Unexpected pandemic, flooding pushes farmers into charcoal production

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The outbreak and spread of the Coronavirus pandemic coupled with the annual flooding has compelled some farmers to venture into charcoal production causing forest reserves depletion and climate change challenges.

This was revealed at a day’s workshop in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, organized by the Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP) for Forests and Farm Producer Organizations (FFPOs) with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) under its Forests and Farm Facility (FFF) programme.

The programme brought together FFPOs from the Savannah ecological zone, including Upper East, Upper West and Savannah Regions, to interact with relevant key agencies and departments to enable them have access to current government programmes and policies being implemented to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Mr Clifford Adagnera, the Business Incubation Team Member, GhaFFaP, explained that GhaFFaP members relied purely on forest and farm produce for their survival and livelihoods and noted the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the ability of many of the GhaFFaP members to produce enough food.

The situation, according to Mr Adagnera, coupled with the 2020 floods which destroyed several hectares of farmlands and produce compelled farmers to venture into the production of charcoal thereby depleting the forest reserves and posing climate change challenges.

“We as GhaFFaP members identified the challenge that most of our members who were not able to produce enough food within the just ended production season due to the COVID-19 and the floods and other related factors actually moved into the production of charcoal which is hampering the forests.

“We believe that as more people are venturing into charcoal production for economic purposes, they are also depleting the forest resources and that calls for the need for something to be done to provide them with alternative income sources,” he said.

He therefore proposed for boreholes to be provided with solar irrigation schemes installed for farmers to enable them engage in dry season farming activities such as vegetable cultivation for income generation.

He appealed that apart from government and other major stakeholders supporting farmers to add value to their produce before selling and linking them to reliable markets, there was the urgent need to encourage consumption of local produce especially local rice.

He said that had the potential to lead to the establishment of factories which would not only help process raw produce before sale but would increase income levels of farmers and provide employment opportunities for the youth in agro-processing.

Mr Adagnera further proposed that although the construction of the Pwalugu Multipurpose Dam would help to reduce the flooding, there was the need for authorities to educate and enforce the Buffer Zone policy of 100-metres between water bodies and farmlands.

He said most farmers cultivated their crops very close to the rivers especially those around the White Volta, causing the river to silt due to the sand being pushed into it thereby reducing its capacity to contain the volumes of water that torrential rainfall coupled with the spillage of the Bagre Dam from Burkina Faso caused.

Mr Mark Kebo Akparibo, Secretary of the GhaFFaP Steering Committee, noted that the FFF project aimed at building the capacity of FFPOs and smallholder farmers to adopt best agriculture practices that were environmentally friendly and address climate change impact leading to sustainable forests and agriculture activities.

He said the objective of FFF was to strengthen the FFPOs for sustained agriculture practices, reduce the impact of climate change, act as primary agents of change for climate resilient landscapes and improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

The engagement brought together state agencies such as the Forestry Commission, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Business Resource Centre, National Food Buffer Stock Company among others to explain how FFPOs could access their programmes for improved and sustained businesses.