Innovation in agricultural technology is instrumental in achieving broad-based social and economic growth in developing countries. In Ghana and the wider region, the sector employs more people than any other industry. It is, however, much more than a source of employment and economic growth. Ghana’s agriculture sector has proven to be the nation’s route towards achieving food security. For a country to be self-sufficient and able to feed itself is a basic requirement – and, it is the only feasibly sustainable way to realise the United Nation’s 2nd Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – Zero Hunger.
Growing the sector and its capacity requires ever-greater volumes of consistently better-quality output: this is how farmers can build successful businesses that are scalable and able to participate in the global value chain. For this reason, governments and aid agencies work hard to introduce new agricultural innovations to rural farmers – but it is important that they are used to produce high quality fresh produce and processed food products rather than high volumes of low-quality food. The latter exposes farmers and the entire value chain to the demand for high quality imports and leaves the national supply chain in a precarious position. Low-quality food also exposes the population to food with poor nutritional value and potential food safety issues.
Studies in Ghana have shown that to improve agricultural output, boost smallholder farmers’ incomes and reduce poverty, a mix of technologies and operational support services are needed. They include advanced inorganic fertilisers and pesticides, high quality storage and access to marketing facilities. Extension services – like temperature-controlled storage facilities and knowing how to market and grow a business – are also crucial. Already, progress is being made on a national scale. For the first time, in 2018 Ghana produced enough high-quality plantain to be able to market and export it to neighbouring countries – and in the same year not a single grain of rice had to be imported.
What we are seeing in Ghana is a growing ecosystem of technologies, interventions and agricultural best practice that is combining to create greater output of a higher quality. Even non-agriculture technologies are playing a unique role. Drones have been put to use in multiple scenarios, including spraying pesticides onto fall armyworm infected Ghanaian crops that are part of an out-grower scheme for maize farmers by the Yonko Pa Association.
The players are from all sectors, including government. The Ghanaian government’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) carries out research and development to specifically address the issue of food security. This policy-led approach is an important part of the jigsaw, welcoming scientists, and specialists into the fray to help develop innovative solutions. Since 2015 the CSIR has introduced six new varieties of cassava and millet to the national agriculture industry, which serve to enrich soil and improve the quality of output.