Farmers in Ghana are among the hardest hit by climate change. The unpredictability of the weather coupled with climate variability has made it almost impossible for farmers to determine when to plant or harvest their crops.
The harsh reality of climate change
Sixty-eight-year-old Comfort Agyeibea Opoku is a farmer in Aburi – a community in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Comfort has been farming for over four decades. She grows mainly corn, plantain and cassava. “I have been farming for the past forty years. It has been my family’s occupation for generations. I feed my family with the farm produce and sell part of it to the market women.” She tells Climate Insight.
Despite her age, Comfort works on her farm daily from 7 am and stays until 10 am. She tells Climate Insight that farming has been a mainstay and financial backbone for herself and 4 children who are now matured.
She further explains how the recent change in the weather pattern has affected her as a peasant farmer. “In previous times, when we cultivated our crops it rained as expected so we made a lot of profit. However, lately, if you sow, the rains hardly set in”.
Comfort laments that she lost a majority of food crops to the recent drought. The situation was no different during the rainy season as heavy winds and floods destroyed her farm. “We are unable to predict the weather pattern and this is gravely affecting us.” she added.
Her cousin, Janet Sarfowaa Sarpong, aged 64 shares a similar tale. “You can see the corn I planted is almost ready for harvesting. Unfortunately, the rains have not been consistent so the crops are yet to fully bloom” she worried.
Both Comfort and Janet are oblivious to the reality of climate change. Unfortunately, farmers in Aburi like many across Ghana have not received any education on climate change and mitigation measures. “The Agricultural Extension Officers rarely visit our farms. We need assistance on how to adjust to these changes.” She emphasized.
A study conducted by Afrobarometer revealed that 44% of Ghanaians have never heard of the term “Climate Change”. The research further indicated that 22% of Ghanaians attributed Climate Change to human activities and natural processes. Meanwhile, 27% of Ghanaians believe ordinary people can do little to stop climate change.
Ripple Effect on the Ghanaian economy.
Agriculture remains one of the largest employer of Ghanaians accounting for over 25% of the total workforce. The sector also accounts for 28% of Ghana’s GDP. Many farmers across Ghana will remain impoverished if the government and policymakers fail to address climate change. The climate crisis will also disrupt Ghana’s food supply chain which is likely to result in food insecurity.
Traders of foodstuffs, key in the agric supply chain are also affected by climate change. Thirty-four-year-old Evelyn Darko has been selling foodstuffs for six years. She tells Climate Insight of low supply of foodstuffs leading to shortages. “We used to sell five pieces of tomatoes for GHC1 but currently, a set of four pieces is sold at GHC4”.
Another trader, Mary Fayibea reaffirmed Evelyn’s assertion. “Things are different. In previous years a small amount of money could buy a lot. We are in tough times. We do not get corn because the farmers are making post-harvest losses”.
According to a report by the World Bank, poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks, including crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after extreme weather events, and increased incidence of diseases after heat waves and floods. The report also hinted that ,without rapid, inclusive and climate-smart development, together with emissions-reductions efforts that protect the poor, there could be more than 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030, particularly in Africa and South Asia.
Intervention by authorities.
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) is the apex farmer-based non-governmental organization in Ghana with the mandate to advocate for pro-poor agriculture and trade policies for smallholder farmers. Head of Programs and Advocacy for PFAG, Dr. Charles Kwowe Nyaaba noted that in the last decade the impact of climate change has very much been felt in Ghana.
“Last year, the rains started in July and lasted for three months instead of the usual five months. To make matters worse, during the dry season farmers begun harvesting their crops and the rains set in again. There was flooding which destroyed thousands of hectors of farmlands” He explained.
Dr. Nyaaba hinted that the flooding caused yet-to-be-harvested food crops to rot. “This has caused the food shortage that we are experiencing now. The most affected crops were maize, groundnut, rice, and sorghum. Poultry farmers are complaining as prices of ‘feed’ keep rising due to this.”
However, Dr. Nyaaba noted that PFAG undertook an assessment and some donations were made to affected farmers. “We have advised farmers at the white Volta basins to move to uplands. We also urged the farmers to plant immediately the first rains set in.” He added.
The Government promised to construct the Pwalugu dam to contain water in the northern belt and prevent flooding of farms when the rains set in. That promise is yet to be fulfilled.
The Way Forward
Comfort Agyeibea Opoku and her colleague farmers at Aburi and some surrounding villages are making unimaginable losses. Ghana needs to explore technologies and modern farming methods to boost agricultural productivity. The government and its allied agencies such as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture must educate and guide farmers on climate adaptation to minimise post-harvest losses. Until these measures are implemented, the fortune of the average rural farmer will continue to decline.