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Using indigenous knowledge for better agricultural policies

October 6, 2017 3:01 PM
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Wa, Oct. 5, GNA – Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy with about 80 per cent of total agricultural production attributed to smallholder farmers including women.

These farmers are faced with issues of environmental degradation and poor soil fertility, due to climate change yet it is amazing how smallholder farmers are able to use their own knowledge to mitigate the impact of those challenges on their livelihoods.

The farmers conduct unscientific experiments on several issues including soil fertility and which type of crop to sow on what soil, rain patterns and what to plant at what time and indigenous mode of controlling pests and diseases.

These may not be scientifically proven, but they have sustained the smallholder farmers over the years; the reason for which Ghana enjoys an amount of food security today.

The key to produce better crops to meet the needs of the growing world’s population may lie in combining the traditional knowledge of subsistence farmers with scientific knowledge to better inform policy formulation.

The livelihood of hundreds of millions of people living in smallholder farming systems depends on the products they obtain from marginal fields.

Smallholder farmers are very knowledgeable in what they grow, because they must be efficient in selecting the crop varieties that will ensure the subsistence of their household.

In Ghana, however, there is a knowledge gap between smallholder farmers and policy makers resulting in the failure in reaching the desired results.

Perhaps, policy makers have not yet realised the need to work with peasant farmers to better shape policies and programmes for best results to increase production.

Mr. Ben Y. Guri, Executive Director of the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) said it was out of place for scientists to underestimate the knowledge from farmers for what they have been practicing over the years.

“Farmers are also scientists”, he said, and explained that in every difficult situation they also have their own indigenous experimental ways to overcome the challenge.”

Mr. Guri said it was therefore prudent that their perspectives and experiences were considered in decisions that affected the farmers to better shape the policy decision.

An International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) team of researchers have established that smallholder farmers are faced with difficult choices regarding allocation of assets including land, labour, capital knowledge to achieve multiple household objectives with challenges of the climate change, population growth and changing diets which increased pressure on the natural resource base.

In addition, programmes aiming to increase agriculture productivity often do not consider farmers’ perceptions of trade-offs and synergies while interventions did not reach the poorest and most vulnerable farmers, including women.

Despite this, farmers are still able to ‘produce more with less’ by intensifying their production in a sustainable way that also increases their resilience to shock and stresses.

It is therefore clear that decision makers working in agricultural development and research need to better understand household, intra-household and community-level decision-making processes on the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (SIA) and how they are influenced by the enabling environment to design more supportive agricultural policies, programmes and investments.

For this reason, the Sustainable Intensification: Trade-offs Agriculture Management (SITAM) Project which is seeking how smallholder farmers in Africa manage the trade-offs between production, sustainability and other economic and environmental factors is said to have arrived on time.

SITAM, a four-year project (2016-2019) which is being led by IIED will address the challenges and opportunities of smallholder farmers, in particular poor farmers and women in managing the trade-offs between production, sustainability and other socio-economic and environmental factors.


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