Sustainable intensification of crop‐livestock systems in Northern Ghana: Report on 2012 activities
The three northern regions are the most poverty stricken and hunger spots in Ghana (GLSS,2000). Low input‐output farming systems found in the 3 northern regions of Ghana can only secure cereals for 3‐5, 4‐5 and 6‐7 months in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions, respectively (Quaye, 2008). The picture is not significantly different for the legumes production in the 3 northern regions of Ghana (Quaye, 2008). Food insecurity is driven by erratic rainfall distribution and recurrent drought, floods and crop failures leading to poor yields, high post‐harvest losses, lack of improved storage structures and market for farm produce, diminishing resource base resulting from environmental degradation related to population growth rates and poor environmental management and farm practices. Limited integration between crop and livestock production systems and continuous monoculture has contributed to decreasing soil organic matter contents, parasitic weed infestation, reduced soil biodiversity, higher risk of erosion, and significant nutrients losses that in turn has resulted in reduced yields per unit per ha. The deterioration of the resource is exacerbated by low levels of mineral and organic fertilizers usage due to high cost and inadequate purchasing power. In northern Ghana the livestock component assumes greater importance as major source of livelihood and income for many households as well as in food security initiatives of farm families and whole communities. Rural poultry, sheep and goat rearing and small scale dairy, particularly are known to best serve the interests of women and poor households. Increasing agricultural productivity in this zone hinges on improved crop livestock integration. Improving fodder availability during the dry season could have wider benefits for income generation, especially where market demands for milk, small ruminant and poultry meat are high to respond to increasing demand of livestock products (meat, milk) that have created great opportunities of income generation for smallholder farmers, especially women. Northern Ghana is heavily used by transhumant herders for dry‐season grazing. This is resulting in serious conflicts with the local resident farming communities. A key research issue for this region is how to support growing livestock herds temporarily, while increasing crop productivity and maintaining forest cover and diversity. Practical technological and institutional solutions are required at the smallholder and community levels to minimize or reduce the risk factors and pave the way for the intensification of small scale dairy, small ruminants and rural poultry (guinea fowl) productions in the given farming systems. The risk factors of high mortality in small ruminants and guinea fowl keets as result of disease, inadequate feeding, and poor husbandry practices hamper or account for low livestock system productivity of the smallholder farmer in northern Ghana and need to be addressed. We hypothesize that the development of small ruminant value chains and the small dairy sector in Northern Ghana will drive the sustainable intensification of mixed crop‐livestock systems. Indeed, returns from profitable small ruminants and small scale milk production will likely create incentive systems for farmers to invest in the adoption of food‐feed crops and better management of available feed resources for both improved feeding systems and soils health as the availability of quality biomass will improve.