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Source: African Development Bank Group

A 39-year old Ghanaian farmer has broken a record by becoming the first indigenous commercial farmer with over 425 hectares of farmland in a single location in the country’s northern savannah ecological zone.

Isaac Papanko, CEO of Idan Agro Ventures Papanko, started off farming maize on 8 hectares and largely credits his success to training provided by the African Development Bank’s Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP).

“We the youth, under SAPIP TAAT-S program, will soon be counting money in dollars that will blow the minds of Ghanaians,” says  Papanko, when asked where he sees his business in the next few years.

Through the SAPIP project, Papanko received technical support, land development support, financing for inputs and has now expanded to soybean production. Under the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation Savannah (TAAT-S), he also received access to improved seeds and fertilizer and has increased the use of technology in his work. He owns tractors, planters, boom sprayers, corn shellers and a combine harvester to accelerate production and harvest activities. He supplies his produce to processing plants such as Premium Foods and Ghana Agro Food Co. in Tema.

Since 2017, the Ghana Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) has focused on building sustainable agricultural food value chains, ensuring food and nutrition security in the savannah regions, and contributing to the improvement of overall economic wealth in Ghana, through agribusiness and agricultural productivity and diversification.

Designed within the context of the government’s national Shared Growth and Development Agenda, the program is guided by Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy, and supports other government initiatives in the sector, including the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign, the One Village One Dam and One District, One Factory program. The project also leverages support from the Bank’s TAAT-S program and is linked to the Ghana Incentive Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending.

Following its inception, SAPIP held demonstrations for farmers on conservation in maize and soybean production.

Alhaji Mohammed Mashud, CEO of Cudjoe Abimash Farms, is among the selected farmers to participate in the pilot program and the owner of Ghana’s largest soya field. He says that the trainings introduced him to improved land development techniques, as well as other mechanization interventions, which he says, has led to better yields in the field.

“I included conservation agriculture concept in my business [and] by 2019, the yield of my maize and soybean had respectively increased from 1.9 metric tons per hectare to 4.5 metric tons per hectare, and from 0.5 metric tons per hectare to 1.75 metric tons per hectare,” Mashud explained. He added that the land development principles have allowed him to grow his production area by 10-fold over the past two years.

Soybean farms of the Savannah

One challenge to commercial agriculture is the cost of developing land. SAPIP has thus intervened in Ghana and financed the development of more than 290 hectares of land to make commercial agriculture attractive. The project has also supported the production of improved seeds and fertilizers, which has boosted agricultural productivity for crops such as maize, soybean and rice.

Co-financed by the African Development Fund ($39.01 million) and the government of Ghana ($9.10 million), SAPIP targets three agribusiness zones across several districts in the country’s north, near the city of Tamale.

Out growers adopting the use of hybrid seeds

The SAPIP project has targeted 50,000 direct beneficiaries through its different activities based on a three-pillar strategy of crop productivity improvement, value chains and agribusiness development and infrastructure development. It aims to increase farmers’ food and nutrition security and incomes through increased agricultural productivity and diversification.

To date, the project, which is expected to end in March 2020, has reached roughly 28,500 direct beneficiaries through transfer of technologies related to crop nutrition, conservation agriculture and  climate smart agriculture. The tangible benefits are visible, with improved production for small holder and commercial farmers.

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