Investments in modern agriculture technology must involve the arts and science of farming, relying heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and latest know-how to ensure Ghana’s food security, lawyer and agriculture entrepreneur, Richard Nunekpeku has proposed.
Modern agriculture, according to Mr. Nunekpeku, is about technology and AI which enable farmers to know the right soil profiles, irrigation, fertiliser application and treatment of pests and diseases. “The above which simplifies the farming process and investment are the only way to increase productivity for marginal improvement in our agriculture space”, he said.
Indeed, almost 95 percent of farming and agriculture practices in Ghana still heavily rely on the usual method of farming which includes land clearing, sowing and patiently waiting for the rains.
But Mr. Nunekpeku said this method is not the way forward as farmers usually fail to ask whether what has been harvested is the right yield or if the soil supports what was planted, adding, “this method of farming which constitutes the arts of agriculture has been practised since time immemorial, but has not provided solutions to matters of food security in Ghana”.
Investment in technology, science and AI, he however said, addresses the science of farming where technology on a large-scale can detect the right soil acidity and alkalinity, record of yields to commensurate with investment and the type of seeds and crops used on the land.
This year, government is investing an amount of US$98million in the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) agriculture flagship policy, according to the 2022 national budget. The amount, according to MoFA, will largely be used in the procurement of farm inputs including subsidised fertilisers and certified seeds for over 1.4 million farmers under the programme.
While commending government for the intervention, Mr. Nunekpeku explained that a more holistic approach should be adopted.
“When a farmer does not understand his soil profile to know what nutrients are available or lacking in the soil, no amount of fertiliser can offer the required yield. The farmer must know the land development needs to have the required impact,” he explained.
Agriculture stakeholders, Mr. Nunekpeku said, must begin to look at the full value chain and deploy interventions that are suitable in agriculture from start to finish. “Understanding the soil, land development, choice of input, agronomic practices and fertiliser type constitute the science of farming, which must not be compromised in modern agriculture”.
He said irrigation technologies such as N-DRIP and the use of drones in fertiliser application and seed planting are all interventions that government must take up through extension officers in various districts across the country.
“Attitudinal change is the most difficult thing, but with education and awareness by government, farmers would be willing to embrace and utilise the science and AI aspect of agriculture,” Mr. Nunekpeku said.