Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the Birim North District Assembly. As indicated, about 73.5 percent of the labour force in the district is engaged in one from of agriculture enterprise or the other. The major crops cultivated in the district include cocoa, oil palm, citrus, rice, maize, plantain, cassava, cocoyam and vegetables. The average monthly income for the agricultural sector in the district is about ¢97,500.
The following areas are considered under the Agricultural sector; Land tenure, availability and acquisition of land, farm sizes and holdings, Farming systems, Farm labour, Area under cultivation and types of crops cultivated and their estimated crop yields, source of finance to the Agricultural sector, Extension services, farm tools and equipments, storage and marketing systems.
Land Tenure, Availability and Acquisition of Agricultural lands
Land is acquired through the family, by rental, share tenancy and inheritance. Share cropping is common in a multi-ethnic district as Birim North. The highest form of land acquisition in the district is through inheritance as about 43 percent of the farmers in the district acquired their land through this mode. Other parcels of land are mostly allocated by family heads. About 18.5 percent of the farmers had their farm lands through lease; Private land ownership is uncommon in the district.
This indicates that the people of the district are not prepared to dispose of their land which may affect large scale commercial farming in the district. Share tenancy normally called Abunu/Abusa is however very common in the district. About 31 percent of land acquisition is through this medium. This is the practice whereby land owners give their to people to farm on it and at the end of the period the crops are divided into two or three depending on the type of agreement between the landlord and the tenant farmer. Family land for agricultural activities also constitutes about 7.5 percent. According the farmers captured, access to land is no hindrance to their activities.
Major Crops grown and Farm Size and crop yield
The total area of land under cultivation in the district is about 90,103 hectares. This includes both the cultivation of cash and food crops. The total acreage of cash crops under cultivation in the district is about 65,098 hectares while the total land used in the cultivation of food crops is about 25,005 hectares. These cash crops include oil palm, cocoa and citrus. The food crops cultivated on large scale in the district are plantain, cassava, cocoyam, rice and vegetables.
The various hectares of land used in cultivating the various crops are presented on table 1.16. Farming is generally done at a subsistence level with few exceptions in the case of those engaged in commercial farming. The average farm size for the district is estimated at 1.22 hectares. However, there are as many as 68 percent of families interviewed owning up to 3.25 hectares of farms. The farm sizes have a major effect on the income levels and poverty situations in the district as their output will be low due to small farm holdings.
From the table above it could be realized that the district is doing well in the cultivation of the selected food crops. The average output of maize of 1.62 metric tonnes per hectare is higher than the national average of 1.4 metric tonnes per hectare. Most of the district averages are higher than the national averages except in the case of rice production.
Farm Tools and Equipment
A majority of the farmers (73 percent) use simple farm implements such as hoe and cutlasses. The use of these simple farm hand tools for agricultural production can be one of the reasons for small farm sizes. The use of tractors and other heavy machinery is limited to only 27 percent of farmers. To increase agricultural production, therefore much has to be done to improve upon farm implements being used by farmers. Also, the use of chemical fertilizers and other agro-chemicals is limited. The main reason for this low usage is perhaps the high price of these inputs vis-à-vis the low income of farmers.
A farming system, which depends on the use of simple farm implements like hoe, axe and cutlass, requires much manpower. The main sources of farm labour are household or family and hired labour as shown in table 1.19. From the survey 24.3 percent of farmers used hired labour in addition to household labour. Farmers who rely on only household labour constitute about 22 percent of the respondents. Further, 39 percent of the respondents depend on more than one type of labour.
Mixed cropping is the predominant practice for both major staples and cash crops. The number of crops involved in the mixture varies. The practice of inter cropping is a long standing tradition in the district. There are also the multiple cropping systems, which consist of mixed inter-cropping. Double cropping is limited to the growing of two crops of maize and cassava during the year. Clearance system in the district largely involves slash and burn techniques, which most often than note account for bush fires.
Marketing of Produce
Cocoa is widely produced in the district. It is produced and marketed by private farmers, but the marketing is done mainly through the Ghana COCOBOD and in recent times on a limited scale, through private cocoa purchasing companies. Purchasing cocoa by the Cocobod is controlled through two district depots at Nkawkaw and Oda, respectively.
Operations of the Nkawkaw District Depot extend to such communities in the Birim North District as Pankese, New Abirem, Afosu, Prasokuma, Amuana, Prasu, Amoa, Noyem, Tweapease, Mpinitimpi, Amenam, Akoase, Adadiekrom, Bepowtuntumi, Abodom, Kyekyenku, Oworoma, Odontiase and their surrounding areas. The marketing activities of the Oda District Depot extend to communities such as Asawsena, Hweakwae, Brenase, Kotokuom, Ntronang, Abohem, Nkwateng, Dodoworaso, Chia, Adwafo, Akokoaso, Asuboa, Bontodiase, Ofoese, Ahirebi, Oduamse, Gyewani, Besease, Kofi Nimo, Asbidie, Kwaboadi, Borteikrom, Moses, Jukyia, Ofabil, Otwereso, Adwobue, Ahinase, Subinso, Djaha, and their surrounding areas.
Oil palm is widely grown in Birim North District. It also grows wildly throughout the district. It is particularly dominant in gently sloping or low lying but well drained areas particularly those underlain by mixed soils of Kokofu series. The crop is cultivated and marketed by private peasant farmers. The farmers comprise those that are assisted by the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC) with Headquarters at Kwae Estate in the Kwaebibirem District and Non-GOPDC assisted farmers.
The former groups of farmers operate in communities such as Old Abirem, New Abirem, Mamanso, Afosu, Old Oda, Prasu Kumah, Abodom, Ntronang, Hewakae, Adowsena, Yayaso, Abohema, Nkwateng, Chia, Adwafo, Akokoaso, Boso Villa, Bontondiase, Ofoase Brenase, Kototkuaom, and Dodowraso in an outgrowers scheme. In all 1,222 farms which add up to about 26.34 square kilometres, have been registered under this scheme. Within the Birim North District, the Outgrowers Scheme covers Afosu and New Abirem zones and Ofoase. In recent times the company has extended its activities to other parts of the district. Also some of the oil palm produce are marketed through middle men and women in the district.
Urban based middlemen and women play a very significant role in the distribution trade. Farmers often sell their produce at the nearest local market to middlemen who in turn sell at other urban markets such as Kade and Nkawkaw. Most of the farmers interviewed, however, sell their produce within the district. The food crops are marketed at centres such as New Abirem, Ntronang, Akoase, Amuana Praso, Ayeribi, Ofoase, Otwereso and Gyaha. The pricing of agricultural product is usually through haggling with the buyer, usually powerful middlemen, having the upper edge. The result is that farm prices are very low with the farmer earning low income for his/her produce. Paradoxically, middlemen selling the produce of the farmer may earn more money in a month than a farmer in a year.
Farmers’ limitation in accessing bigger markets, which can offer better prices for their produce, is still prevalence. Thus, returns to production for the farmers are low. This has the effect of reducing output as the farmer is not able to mobilize enough resources for agricultural production. Moreover, the farmer does not have the incentive to produce more because of the low returns. Farm produce pricing as well as distribution could be addressed by the farmers forming marketing co-operatives to collectively bargain with middlemen.
Post Harvest Losses
It is estimated that about 16 percent of all agricultural produce in the district go waste. This high figure is due to the inadequacy of storage facilities, lack of knowledge of storage chemical application and shortage of chemicals. There are a few storage facilities in the district. Most of the crops are stored using traditional methods.
About 68 percent of the farmers store their produce especially cereals in cribans, 15 percent in the kitchens and the rest in small store rooms. The district lacks modern silos for storing produce. The absence of these facilities is hampering large scale agricultural production. Perishable goods such as tomatoes and garden eggs are often sold readily since there are no storage facilities for them.
The highest post harvest losses are recorded for vegetables and citrus. This may be due to the fact that storage facilities for these crops are not available in the district. Also, market for these products is lower in the district. There are no processing plants in and near the district to process these produce. For the district to be able to achieve the maximum out of it, the district should in conjunction with other institution set up processing plants for citrus and also provide cold storage facilities for the storage of vegetables in the district.
Also the private sector should be assisted by the district assembly to set up processing plants to add value to the agricultural products in the district. The level of post harvest losses and the availability of market determine to a large extent the area under cultivation. It could be seen from table 1.18 that the cash crops that have ready market have lower post harvest losses and also have large tract of land under cultivation. It therefore means if there is ready market for the produce, then farmers can increase their investment in the sector so as to increase the production crops.
Extension services are undertaken in the district to assist local farmers in increasing food production, and to transfer improved technologies to farmers. The services provided by extension agents include the dissemination of improved technology to framers; provision of practical on-farm training demonstration on crops and participatory learning farmer field schools. They also assist farmers in forming groups. They also carry out farm monitoring and evaluation activities.
The district is sub-divided into four zones and 32 operational areas which are manned by frontline staff. Currently, there are twenty-nine (29) officers in charge of these zones and operational areas. Each frontline staff is expected to contact farmers in a month for the transfer of technology in respect of crops, livestock/poultry, agro-forestry, home science and agro-chemicals. This gives an estimated extension officer/farmer ratio of 1:2002. This is high in comparison with the national average of 1:300.
The poor nature of roads coupled with inadequate means of transport and logistics are hindering the extension service delivery in the district. With agriculture being the backbone of the economy of the district for now, more extension officers be provided by the Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with the Birim North District Assembly to be able to improve upon the ratio. Programmes with the assistance of NGOs such as ADRA extended assistance to 100 farmers in the cultivation of citrus. Each farmer is expected to cultivate 1 acre each year. The farms are located at Afosu, Amuana-Praso, Nyafoman, New Abirem and Akoase.
Farmer Groups in the District
The district is privileged to have about 18 farmer based groups in the district. These groups are involved in different types of agricultural activities ranging from cultivation, marketing to the processing of raw agricultural produce. These groups are also located district wide. The groups are made up of entirely females. This indicates the involvement of females in agricultural activities in the district.
These farmer groups need to be strengthened are they are very important. The producers need to be given the technical know-how and the required resources to be able increase production. The marketing groups should also be given more knowledge on how to store and sell the produce from the producers. Those in the processing of the produce should also be given the assistance relating to the acquisition, installation and operation of the processing machinery to be able handle the production activities very well.
Source of Finance for Agriculture
From the baseline survey undertaken, 82 percent of farmers in the district finance their farms from their own savings while 2 percent obtain credit from money lenders. Credit from financial institutions for farming purposes has increased in the district as about 10 percent of the farmers in the district now have access to bank loans for their farming activities. The greatest hindrance to farmers to accessing loans at the bank is lack of collateral which the majority of the peasant farmers cannot meet. The remaining 6 percent receive financial assistance from friends and other family members in carrying out their farming activities.
Access to Credit Farmers
Limited supply or shortage of capital is an obstacle to economic development. Credit facilities are needed to augment internally generated funds for investment. The problem of capital shortage exists in the district, which hinders increased size of farm holding in particular. The survey showed that more than the percentage of the households in the district applied for credit for farming, while only 4.0 percent actually obtained it.
Fifty-one (51.4 percent) of the farmers interviewed had no intention of obtaining credit. From those who applied but failed to obtain credit, lack of collateral and lack of membership of associations or unions were the main reasons identified. It is suggested, therefore, that farmers be encouraged to form co-operatives and pull resources together to be able to obtain credit from financial institutions which offer credit at lower interest rates than from money lenders. Also part of the district poverty alleviation funds should be made available to farmers in the district.
Livestock production is not carried out on a very large scale in the district. These animals are kept by farmers who also engage in crop farming. The main animals kept are goats, poultry and sheep. The district directorate of agriculture is increasing the rearing of rabbits in the district. Most of these animals are kept to supplement household incomes. Poultry rearing on large scale is beginning in some of the communities of the district.
Method of Feeding
Two major methods of animal feeding are common in the district. These include open grazing, and paddocking. The open grazing method has attendant effects such as the degradation of the land and pollution of water. Alternative policies of feeding livestock have to be identified in order to reduce environmental degradation. Livestock farmers will also have to be provided with extension services as currently about most of them do not have any access to extension services.
Constraint to livestock farming
The district has a potential for increasing livestock production but there are a number of constraints that militating against it. The most notable are inadequate funds, high feeding cost, theft, and inadequate veterinary services. For the district to increase its animal production, the District Assembly, farmers and the Agricultural directorate should put in measures to increase the production.
Date Created : 11/23/2017 10:35:24 AM