The Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP) has identified 20,000 hectares suitable for rice cultivation in the Nasia-Nabogo valley in the Northern Region.
Feasibility studies in the area reveal that while half of the land could be cultivated under improved rain-fed agriculture, the rest could be cultivated through irrigation with water from the Nasia and Nabogo rivers. The GCAP is a World Bank/United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project. The land was identified with support from the Land Administration Project (LAP).
Known as the Nasia-Nabogo Inland Valley Improved Rainfed Scheme for Rice Production, it is expected to significantly increase rice production and ultimately cut down the country’s rice import bill.
During a recent tour of the project, communities in the Northern and Upper East regions, the Communication Specialist of GCAP, Mr Daniel Kondor, told the Daily Graphic that the project had been working with investors on putting a minimum of 3,000 hectares under improved rain-fed rice production since last year as part of the objectives of GCAP in reducing poverty and ensuring food security. It is also promoting an all-inclusive commercial farming activities along selected commodity value chain.
According to the project’s documents made available to the Daily Graphic, GCAP is funding the development of the land. Contractors were engaged in April last year for a pilot development of 600 hectares but were able to realise 485 hectares by June last year, which was cropped by six farmers. Yields of up to four tonnes per hectare were achieved and in the process, several jobs were created.
Continuing this year, the contractors are back on the field doing remedial works to enable completion of the 600 hectares in preparedness for 2017 cultivation.
GCAP is expected to add another 500 hectares while advertising for investor farmers to take up additional 1,900 hectares in 2017.
The project also intends to get agribusiness companies to partner farmer-based organisations in the Nasia Nabogo valley to crop 7,000 hectares.
The remaining 10,000 hectares that will be put under an irrigation system within the valley is a long-term project that will need the construction of dams.
GCAP previously supported farmers under its first matching grant, under which 3,563 hectares are under cultivation in communities in the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) zone, including the Volta Region.
GCAP started the implementation of a matching grant scheme in mid-2014 to support farmers with various interventions to remove constraints that impeded the growth and sustainability of their businesses.
Thirty grantees (and their smallholder farmers) are being supported under the scheme. They consist of eight grantees in the Accra Plains and 22 in the SADA zone. As of the end of March 2016, US$7.1 million (75 per cent of earmarked funds) had been disbursed to support the various interventions.
At Biu in the Kassena Nankana district in the Upper East Region, outgrowers working with Sambay Enterprise, one of the nucleus farmers, expressed appreciation for the support they had received, including land preparations and the provision of inputs such as fertiliser.
According to the farmers, before the GCAP intervention, the average yield of rice per acre was nine bags but it had since increased to about 15 bags.
“The reason for the increase in yield is that the land preparation was done early for planting. We also received quality seeds from Sambay. In the past, we were using our own seeds,” Ms Yaa Abatisohma, one of the outgrowers, said at a meeting with GCAP officials to assess the performance of the project.
The farmers were also excited about the ready market for the products.
At Tamalgu in the Karaga district in the Northern Region, smallholder farmers also recorded increases in their yields; from 10-12 bags of rice per acre cultivated before the GCAP intervention, to 15-17 bags per acre after the support.
The beneficiary farmers received training in best practices, including weed control, pest identification and fertiliser use.
Among the challenges identified by the farmers are late preparation of land before the rains, high cost of fertiliser, inadequate threshers and harvesters and high cost of harvesting.