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Climate crisis threatens traditional crops in Upper East Region; farmers face uncertain future

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Climate change is making its presence felt in the Upper East Region, with local farmers already experiencing its diverse and severe effects on their crops.

Traditionally, farmers relied on crops such as millet, commonly known as “Naara,” guinea corn, and maize as the main sources of agricultural productivity. Depending on factors such as soil fertility, rainfall, and location, farmers could achieve yields of up to 8 and 15 bags per acre on just one or two acres of land.

However, over the past three years, these once-reliable staples have struggled to thrive under increasingly erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

The inconsistent and often insufficient rainfall means that these crops, which require between 120 and 190 days, or approximately five to six months, to reach full maturity, sometimes die before reaching maturity or fail to yield at all.

The period from April to October used to align well with the region’s seasonal rainfall, allowing local farmers to plant their crops. However, due to changes in the rainfall patterns, farmers sometimes have to plant in the middle or end of June, as the rain now begins and ends in October.

Speaking to some of the farmers at their farmlands about the rainfall patterns, they expressed profound concerns about their future prospects.

Atinga Adombila said planting “Naara” is now out of his plans for the season. According to him, he stopped planting Naara and guinea corn two years ago due to the unpredictable rainfall.

“Before, Naara and guinea corn were my main crops, and the rain used to guide us. But now things have changed. We cannot predict the seasons and plan our planting accordingly. The rains are either too much or too little, and they are never on time.”

Another farmer, Ayinpoka Akolgo from the Sumburungu community, shared her frustration and fears. “Last year, I invested so much time, effort, and resources into planting, only to watch my crops wither away.”

She added that her previous experience made her question whether to plant at all this year.

The impact of climate change extends beyond the physical and economic strain on the farmers. The uncertainty surrounding crop yields is also taking a toll on their mental well-being.

“There is constant anxiety about the future,” said Apubire Ladiya, adding that if practicable measures are not taken, the challenges could possibly lead to food insecurity and the eventual extinction of these traditional crops.

She said, “Looking at the way things are going, Naara and guinea corn will soon become extinct. Because I will agree to plant any record loss. And I know by now my colleague somewhere is also saying the same thing.”

Millet, especially Naara and guinea corn, are now expensive cereals in various markets in the region. A measuring bowl of either of them sells for GHc 24.00 and GHc 25.00, respectively, in the Bolgatanga market (as of June 19th, 2024), compared to four years ago when the same measurements were priced at GHc 10.00 and GHc 12.00.

In response to these challenges, Madam Lantana Osman, Bolgatanga Municipal Director in Charge of Agriculture, advised them to begin exploring alternative crops that require shorter growing periods and are more resilient to unpredictable weather.

According to her, they should consider shifting their production to sorghum cropping, citing it as one of the most lucrative agricultural ventures available.

“Sorghum production is relatively less demanding and can be more profitable for farmers,” Madam Osman stated.

Madam Osman also pointed out the strong market demand for sorghum within the country. Companies such as Guinness Ghana and other industries have created a consistent and lucrative market for sorghum, providing farmers with a reliable income source, she added.

Without mincing words, she warned that when adopting, they should adopt newer sorghum varieties that mature faster, taking only 75 to 95 days to reach full maturity compared to the traditional varieties that take around 120 days.

“Using these faster-maturing seeds is crucial due to the unpredictability of the rainfall pattern,” she explained, noting the importance of adapting to changing climate conditions to ensure successful harvests.

However, the transition is not without its own set of challenges. These hybrid seeds come with a price tag that most of these local farmers find challenging to afford to their expectations.

The prices of these hybrid seeds range from GHc250.00 to GHc400.00, depending on the variety.

According to Atinga, “Switching to these new crops means we would now have to be buying the seeds yearly, unlike traditional seeds that we can plant and replant for thousands of years without losing their gestation. Aside from that, where will we get the money under this economy?”

Madam Apubire also questioned the prices and assumed that she would rather give up on farming.

As climate change continues to alter the agricultural landscape, pushing away traditional crops in the Upper East Region, the resilience and adaptability of local farmers will be critical.

While the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the local farmers, more comprehensive support and resources are needed to ensure that these farmers can successfully navigate the impacts of climate change.

Furthermore, Agricultural extension officers are also needed to support farmers in adapting to these changes, providing training on climate-resilient farming practices and introducing drought-resistant crop varieties.

Source: A1Radioonline.com|101.1Mhz|Moses Apiah|Bolgatanga

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