The majority of farmers in Northern Ghana earned less than GH₵500 per crop season from their respective food crop cultivation, deepening poverty levels and widening inequality, a new research by the Institute of Climate and Environmental Governance (ICEG) has revealed.
The report, which among other things analysed the relationship between climate change effects, agricultural productivity and livelihoods of people residing in the five regions of the north, shows that for over 33.85 percent of respondents, representing the majority group, average returns on investment after a crop cycle is less than GH₵500.
These low returns on investment are attributed to a number of factors – but are largely due to the low prices of agricultural products at the farm gates, high cost of inputs, and the effects of climate change reducing yields per acre.
The results also show that 24.62 percent earned between GH₵501 and GH₵1,000 per season from agricultural activities, while about 10.77 percent earned between GH₵1,001 and GH₵1,500 per season.
The highest earning group, representing 29.23 percent, earned above GH₵1,500 per season from agricultural activities. This category of farmers cultivates high-value crops and practice mixed farming, including livestock-rearing like cattle and goats as well as poultry. Again, they are able to sell their produce at premium prices.
In general, crop production is the most frequent source of income in these regions. About 97 percent of rural folk are mostly into crop production or subsistence farming. The main staples produced in these areas include maize, soybean and rice; and rearing sheep, goats and cattle.
Petty trading, charcoal burning and sand-winning came after these activities. Sand-winning was identified as one of the major factors causing land degradation and eroding topsoil critical for crop production.
Impact of environmental degradation
In the Kumbungu and Nanton districts of the Northern Region, for instance, the practice of sand-winning has resulted in high levels of environmental degradation. Meanwhile, social ills such as teenage pregnancy are on the rise as a result of the negative impact from environmental degradation on livelihoods in the area – likewise, rural-urban migration.
The degradation of Ghana’s ecosystems – including forests, rivers and arable lands – threatens the livelihoods of communities, compromises biodiversity conservation efforts and exacerbates climate change impacts, the report warns.
The long-term effects of these activities are diminishing effects on farmers’ productivity and the exacerbation of food insecurity.
Research Lead, Yahaya Abdulai (PhD), at the report launch in Accra explained that degradation of the environment has led to a decline of agricultural production in the north.
“Activities such as sand-winning are causing severe erosion of topsoil, leading to a drastic reduction in farm yields. Farm lands have been taken over by sand-winners for construction purposes on the upper banks of the White Volta in areas around Tamale, so the yields per acre are affected and income levels are also affected significantly,” he said.
He recommended the introduction of sustainable land management practices that will ensure the creation of land banks for farming purposes, and be well-managed to reduce chemical usage for organic production.
He also recommended the introduction of alternative livelihood initiatives for the people to cater for sand-winners and charcoal farmers.
Executive Director-ICEG, Hamza Suhuyini Sayibu, emphasised the need to pay more attention to climate issues as this is also a way of addressing poverty.
“Tackling climate and environmental issues is not only an environmental protection agenda but also a sustainable economic development opportunity aimed at lifting millions out of poverty.
“Failing to holistically drive climate and environmental sustainability initiatives has the tendency of further worsening the poverty profile and inequality in these parts of our country. We must therefore take advantage of the transition agenda to propel economic development in these regions,” he emphasised.