Out with old, in with new: Climate-smart seed varieties improve maize production in Ghana

Climate-smart maize varieties are boosting yields for farmers by up to 62% in five regions across Ghana, with ambassadors like 59-year-old Alhassan Inusah from Dehyia in the Central Region inspiring more farmers adopt these new varieties. 

Maize is a significant source of food for most Ghanaians. It constitutes about 50-60% of all cereals produced in Ghana.

But yields remain low as the kinds of (often laborious) practices which have been traditionally adopted are often inefficient. 

AICCRA established climate-smart demonstration plots to promote bundled climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies for maize production in 18 communities across Central, Bono East, Upper East, Upper West, and Northern regions in 2022. 

Drought and pest tolerant, maize varieties, introduced as part of the bundles, are now yielding up to 62% more output than the varieties that have been used traditionally, also receiving high praise from farmers. 

Farmer field days held in 2022 introduced 1,113 farmers to technologies and practices that improve productivity, reduce losses to pests, and decrease drudgery associated with maize production. 

More recently, AICCRA has supported 180 farmers (including 70 women) across these five regions with stress-tolerant and early maturing maize to decentralise the demonstration plots and reach more farmers. 

One of the beneficiaries is Alhassan Inusah, a 59 years old farmer who lives in Dehyia in the Central Region of Ghana. He grows oil palms, cassava, and maize. In 2022, the project selected Alhassan as one of its lead farmers in Dehyia.   

As a lead farmer, he led other farmers to prepare the land that hosts AICCRA's demonstration plot. He also represents the community at training-of-trainers workshops, where he receives training to support other farmers to adopt CSA technologies and access Climate Information Services (CIS).  

"I am a spokesperson for AICCRA in this community," he says.

By giving Alhassan climate-smart maize seeds, AICCRA has tasked its spokesperson to establish and manage a small demonstration plot that will serve as a learning centre for neighbouring farmers.

New ways of cultivating maize

Under the old ways for producing maize, farmers sow by broadcasting (the scattering seeds or fertilizer evenly over an area) where they apply fertilizer loosely near the crops' roots, exposing them to rainwater and the wind.

This increases competition among crops for moisture and nutrients.

Moreover, because of a changing climate, traditional maize varieties which have served well farmers for decades now mature late and often succumb to droughts. 

The new maize varieties introduced by AICCRA are early-maturing and tolerant to drought and maize pest, striga.  

Other innovations introduced include  row or line planting, as well as climate-smart planting density, minimum tillage, and the more efficient application of inputs.

Early-maturing maize varieties shorten the planting season, allowing farmers to escape potential drought and gain higher yields. 

Row and line planting are 'climate-smarter' than broadcasting because it minimizes crop competition for space, nutrients, and aeration (by which air is circulated through liquids or substancesand makes it easy for farmers to undertake essential cultural practices like weeding and applying fertilizer. 

"We used to sow maize "anyhow." AICCRA has taught us to plant in straight lines with a planting distance of 75cm  by 25 cm. In the past, we spread fertilizer loosely around the plant, exposing it to rain and wind. AICCRA has taught us to bury the fertilizer in small, shallow holes near the roots."

Alhassan Inusah

Alhassan with Honampa, a climate-smart variety of maize that's a source of Vitamin A, has a potential yield of 5.2 tons/ha and matures 10-15 days earlier than varieties traditionally used by farmers in his community. 

Alhassan is most excited about roasting and eating the maize he will harvest from the CSA plot. 

"The maize varieties from AICCRA are very sweet. Even the birds like them. They are unlike other agric seeds, which usually taste sour,"  he says.

Partnerships are accelerating scaling efforts in Ghana

AICCRA's scaling successes in Ghana are made possible by institutional support and collaborations. 

At the national level, Ghana's Crops Research Institute has established demonstration plots in 21 communities and equipped extension agents with the necessary tools to support farmers in adopting validated CSA and One Health technologies to improve productivity.

The Ghana Meteorological Agency trains community radio stations and extension officers to disseminate daily and seasonal forecasts to farmers nationwide. 

At the district level, Ghana's Department of Agriculture crop and extension officers lead efforts to build community resilience by promoting the adoption of CSA technologies and improving farmers' access to CIS through weekly meetings and farmer field days.

"Farmers have been impressed by the performance of the new maize varieties ACCRA introduced last year. The project has improved farmers' and extension agents' knowledge of climate change adaptation measures."

Kobina Atta-Mensah, extension officer in Dehyia


Reginald Ofori Kyere, Communications Lead, AICCRA Ghana