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Photo report: West Africa project partners cap off 2020 with farmers field day events in Northern Ghana and Southern Mali

Project partners implementing activities under the Africa RISING West Africa recently held Farmers Field Day (FFD) activities at project sites in northern Ghana and Southern Mali. The field events drew a line under what has been a difficult year for activity implementation in light of COVID-19 restrictions for project partners in both countries. During the FFD activities, farmers got an opportunity to share experiences with various technologies promoted by the project and more importantly engage in peer to peer learning for which the opportunities this year have been limited due to restrictions on gatherings. Farmers and partners were upbeat about being able to convene during a field day activity before the year's end.

The Africa RISING project is offering a range of agricultural technology options that open up opportunities for smallholder farm households to move out of hunger and poverty through sustainably intensified farming systems that improve food, nutrition, and income security, for women and children, and conserve or enhance the natural resource base.

The FFDs were held in strict adherence to government prescribed safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition to proper sanitary practices like use of face masks and hand washing, the project team also made sure that the FFDs were repeated on different days to ensure that the number of farmers gathered in one place doesn't exceed the prescribed limit for physical gatherings. This photo report presents highlights of the different improved agricultural technologies showcased during the FFD activities in the two countries.

Farmers using hand sanitizers and putting on masks.

Ghana

Africa RISING partners in Ghana held the FFDs in the Northern Region, Upper East Region and the Upper West Region from 7 - 19 October 2020. Below are some highlights.

Optimizing on-farm Nitrogen (N) use efficiency under rain-fed condition in northern Ghana

Having introduced the technology, Optimizing on-farm N use efficiency under rain-fed condition in northern Ghana, Africa RISING organized community field days in Cheyohi No. 2, Duko, Tibali and Tingoli (Northern Region); Bonia, Gia, Nyangua and Samboligo (Upper East Region); and Goli, Goriyiri, Guo and Zanko (Upper West Region) from 7 – 20 October 2020.

The purpose of the community field days was to access farmer preference, increase understanding and adoption of N-fertilizer management for enhanced maize performance.

During the field days, farmers basically assessed fertilizer type and time of basal fertilizer application on maize on the Africa RISING technology parks in 12 intervention communities in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana.

A woman farmer assessing maize leaf color under different NPK fertilizer type at a farmer managed demonstration site in Gia Community, Upper East Region, Ghana.
Africa RISING project partners and members of a farmers group having a discussion under a tree at Nyangua, Upper East Region, Ghana.

Non-beneficiary farmers tour the Africa RISING technology park at Bonia, Upper East Region to assess the effect of fertilizer on maize yields.

Male beneficiary farmers of Goriyiri Community, Upper West Region, raises hands to show their technology preferences.

Female beneficiary group at Goriyiri, Upper West Region, tours the field to make preference of N-fertilizer application.

Project team deliberates farmers' justifications for their technology preferences.
Recording feedback and preferences of beneficiary farmers in Goli Community, Upper East Region, Ghana.

I am grateful to Africa RISING for its enormous contribution to my farming.Joining the Africa RISING beneficiary group, my concept about farming totally changed. A new door opened to me to understand farming as a business.

Ali Ezekiel, beneficiary maize farmer in Zanko community, Upper West region, Ghana

Farming community at Goli, Upper West Region, Ghana

About the Nitrogen (N) use efficiency work

Maize is a major staple in West Africa and a heavy feeder of plant nutrients, especially nitrogen (N). Grain yields on farmers’ fields are low due to declining soil fertility. Application of inorganic fertilizer is responsible for large per capita food production in most parts of the world. The Government of Ghana flagship program on Agriculture (Planting for food and jobs) is promoting a new fertilizer mixture (15-20-20 kg/ha NPK + S + MgO + Zn) for cereals (maize, rice, and sorghum) for the 2019/20 cropping season. However, there is limited evidence on the quality and efficacy of this new fertilizer mixture compared to the best compound fertilizer in the market (YARA Actyva; 23-10-5 NPK + S + MgO + Zn). This research in development activity is providing insights into the effect of the fertilizer type and management practices on maize growth, yield and N use efficiency under on-farm conditions. It builds on the results from Africa RISING experiments of N fertilizer rates and variety effect on maize grain yield in northern Ghana to apply N fertilizer at 90 kg/ha. The results of this work will provide empirical evidence to inform policymakers on the effectiveness of the new fertilizer.

Mali

In Mali the FFDs took place at the project technology parks in Bougouni and Koutiala districts from 16 - 20 November 2020. Twenty farmers were invited to each of the four parks on different days and there were a total of 30 participants in each FFD event.

Demonstration of Soyabean (Sangaraka) yield produced in the technology park of Flola in Bougouni District

Farmers and partners asking questions about vegetable sack gardens at the Africa RISING technology park in Madina, Bougouni District.

The protruding tubes help to save water, less space is used and the gardens are easily accessible by women. It allows for several vegetable harvests per year for extra income and diversifies household diets.

About vegetable sack gardens

The deployment of sack gardens aims at enabling vegetable production by women with no access to land or a reliable water source for normal gardening. It involves recycled fertilizer bags as containers filled with soil and compost serving as plant substrate. It promotes space and water use efficiency and implies that a diverse range of legumes species can be grown in a confined space. Three to four cycles of production are possible annually. In the house, it appears as a source of food and ornamentals. The access is easy for all social categories in rural areas and urban and peri-urban farmers. A hundred farmers in two districts (Bougouni and Koutiala) are testing tomato, onion, Amaranth, cabbage, carrot and vegetable cowpea, using 50kg-content recycled fertilizer sacks in the dry season. Fifty farmers in each district are planting 25-30 vegetable seedlings of amaranth, African eggplant, tomato, cabbage, onion carrot and vegetable cowpea will be planted on the open top of the sacks (horizontal position).
Demonstration of Mucuna (fodder) at the technology parks of Madina, Bougouni District. The fodder is used as a supplemental feed for livestock.

Demonstration of Brachiaria fodder in the technology park of M’pessoba, Koutiala District. The fodder is used as a supplemental feed for livestock.

About the fodder production activities

Feed scarcity is one of the major constraints to ruminant production in Mali. There is great potential to bridge feed gap in smallholder mixed crop and livestock systems through the introduction of forage species in southern Mali given the annual rainfall of about 900 mm spread over 5 to 6 months. Under the USAID Mali Livestock Technology Scaling Program, there has been a demonstration of the potential of a few forage species as livestock feed, for example, Brachiaria ruziziensis, and the results look promising from the biomass produced. However, adoption has been limited. To promote adoption of the forage species, demonstration plots have been established at Africa RISING community technology parks to expose many farmers to this technology and provide an opportunity for learning on how to plant the fodder species.

Farmers and project partners evaluate the performance of dual purpose sorghum variety - Soubatimi - at M’Pessoba, Koutiala district. The sorghum is used both as a household food in various forms as well as a supplemental feed for livestock.

About the dual purpose sorghum work

In Mali, sorghum and millet are used by farmers as staple food, especially in the rural areas. With the continual increase of livestock coupled with the diminishing natural pastures, crop residues are playing an important role in animal feeding, especially during the dry season. Most farmers are using landrace residues as fodder, but the quantity and especially the quality of this feed is limited/poor. The stems are tall and hard due to high lignin content which negatively influences fodder digestibility and animals are only able to eat the top of the stem. New varieties of sorghum (such as Soubatimi, Tiandougoucoura, Peke) combining grain yield (~2t/ha), fodder yield (15 to 20 t/ha for fresh stover) and quality (green leaves until grain maturity) have been validated by Africa RISING and are being promoted to farmers. These varieties were tested in the Africa RISING technology parks as well as on-farm in Mali and farmers are now growing them for both grains (for household consumption) and fodder (livestock feeding). These varieties showed high grain yield over the landraces in each zone and stover quality is also higher given their stay-green trait and also the low lignin of the stem.
Demonstration of the Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC) for longer storage of vegetables in rural areas in the technology park of N’Golonianasso, Koutiala District.

About the Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC)

Vegetables are best stored in a cool and humid environment to prevent rot and dehydration due to their highly perishable nature. However, in rural areas, farmers mainly store their harvested vegetable at ambient conditions leading to heavy post-harvest losses as well as a loss of income due to lack or unaffordability of electricity to have cooling facilities. Moreover, the limited occurrence of market days in such conditions forces farmers to sell off their products. A simple technology such as ZECC which creates cooling conditions without electricity can, however, best be recommended for the above-mentioned context to reduce postharvest losses of vegetables. ZECC technology is a small double-walled room which can be made with locally affordable materials and whose cavity is filled with sand and maintained wet with water. The technology works on the simple principle of evaporation by lowering inside temperature of the chamber to 10-15°C and increase inside relative humidity of the chamber to 95% compared to ambient conditions. These conditions inside the ZECC extend shelf-life of vegetable for a long time (weeks). This adds value and increases market opportunities of fresh vegetables for extra income for smallholders.
Farmer field day participants grouped to discuss their impression of the different technologies visited in Southern Mali
A feedback session (debrief) was organized at the end of each field day. Perceptions of participants were recorded and aired through the local radio for wider dissemination of the interventions promoted by the Africa RISING Program.

Africa RISING West Africa Project partners

Credits

Compiled by: Karamoko Sanogo (ICRISAT), Dokurugu Fuseini (IITA), Albert Berdjour (IITA), Ismail Mahama (IITA), Benedict B. Ebito (IITA), Wilhelmina Ofori Duah (IITA), Fred Kizito (IITA) and Jonathan Odhong' (IITA).

Photo Credits: Karamoko Sanogo (ICRISAT) & Wilhelmina Ofori Duah (IITA).