FARMERS in Tamaligu, a farming community in the Savelugu-Nanton District of the Northern Region have resorted to the cultivation of exports crops as part of livelihood diversification process-thanks to the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP).
Last year for instance, farmers in this community exported about 15 tons of butter nut squash and cash in thousands of Ghana cedis after the NRGP introduced irrigation for dry season farming and butter nut squash crop to these farmers. This was harvested in a 15 acres land cultivated by a group of farmers with technical, and irrigation facilities support from NRGP.
“It was easy to transport the commodity to the market because of the access road. Our road that used to be un-motorable has also been paved by the NRGP linking us to various market centers and cities where the demand for farm produces are high’ says a farmer. Butter nut squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a type of fruit or vegetable that has a yellowish skin and pulp with a sweet taste when it is well-ripen.
It can be eaten either by roasting, toasted or mixed into soup or other food. The crop is also noted for its high level of vitamins, fibre, potassium and other essential nutrients.
It is a popular vegetable in Europe and was introduced in Ghana to rural farmers by the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in partnership with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA). The NRGP and SADA, both the government of Ghana’s initiatives aimed to improve the livelihoods of rural northern farmers and bridge the development gap between the north and south are impacting positively in the lives of poor farmers in region.
The butter nut squash is suitable for savannah soil and needs little water for production. However, the changes in rainfall pattern as a result of climate change in northern Ghana favours the production of crops such as butter nut squash.
The crop is in high demand in Europe because of its nutritional value and rural farmers in Ghana are taking advantage of the long drought to grow butter nut squash for export during dry season.
Speaking in an interview with the Enquirer, the Secretary to Suglo-Viela Farmers Group in Tamaligu, Ibrahim Mohammed Muniru said NRGP trained them from the land preparation stage through to the farm management and to harvesting and packaging of the butternut squash for export.
“We have realized that the production of butternut squash can improve our livelihoods activities so we adopted it”, he said. He said the diversification of their livelihoods became necessary because of the consistent failure of the traditional crops and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
He said in addition to the cultivation of butternut squash, the NRGP had also supported the farmers in Tamaligu to cultivate maize, sorghum, soya beans and vegetables both in the dry and raining seasons. “We are busy all year round live in the community is getting more meaningful and better”, he stressed.
He said last year for instance, they cultivated about 300 acres of maize, 30 acres of sorghum and 50 acres of soya beans and hoped to improve on this in the next two years.
Farmer group was formed through the NRGP and comprises 76 farmers out of which 41 are females. The group was linked to a commercial farmer, one Mr Mahama Alhassan through whom the NRGP channeled its support to them.
The secretary said the commercial farmer aided them to acquire irrigation pumps from the NRGP at a subsidized cost under the NRGP’s matching grants scheme. “We are to pay a part of the cost of the machines and the NRGP would also pay a part,” he explained.
Mr Mahama Alhassan, the commercial farmer told the Enquirer that the farmers have been trained and acquired the requisite knowledge to cultivate butternut squash that meet international standard. Mr. Alhassan opearates, the Savannah Agro-business Services, that renders services to farmers. He said farmers now have the capacity to produce more of these crops but would need a sustainable market with a good price for their produces to remain self-sustained and food secured.
He appealed to the NRGP to construct a warehouse for the community to enable them store their maize due to the huge volumes that was being produced by the farmers.