By AGRA Content Hub

About 143,000 smallholder maize and soybean farmers are expected to benefit from a social intervention project – ‘Smallholder Inclusive Productivity and Market Access’ (SIPMA) – aimed at improving food security and livelihoods.

The US$5million project will support development of the maize and soybean value chains including input mobilisation, extension services, and access to finance, crop protection, aggregation and value addition. It is aligned to government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.

The five-year SIPMA project is targetting farmers in the Savannah, North-East, Northern, Bono, Bono-East and Ahafo Regions. It is being implemented by the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership for (AFAP), a social enterprise with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA).

As part of the project implementation by AFAP, a three-day capacity building training has been held at Techiman for about 100 agro-input dealers in the Bono-East Region. The training sought to help raise the bar in advisory service by agro-input dealers, for them to be able to assist farmers with basic but critical extension advice; this is meant to improve soybean and maize productivity.

The training was supported by the Ghana Agri-Input Dealers Association (GAIDA), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), CABI, CropLife, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

The training’s scope included safe use and handling of agro-chemicals, correct application of fertilisers, implementation of good agronomic practices for maize and soybean – including management of fall army worm and aflatoxins – and best business management principles to help the agro-input dealers increase profitability to sustain their business.

The Country Manager of AFAP, Nana-Aisha Mohammed, urged participants to make the utmost use of knowledge acquired so as to improve their service delivery to farmers. “If you apply them, farmers will stay in business and you will stay in business as well. Avoid the sale of fake agro-inputs as this will destroy your business; it will affect yield, and will affect the health of humans and harm the environment,” she said.

She therefore challenged GAIDA to revive the association and position itself to play its advocacy role and police its members to help the fight against fake and adulterated agro-chemicals.

The Deputy Director of EPA in charge of Pesticides, Joseph Edmund, in an interview revealed that dealing with counterfeited agro-chemicals in the country is quite complicated – saying the Agency has been battling to identify how such fake chemicals find their way onto the regulated market.

“Most of these counterfeit products are generally difficult to identify unless they are opened or put to use. Some people re-label certain products to mimic certified ones; others collect empty containers and re-fill them with unknown substances, then sell it to unsuspecting farmers as original. It is only through post-licence inspection and market surveillance that we are able to ascertain the situation, but inadequate personnel has been the challenge. We need enough personnel and logistics to move around in order to sanitise the system,” he said.

He urged the general public to help by volunteering information for the EPA to deal with the situation. He further entreated farmers to buy agro-inputs from licenced and recognised shops in order not to fall prey to fake products, adding: “Anytime you apply an agro-chemical and you are suspicious of its efficacy, report to the appropriate quarters for immediate action”.