In Ghana, combating crop pests and diseases in a changing climate

For International Day of Plant Health, AICCRA's Reginald Kyere explores the impact of a new 'One Health Platform for Climate-Driven Pests and Diseases' in Ghana. 

This story features a podcast series produced by Mina Okuru in Accra. 

Playback the AICCRA Ghana public forum

Listen to the AICCRA podcast series from Ghana

Pests and diseases destroy 40 percent of food crops around the world every year.  

In Africa, such ‘invasive alien species’ (as they are more technically known) cause crop and food losses valued at USD 65.6 billion annually, according to recent estimates.

Climate change is increasing the pest threat to native crops in many parts of Africa.  

At a time when world food supply is under immense strain from climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and conflict in Ukraine—as well as in many other parts of the world—we cannot afford to lose such quantities of crops.  

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has emerged as a sustainable approach to the prevention and control of pests and diseases which attack crops. 

IPM uses natural enemies of pests as an effective solution, that produces fewer health and ecological problems than the use of pesticides.

Pests are also less resistant to natural enemies, in comparison to chemical crop protection agents.

IPM makes growers less reliant on such chemicals, which often cuts costs for farmers, increases their yields, and improve the quality of their crops.

The International Day of Plant Health highlights the crucial importance of plant health to food security, and the health of people, animals and the environment.

Plant health is a critical component of the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project, which delivers climate information services and climate-smart agriculture innovations to millions of smallholder farmers in Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zambia.

In Ghana, where the pest threat is acutely felt, AICCRA works with scientists and public and private sector partners to make Ghanaian agriculture and food systems resilient to pests and diseases. 

The project is developing a 'One Health Platform for Climate-Driven Pests and Diseases' to enhance health outcomes for people, plants and animals, recognizing that all these are intimately linked.

AICCRA Ghana innovations go one step further. As well as deploying the principles of One Health, they do so in a climate-smart way, utilizing technologies, processes and practices that limit emissions and support climate adaptation and mitigation.

A public forum that unlocked the potential of inclusive, climate-smart innovations

At a public forum held on the 25 March 2022, AICCRA assembled nearly 100 local and stakeholders and global experts to explore how climate-smart innovations and inclusive financing can promote healthier plants, animals, and people.

#ClimateSmartGhana events

Ghana's changing climate

At the forum Ghana's Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said Ghanaian farmers are experiencing the effects of climate change, which has rendered great swathes of land unproductive, reduced the yields of major crops, and increasing food insecurity. 

He said Cocoa, which is Ghana's most prominent agricultural export, is projected to experience losses of around 3% by 2030 and between 5%- 7% by 2050. 

Dr. Akoto emphasized that investing in research and making innovations in climate information services and climate-smart agriculture available to farmers will be critical in building resilience, improving productivity, and protecting the livelihood of millions of farmers across Africa.

AICCRA in Ghana podcast | Our strategy for #ClimateSmartGhana

AICCRA delivering climate-smart, integrated pest management solutions to farmers in Ghana

Climate change leads to altered abiotic conditions that trigger biological responses by pest insects, diseases, and weeds.

AICCRA Ghana harnesses nature solutions for smallholder plant health through the science of Climate-Smart Integrated Pest and Diseases Management (CS-IPM). 

Dr. Ghislain Tepa Yotto, AICCRA Ghana Leader, explains: 

"By adopting CS-IPM principles, farmers and stakeholders can act to mediate the effects of climate change on the crops and nature-based solutions that underpin pest management." 

Dr Yotto adds that achieving this requires enhancing the capacity of public agencies, private companies, and smallholder farmers to detect invasive species and implement preventive actions against future climate-driven pest risks. 

AICCRA in Ghana podcast | How a One Health approach protects plants, animals and people

AICCRA supports the Tuba community

The Tuba irrigation project is part of the Weija Irrigation Scheme (WIS), with a potential area of 1500 ha, out of which 220 ha is irrigable.

Located about 25 km from Accra in the Ga South Municipality in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, the scheme is divided into five zones farmed by about 285 members of a cooperative, farmer-based organization. 50 of them are women.

The average farm size for each farmer in Tuba is about 0.5 ha. The main crops produced are vegetables such as okra, pepper, garden eggs, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, and onions. Other crops like maize and cassava are grown on a smaller scale.

Timothy Quaye and Elizabeth Akaba are members of the farmers' cooperative in Tuba. Timothy has been a farmer for 30 years. He grows tomatoes, okra, pepper, and cucumber.

Elizabeth, who grows maize, cowpea, and other vegetable crops, is in her eleventh year as a farmer.

AICCRA in Ghana podcast | Hearing the voices of Tuba farmers

Both Timothy and Elizabeth have looked on helplessly as the rainfall patterns changed and disrupted crop production.

"In the past, we saw heavy rains between May and August. However, in the last five years, the rains come in the latter part of September and extend into October. The heavy rains we used to see in February have also ceased" Timothy Quaye

Hot temperatures and massive heat waves have replaced wet temperatures. "When the weather is hot, the crops lose their colour," Timothy adds.  

To build the capacity of farmers to control pests on their farms, AICCRA has trained farmers on natural pest control methods. 

"At the demonstration farm, we were taught to use tools like sticky traps to control pests. I believe these tools will help farmers if they adopt them," Timothy says.

Elizabeth contends that farmers' ability to adopt these tools will depend on access to finance, especially for women. Access to finance is the biggest challenge for women farmers. 

"Most of the women in the cooperative are widows who work to feed themselves and their children.” Elizabeth Akaba

She explains that some women work as labourers for male farmers to make ends meet. 

Timothy believes access to crop varieties that can withstand both the effects of climate change and pest attacks will guarantee sustainable crop production in Ghana.

Reginald Kyere is a Communications Specialist for AICCRA Ghana

Listen | All episodes of the AICCRA podcast series from Ghana

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AICCRA Ghana | Unlocking the potential of inclusive, climate-smart innovations and finance for healthier crops, environment and people

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