. The objective was to determine whether there was improved technology in basic food crops to double and triple the current yields of smallholder farmers. The principal tools were large one-acre (approximately 0.4 hectare) production test plots (PTPs). Farmers planted about 145,000 PTPs throughout the country. Recommended PTP production packages included improved varieties, row planting, and moderate amounts of chemical fertilizer. The results were impressive. Average PTP maize yields (3-3.5 t/ha) were two to three times higher than the farmer’s traditional yields (1.2 t/ha).
Certainly within the first five years, the yield superiority of the recommended crop varieties and production technologies coming from the Crops Research Institute (CRI) and international centers had been confirmed. The potential to transform smallholder food production was there, but the question was how to transform the “potential” into reality.
The SG 2000 team and their MOFA colleagues increasingly turned their attention to technology adoption and diffusion issues. Issues of input supply, access to credit, market linkages, and value addition all loomed large on SAA’s radar. It set out to see what it could do about a number of them.
Quality Protein Maize (QPM) – The Ghanaian diet is heavily dependent on starchy roots and tubers, such as cassava, yams and coco yams, that are high in carbohydrates but low in protein. Maize, while low in protein quality but higher in total protein, is also a critical component. Cowpeas, which are high in protein, tended to be a luxury for many small farmers.
CRI had worked with CIMMYT in maize research and development for nearly a decade before SG 2000-Ghana began operations. By 1986, a number of high-yielding tropical open-pollinated maize varieties had been released for public use in Ghana. And a second generation of maize varieties was well advanced in the research pipeline, with greater disease resistance and higher nutritional quality. CIMMYT has been a leader in the development of Quality Protein Maize (QPM), normal-looking, normal-tasting maize that has twice the levels of lysine and tryptophan of ordinary maize. It improves the nutritional wellbeing of the rural poor who depend on maize as their primary source of protein. It is especially important for mothers and weaning children. SG 2000 vigorously supported CRI’s QPM research program. In 1992, the remarkable improved QPM open-pollinated variety, Obatanpa, was released for farmer use; SG 2000 supported QPM seed production and the extension demonstration programs that featured a maize technology package that included Obatanpa.
Seed production – As part of its “structural adjustment” program, the government of Ghana closed the Ghana Seed Company in 1989. It was a parastatal organization that failed to develop as a viable seed enterprise. Nevertheless, its closing created a void between the research work of CRI to develop new food crop varieties and the seed supply system that provided improved materials to farmers. MOFA developed a public-private seed strategy. It involved private seed growers producing varieties developed by CRI researchers. A still-functioning parastatal organization, the Grains and Legume Development Board (GLDB), was charged with foundation seed production of varieties released by CRI and desired for planting by private seed enterprises. SG 2000-Ghana pledged to vigorously support the establishment of this system, focusing primarily on the maize seed chain.
Training was provided all along the seed chain, from breeder seed production through certified seed production. The Ghana Seed Inspection Unit operated as a development organization, as well as a certifying one, i.e., they helped train small private seed growers in good seed production practices. SG 2000 provided pick-up trucks and motorbikes to GSIU supervisory field staff and helped with operational costs. SG 2000 also provided loans and small grants to private seed growers to help finance production and seed conditioning activities. The number of private seed growers grew to more than 100. Certified seed production increased significantly.
Postharvest handling and grain storage – During 1990, SG 2000 and MOFA’s Post-Harvest Development Unit (PHDU) of the Crop Services Department, and the DAES developed a comprehensive plan – in collaboration with national and international post-harvest technology specialists – to guide implementation of a new post-harvest technology extension program. This program was actively pursued from 1991-97 and led to the construction of several thousand narrow cribs and more than one thousand cement drying patios. Secure structures, in combination with improved ways of handling harvested grain – such as mechanized shelling, careful drying, and chemical treatment against storage insects – can sharply reduce losses, which in traditional storage can amount to as much as 20-40%.
Better storage gives farm families greater nutritional security, enables them to save more of the crops for home consumption (including livestock feeding) or for selling in the market, and lessens the pressure to sell when prices are low (immediately following harvest). In 1992, SG 2000 Ghana launched a training and demonstration program involving hundreds of extension workers and thousands of farmers to construct, using locally available materials, 1- to 2-ton grain storage structures that ward off attacks by insects and rodents. Eight hundred extension agents received hands-on training and, working with farmers, helped to establish hundreds of improved structures and drying patios to serve as demonstration points for disseminating the principles to other farmers.
In Northern Ghana, women farmers are using wet-type grinders to process shea-nut butter.
Agroprocessing – One way that farmers can add value to their harvested crops is through processing of primary products into higher value foods for people, or for use in livestock enterprises. In 1993, SAA established a project with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop and introduce improved tools and simple machines for agroprocessing. Such equipment diminishes the drudgery of traditional processing, which particularly benefits the women who do most of the processing and marketing of food crops in Africa. Project activities centered in Ghana and Benin. Most of the work focused on introducing improved agroprocessing machinery and equipment for processing gari, which is fermented cassava flour. SAA staff worked with dozens of women’s farmers groups to form cooperative businesses to sell their improved gari to consumers.
Conservation tillage – Conservation Tillage (CT) is a crop management technology that reduces the need for hoeing or plowing to prepare the soil. It cuts in half the labor required before planting, and can reduce the need to weed almost completely, a notable advantage for women in particular. Because of the mulch, the soil retains more moisture and the risk of erosion is reduced. Also, the decomposed mulch helps build and maintain organic matter in the soil, which is good for soil health.
In 1993, a conservation tillage consortium was launched – involving CRI, MOFA, SG 2000 and Monsanto. It began with a review of research data and some new validation experiments, and verification/demonstration plots on farmers’ fields were begun in the following year. By 1996, conservation tillage technology had become a regular part of the crop demonstration program, primarily in Ghana’s maize belt, which includes parts of Kumasi, Brong-Ahafo, and Northern regions. Considerable success was achieved in spreading conservation tillage technology.
Smallholder input delivery systems – The interest among farmers in participating in the MOFA/SG 2000 PTP program was very strong. The number of PTPs grew from 40 in 1986 to 76,000 in 1989. The number of farmers grew so fast that close supervision after the first two years became very difficult. Neither the Ministry of Agriculture nor SG 2000 had set up the organizational capacity to manage such a large program. The tasks of input acquisition, distribution, and loan recovery became too onerous for extension agents. Tracking and paperwork suffered, and by 1989 PTP loan recovery dropped from 80% in the previous year to 45%. Pressure mounted to get extension workers out of the business of input distribution and loan recovery.
SG 2000 developed an initiative with private agro-dealers to supply inputs to participating farmers in national crop demonstration programs, in which lines of credit were arranged with banks or with major wholesale suppliers to purchase and package “input kits” for sale to farmers. A triangular relationship was developed between the Ghana Agricultural Development Bank (GhADB), stockists, and sanctioned farmers in the crop demonstration programs. GhADB paid stockists for the delivery of approved inputs and farmers repaid GhADB after harvest. In this scheme, SG 2000-Ghana agreed to initially finance most of the transaction costs involved in making input orders and in loan registration and collection.
SAFE Program – SG 2000 country programs strongly supported in-service technical training of frontline extension staff, most of whom had a weak grasp of agricultural science and limited skills in extension communications. Only 15% possessed a higher diploma or degree in agriculture, usually issued by a university. Thus, early on SAA began to search for models of practical university courses in agricultural extension.
A mid-career student at Kwadaso Agricultural College discussing her Cocoa SEP (supervised enterprise project) with her lecturer. Behind are some farmers from Tafo district of the Eastern region of Ghana who are admiring the healthy cocoa hybrid seedlings being promoted by the student.
This search led to the establishment in 1992 of the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE). A partnership was established from the beginning with Winrock International and Program activities have been jointly undertaken ever since. A major breakthrough in SAFE’s history was when the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana agreed to develop an innovative BSc degree course for mid-career staff holding either a post-secondary school certificate or a diploma in agricultural studies.
The UCC program has spawned similar mid-career BSc and Diploma courses at 14 universities and colleges in 9 countries. SAFE Program alumni now exceed 800 men and women within Ghana and 3,000 in 9 countries. Their academic performance has been stellar, dropouts almost nil, and all have achieved career advancement, often to leadership positions in MOFA and beyond. Important evolution has occurred in the curricula, with a value chain perspective being introduced in smallholder agricultural advisory services.
Managing and strengthening a “mature” country program – In 1995, SG 2000-Ghana entered into a new mode of operation called Phase II. Under the new mode, the Program no longer had an expatriate country director; instead a national coordinator guided the effort. In Phase II, SG 2000-Ghana continued to support four main areas of activity: production technology and transfer, post-harvest activities, seed production and distribution, and QPM development. After nine years of collaboration, SG 2000-Ghana ended most of its management responsibilities for joint activities with MOFA and left it to MOFA to decide whether or not to incorporate them into their ongoing program.
In 2000, the SAA Board of Directors approved a 3-year extension of the SG 2000-Ghana, but urged country Program management to concentrate on relatively few districts, integrating various Program offerings – crop production, post-harvest management and agroprocessing, and training and institutional capacity-building – so that these districts could serve as demonstration locations for other areas.
SG 2000-Ghana officially ceased operations in 2003, but SAA maintains close ties with several Ghanaian institutions. Until 2009, collaboration continued with CRI in QPM research and development and with MOFA in agroprocessing. SAFE’s relationship with UCC in Cape Coast has been ongoing since 1993.
Maize production in Ghana increased 2.5-fold between 1986 and 2002, with nearly half of this change coming from productivity (yield) gains. Important productivity-led increases in production were also realized in rice, cassava and sorghum.
Farmers had built some 4,000 drying cribs, mainly in the southern regions of the country where post-harvest losses were the greatest. This enabled them to more effectively store their extra grain and largely avoid having to sell at harvest time when prices are normally at their lowest.
SG 2000-Ghana spearheaded a credit scheme involving formal banking institutions. The Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) issued credit for inputs to the farmers' group that had fully repaid the previous season’s loans. High transaction costs associated with bank lending to so many smallholders led to a discontinuation of the program after four years. The problem of providing production credit (over 9-12 month periods) for smallholders remains a serious constraint to the adoption of high-yield packages.
SG 2000-Ghana helped to develop the country’s private seed industry. Seed production by private seed growers steadily increased from 1991 onward. Certified maize seed production by 150 registered growers increased from 317 mt in 1990 to 1,361 mt in 1997, with 77% of the maize seed being of the QPM variety, Obatanpa. In addition, certified seed of rice, cowpea, soybeans, groundnut, and sorghum was also produced. While a good record of seed quality was maintained over the years, the country’s seed industry still struggled to establish a firm economic base. The high cost of production inputs (especially fertilizer), relatively low producer prices, and limited access to commercial credit restricted investments by seed growers. Similar cost and financing problems limited the demand for certified seed by Ghanaian farmers.
Assisting in the development and diffusion of QPM varieties was a major achievement of SG 2000-Ghana. By the end of the Program, Ghana’s farmers were planting over 300,000 hectares to QPM varieties and hybrids released by CRI, and these QPMs were spreading to other African countries, as well. Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia all received QPM varieties and hybrids produced in Ghana.
SG 2000-Ghana was instrumental in the introduction of conservation tillage into Ghana. An external evaluation in 1998 conducted by CIMMYT and CRI estimated that 100,000 hectares were planted using conservation tillage. Recent informal estimates (Kofi Boa) indicate that this area had doubled by 2010.