Agriculture activities in the 2020 farming season, in the Upper East Region was largely affected by the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Francis Ennor, the Upper East Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, said the pandemic created fear and panic among farmers who did not want to go to the farms with the mindset of contracting the virus at their various farms.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga, Mr Ennor noted that the restrictions associated with the measures to contain the spread of the disease also made it difficult for the department and farmers to carry out some of their activities effectively.
“Some of our activities delayed due to COVID-19 but when the restrictions were eased, we quickly moved to work with the farmers. We tried to convince them that COVID-19 was not on their farms and that if they wanted to get good yields, they had to move to the farms.
“We told them that COVID is not on the field, it is at the churches, funerals, weddings, and other social gatherings, so some adhered to the sensitization and started farming early and that is why we still have some food because if they were also sad and did not go to the farms, it would have been very bad,” he added.
The Regional Director noted that due to the ban on social gatherings the Agriculture Extension Officers found it difficult discharging extension services to the farmers in groups and the situation affected their farming activities.
“The COVID hampered our work because we usually gather the farmers and organize training for them but the group meeting did not come off, so we tried to reach some farmers through mobile phones and others by interpersonal approach. So, if you look at the number of people we needed to meet, we could not meet that target.”
The Regional Director said the reduced contact hours between staff and farmers coupled with ununiformed rain spread did not allow the farmers to plant at the recommended time and so food production was much lower in 2020 than in 2019.
He said despite the challenges, farmers were able to engage in agriculture activities and added that all farmers under the Planting for Food and Jobs received enough subsidized fertilizers and improved seeds and there was no complaint of shortage unlike in 2019.
The Regional Director said the Department in collaboration with major stakeholders worked together to ensure that there was no single case of fertilizer smuggling in 2020.
He said many of the farmers acquired enough fertilizers and improved seeds, which they were presently using for the dry season farming activities, and encouraged other farmers to do the same this year to ensure that they had enough fertilizer and improved seeds for all year farming.
“Some of the farmers were complaining that there should be a PFJ package for dry season farming but the government’s budget is always meant for one year, so after December it ends, we encourage farmers to take advantage of the rainy season programme and always buy enough that they can use for both seasons,” he advised.