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Politically stable and with a fast growing economy, Ghana is often seen as a model for the region. However, poverty and malnutrition is still affecting a fair share of the population, especially in the Northern part of the country where many families rely on small-scale farming. Research focuses on better seeds, identifying the best-bet options to adapt to a changing climate, and inclusive and efficient food chains, so that agriculture plays its role in improving farmer livelihoods.

67 - Ghana's rank in the World Bank's Doing Business Index

9 - Out of 10 farmers in Ghana have less than 2 hectares of land

57% - Share of Ghana’s territory under the Guinea Savannah zone with one rainy season from late April to October


General context

Ghana is located in West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, with Burkina Faso in the North, Ivory Coast in the West and Togo in the East. A well-administered country by regional standards, Ghana is often seen as a model for political and economic reform in Africa. The World Bank's "Doing Business" index ranks Ghana 67, the best performer in West Africa by a significant margin.

Rich in natural resources, this is one of the continent's fastest growing economies (6 - 7% annually), and newest oil producer. Agriculture remains a very important economic sector, contributing to a third of the GDP and employing more than half the active population. Ghana, the world's second largest cocoa producer after the Ivory Coast, offers a large area of arable lands and a variety of agroecological zones to grow diverse food commodities.

The main staple food crops are cassava and other tubers, plantain, rice and maize. Sorghum is a key food crop in the drier Northern Ghana, where its household consumption as well as use for animal feed and the beer industry (where it replaces barley) have been increasing. Agricultural production varies depending on soil and annual rainfall.

About 90% of the farms are of less than 2 hectares, practicing intercropped farming with low mechanization. About a third of the population live below the poverty line. Agricultural development will therefore be two to four times more efficient in reducing hunger and poverty; hence increasing the productivity of small farms is of great importance for Ghana.

ICRISAT research in Ghana

ICRISAT has collaborated with Ghana agricultural research institutions like the Savannah Research Institute (SARI) for many years, on crop improvement and on understanding how to improve the resilience, productivity and livelihoods of small farming families.

ICRISAT also works with regional organizations like the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement and the Forum for African Agricultural Research (FARA), to build the capacity of the country's plant scientists in modern plant breeding techniques to develop improved varieties of smallholder crops like sorghum, millets and groundnut. Farmer participatory varietal selection, eg for pearl millet in Northern Ghana, often takes place to raise awareness among farmers about the potential impact of adopting improved seeds and to guide future research needs. Drought-tolerant "stay-green" sorghum varieties such as ICSV 111 and S35 (released in Cameroon), were developed through marker-assisted crop selection. Both are high yielding with good white grain quality.

Grain legumes are important food crops (source of proteins) that help improve soil fertility and family nutrition. Research includes introducing pigeonpea in Northern Ghana's farming systems.

Research to increase the use of better seeds by smallholder farmers as an effective way to boost yields includes assessing the impact of seed fairs, training farmers in seed production and working with agrodealers.

Farmers can use crop diversity (such as growing dual purpose crops, a mix of cultivars of different maturity, or agroforestry systems) to manage the risks under a variable climate. The best options to adapt to a changing climate are identified through modelling the interactions between crop diversity and the ways in which farmers manage water and soil, across the different agroecological zones.

Reducing waste through better post-harvest management and improving food quality standards  are also among the research priorities to improve farmers' income and enable the growth of a dynamic local food industry.

Ghana farmers have to adapt to changing climate: crop diversification is one option.
Early-maturing sorghum variety ICSV 111 was released in Ghana as "Kapaala".
In Ghana, the Tropical Legumes 2 project aimed at increasing the productivity of key legume crops such as groundnut (picture) and cowpea.
Better post-harvest management: Demonstration in seed storage in Tamale, Northern Ghana.