Building Resilience: CSIR-CRI RICOWAS Workshop Equips Stakeholders for Climate Smart Agriculture
“I want to gain knowledge about climate-smart agriculture in rice production.”
“As a farmer, I will be happy to know the modern agricultural practices to improve my farming activities.”
I’m interested in knowing more about the measures to mitigate climate change and ways to overcome them.”

These were some of the answers provided by participants of the CSIR-CRI RICOWAS training workshop when they were asked to state their expectations by the end of the training.

Their responses indicate a clear connection between their grievances and the adverse impacts of climate change on their agriculture practices. Ghanaian farmers once operated within a stable ecological system, enabling sustainable food production. However, due to landscape degradation and climate changes in recent decades, farming activities in Ghana have faced severe challenges.

Climate change is an undeniable reality affecting agricultural practices worldwide. Ghana is no exception to the adverse effects of climate change, which range from erratic weather patterns, increased temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, and the emergence of new pests and diseases. These challenges have the potential to undermine food security and livelihoods for millions of people in the region, where agriculture is a cornerstone of the economy.

In response to these rising climate challenges, the Scaling-up Climate-Resilient Rice Production in West Africa (RICOWAS) project at the CSIR-Crops Research Institute, organized a training workshop for stakeholders in rice production.

The workshop brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, extension officers, farmers, and directors of the department of agriculture, with the common goal of enhancing resilience in agriculture through the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices. Participants were drawn from the Oti, Ashanti, Volta, and Western regions of Ghana.

The RICOWAS Project

The RICOWAS project aims to use an innovative approach to rice production that is resilient to the effects of climate change. The main objective of the project is to improve the climate resilience and increase the productivity of the rice system of smallholder rice farmers across West Africa using a climate-resilient rice production approach.

The project, which is being implemented in thirteen (13) West African countries, is financed by the Adaptation Fund and supported by the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) with the collaboration of the Regional Center of Specialization on rice. It aims to strengthen human and institutional capacity in climate-resilient rice production (CRRP).

It also hopes to assist farmers and all actors to scale-up the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a farming methodology that aims at increasing yields, while using fewer resources and to reduce environmental impacts. In Ghana, the project is being coordinated by the CSIR-Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) and the CSIR-Crops Research Institute (CRI).

Delivering his welcome address to participants, Professor Branford Moses Mochiah, the Director of the CSIR-CRI expressed gratitude to stakeholders for attending the training. He emphasised the significance of rice in the Ghanaian diet, noting that despite its importance, 60% of the annual rice consumption is imported, costing an estimated 500 million dollars.  “We want to be self-sufficient in rice production, but climate change is affecting most of our food crops.  The launch of RICOWAS aims to address these climate-related challenges in agriculture. Today, stakeholders are gathered to collaboratively tackle these issues.”  He further encouraged participants to contribute the insights they have gained through years of experience in agriculture during the training.

Presentations By Resource Persons

Led by the project coordinator, Dr. Stephen Yeboah, the workshop featured a series of expert presentations and interactive sessions that delved into various aspects of Climate Smart Agriculture, including:

Climate Information and Forecasting: The importance of climate data and forecasting for informed decision-making in agriculture was highlighted by Dr. Stephen. Participants learned how to access and interpret climate information to better plan their farming activities.

Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Experts shared practical strategies that farmers and agricultural stakeholders can employ to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. These strategies encompassed crop diversification, improved soil management, and water conservation techniques.

Adoption of Improved Varieties: Dr. Maxwell Darko Asante, the lead rice breeder at the CSIR-CRI stressed the need for farmers to adopt existing improved varieties of rice as well as look forward to high yielding climate smart varieties that are being developed. “The adoption of these varieties alongside good agricultural practices will make Ghana self-sufficient in rice production”, he stated. Good Agricultural Practices in Rice Production:

The workshop emphasized the importance of sustainable agricultural practices such as organic farming, no-till farming, and agroforestry, which contribute to both climate resilience and food security. Mr. William Kota, an agronomist with the RICOWAS project, taught participants on the system of rice intensification (SRI) technology, which emphasizes low input, minimal fertilization, and compost application for enhanced yields. The stakeholders were also trained on effective land preparation techniques.

Water Management Technologies in Rice Production: Ing. Dr. Patricia Amankwah-Yeboah, a member of the project team introduced the Alternate Wetting and Drying Irrigation Technology to participants and indicated how farmers could use the technology to determine the amount and timing of irrigating their rice fields.

Policy and Investment: Discussions revolved around the role of government policies and investment in promoting Climate Smart Agriculture. Policymakers were encouraged to formulate and implement policies that support CSA, while financial institutions were urged to provide funding for CSA projects.

Farmer Experiences: Farmers from the region shared their experiences and success stories with CSA. These real-world accounts offered valuable insights for the attendees.

Field Visits and Break Out Sessions

The CSIR-CRI RICOWAS workshop also included field visits to the Institute’s rice research fields where participants had the opportunity to witness the practical use of technologies and tools to equip stakeholders with hands-on skills. An essential component of the workshop was the break out session where participants were placed into groups to deliberate on chosen topics such as scaling models for the promotion and adoption of SRI and CRRP in Ghana as well as policy environments that support and promote SRI and CRRP in Ghana.  Participants made presentations on their chosen topics after the discussions.

Dr. Stephen Yeboah further advised stakeholders to indulge in other mitigation methods such as smart crop diversification, crop rotation, mixed cropping, crop-livestock mitigation, cultivar mixture and push-pull cropping systems. “Following these methods will ensure we are protecting our environment and cutting down on waste. Nothing should go to waste in the agricultural cycle”, he stressed.

Feedback from Participants

Mr. Joan Dunyo, an agricultural extension agent from Kejebi, expressed gratitude to the organizers of the workshop for the training. He stated, “While I had some prior knowledge about climate change, this workshop has truly enlightened me. I’ll make sure I share all the information I have received from this workshop with my colleague farmers in my district so that we can start incorporating climate-smart agriculture into our setting.”

Additionally, Kwadwo Amankwah, a farmer from the Ashanti Region who participated in the workshop also had this to say “I thought I needed many acres in order to get higher yields in rice farming. But after this workshop, I have realised that just an acre of land can grant me several yields if I follow the methods taught here”.

As the workshop concluded, participants left with newfound knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose in their commitment to Climate Smart Agriculture. Climate change isn’t merely a threat; it serves as a pressing call to alter our behaviour before nature takes a different path. CSIR-CRI and the leaders of the RICOWAS project are diligently working to ensure farmers embrace Climate Smart Technologies.

Authors: Bernard Sakyiamah, Patricia Konadu Mensah, Dr. Stephen Yeboah, Dr. Patricia Amankwah-Yeboah, William Kota, Enoch Bobie Agyemang