Farmers around the eastern corridor of the Northern Region have expressed worry that they might lose their rice farms to bushfire following the unavailability of combine harvesters for harvest.
There are limited combine harvesters in the region, which makes it difficult for farmers to rent for their harvest. According to the farmers, those who are fortunate to find one are complaining of the astronomical charges.
Owners of combine harvesters are charging between GH₵550 and GH₵600 to harvest an acre of rice. The farmers are worried now because hunters have begun burning bushes to clear the field to hunt. Most of them have suffered losses through bushfires.
Bush burning is an annual exercise hunters engage in. When these fires are set, they lose control and the fires spread, destroying thousands of food crops.
Today we visit the farms of students of the 7As College of Science and Technology who are racing against time to harvest their rice. The school is lucky to have a harvester to harvest their rice, but it has had to come all the way from Savelugu, about 130 kilometers to harvest.
The school has lost about a third of the rice because it was over-dried. Prefect of the school said the entire school was brought to the fields to help pick up the rice that had fallen.
“We are here to help pick the rice that has fallen due to the prolonged dryness. Because we didn’t get the combine harvester in time, that caused the rice to over-dry. We have been able to pick three bags of rice so far,” he said.
Founder of the school, Nathaniel Adam Junior said access to farm machinery for ploughing and harvesting in the area is a huge challenge. He added that when one manages to plough and it is time for harvesting, they go through same challenges.
“We all practice rainy season farming and so all the rice dry at the same time and so we don’t have enough combine harvesters to help harvest the rice so what happens mostly is that they start drying and once they dry they fall. We lost almost about a third of the harvest due to the dryness,” he said.
He said those who are unable to harvest at this time would lose the rice to bushfires. “If we are not able to harvest at this time the fire will come and if we are not lucky we will lose the whole farm,” he said
Abdulai Bawa is a farmer within the enclave and he said he heard the sound of the harvester and traced it to the 7As College farm. He said he has been looking for a harvester for the past months but got none in the area. Mr. Bawa said last year, he lost 12 acres of his rice farm to bushfires due to the unavailability of the combined harvesters.
“Last year, I was able to farm 20 acres of rice, getting the combine to harvester was not easy, I was not able to succeed, so it got to a time I decided to go with manual means to harvest my rice. But we were only able to harvest eight, the remaining 12 were burned by bush fires,” he said.