While visiting Des Moines during the World Food Prize last week, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson explained that agriculture in his native Ghana is becoming more sustainable.
Turkson says a common occupation in his home country is farming, with most producers engaged in subsistence farming. The rest are involved in commercial agriculture, responsible for Ghana’s main export, cocoa, as well as many citrus fruits, such as limes, lemons, pineapple, and mangoes.
The inputs required to become a commercial operation excludes much of the population from making such a transition, and to continue growing staple crops such as cassava, corn, yams and other tubers, Turkson says many producers have developed a bad habit.
It’s what they call shifting cultivation.
They go cut down a small bush or forest to do farming. There’s very little manure in, and that affects the fertility of the soil. After five or so years, fertility is depleted, and they go on to another patch, leaving this one to lie fallow. Sometimes, when it likes fallow enough, it can recover enough fertility to support another type of farming.
The effect is not too good also for our own ecology, because you just keep cutting the forest and the trees and trees, and you cannot keep cutting forever.
There is a tendency of some government projects to help introduce the people to fertilizer, the use of fertilizers, so they can remain on the same plot of land for a longer time.
While the Ghanaian government absorbs the cost of fertilizer at 50% through the program, it has created difficulties in developing fertilizer markets in rural areas, and has also led to an illegal smuggling industry, given the higher cost of fertilizer in native countries.