Researchers at the Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are exploring bio-based solutions to improve agricultural production among smallholder farmers.

The technologies are expected to help improve soil fertility biologically as well as deal with challenges that impede cultivation.

The project on revenue diversification pathways in Africa through bio-based and circular agricultural innovations aims to increase the productivity and economic opportunities of smallholder farmers.

At the second learning platform alliance of the program, farmers were taken through the early stages of some technologies being deployed.

Principal Investigator, Dr Shadrack Kwadwo Amponsah, explains various technologies under research to tackle specific challenges of farmers.

“We came together to discuss the various technologies we seek to promote under this project. The first thing we did was to give them a clue of what we intend to do and gave them an update of what we have done so far since the last time we met”, he said.

He added, “DIVAGRI aims to increase the productivity, income and economic opportunities of subsistence and smallholder farmers in arid and semi-arid regions of Sub-Saharan Africa by implementing state-of-the-art, innovative bio-based solutions that will improve agricultural production, enable diversification of crops and increase added-value, create environmental, social and economic sustainability, and generate new local economic opportunities”.

The event brought together various stakeholders including community chief farmers, processors, financial institutions, representation from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Ejisu Municipal) and other commodity chain actors and support services in the agricultural value chain.

Two technologies include inter-cropping and multi-functional wetlands.

By inter-cropping, pigeon pea is being used to facilitate the growth of maize which is to be cultivated on the farmland.

The shrub planted on the farmland ahead of the main crop fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil for improved fertility.

Dr. Eric Owusu Danquah reveals the technology is supposed to reduce fertilizer application.

“We are going to get a lot of biomass which we will put on the soil and this will help get nitrogen and other important nutrients for the maize growth.  We have recommended fertilizer rate for farmers, are we able to reduce the fertilizer rate with the inclusion of pigeon pea into the cropping system or are we able to take away fertilizer application upon introducing pigeon pea into the system”.

“Once we get appreciable results we are going to demonstrate this at Ejura.  Basically, we are taking advantage of the atmospheric nitrogen fixation from the pigeon pea to enhance maize production”, he said.

Another technology under research is the multi-functional wetlands, which are constructed to treat wastewater from households for the irrigation of crops.

Dr Shadrack Amponsah explains, “the idea is that we want to treat wastewater usually water from the kitchen, bathroom and ponds. Once you activate the system and water goes through once it ends its process of filtering then you can get water that can be useful for irrigating crops. You can also have some plants planted on the wetlands that will be useful”, he explained.

The Director of CSIR-Crops Research, Prof. M. B. Mochiah, speaking at the event reiterated the importance of this project in improving the quality of food and farmer livelihood whilst protecting the environment.

He again indicated that it was necessary to report the progress of the projects and dialogue with stakeholders on the best implementation method for mutual benefit.

Other researchers including; Dr Patricia Amankwaa-Yeboah and Natson Eyram Amengor took turns to indicate work done so far with the technologies earmarked for piloting and demonstration.

These technologies are bio-based and include biochar, biogas and SLECI irrigation.

Participants appreciated the opportunity to be part of the DIVAGRI project and the continuous engagement and pledged their unflinching support for a successful implementation of the project.