Isaac Papanko, a 39-year-old Ghanaian farmer, has made history as the first indigenous commercial farmer with over 425 hectares of farmland in a single location in the nation’s Northern Savannah Ecological Zone.
The chief executive officer of Idan Agro Ventures, Papanko started out farming maize on eight hectares. He attributes his success to the training provided by the African Development Bank’s Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP).
“We the youth, under the SAPIP TAAT-S programme, will soon be counting money in dollars that will blow the minds of Ghanaians,” says Papanko, when asked where he sees his business in the next few years.
Creating sustainable chains
Through the SAPIP project, Papanko received technical support, support with land development and financing for inputs. He has now expanded to soybean production. Under the bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation scheme in the savannah sub-region (TAAT-S), he also received access to improved seeds and fertiliser and has increased the use of technology in his work.
He now owns tractors, planters, boom sprayers, corn shellers and a combine harvester to accelerate production and harvest activities. He also supplies his produce to processing plants such as Premium Foods and the Ghana Agro Food Company in Tema.
Since 2017, the Ghana Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP) has focused on building sustainable agricultural food value chains, ensuring food and nutrition security in the savannah regions, and contributing to the improvement of overall economic wealth in Ghana. It works through agribusiness, improving agricultural productivity and promoting diversification.
Designed in the context of the government’s national Shared Growth and Development Agenda, the programme is guided by Ghana’s food and agriculture sector development policy. It supports other government initiatives in the sector, including the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign, the One Village, One Dam and One District, One Factory programmes.
The project also leverages support from the bank’s TAAT-S programme and is linked to the Ghana Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing for Agricultural Lending company (GIRSAL).
Soy yields treble
Following its inception, SAPIP held demonstrations for farmers on conservation in maize and soybean production.
Alhaji Mohammed Mashud, chief executive of Cudjoe Abimash Farms, is among the farmers selected to participate in the pilot programme. He is the owner of Ghana’s largest soya field.
Alhaji Mashud said the training introduced him to improved land development techniques as well as mechanisation interventions which have produced better yields in the field.
“I included a conservation agriculture concept in my business [and] by 2019 the yield of my maize and soybean had respectively increased from 1.9 metric tonnes per hectare to 4.5 metric tonnes per hectare, and from 0.5 metric tonnes per hectare to 1.75 metric tonnes per hectare,” Alhaji Mashud said.
Land development principles have allowed him to grow his production area tenfold over the past two years, he added.
One challenge to commercial agriculture is the cost of developing land. SAPIP has intervened and financed the development of more than 290 hectares of land in Ghana to make commercial agriculture attractive. The project has also supported the production of improved seed and fertilisers, which has boosted productivity for crops such as maize, soybean and rice.
Productivity and business focus
Co-financed by the African Development Fund (US$39.01 million) and the Government of Ghana ($9.10 million), SAPIP is focusing on three agribusiness zones spanning several districts in the North of the country, near the city of Tamale.
The SAPIP project is targeting 50,000 direct beneficiaries through various activities, based on a three-pillar strategy of crop productivity improvement, value chains and agribusiness development and infrastructure development. It aims to increase farmers’ food and nutrition security as well as incomes through increased agricultural productivity and diversification.
To date, the project has reached roughly 28,500 direct beneficiaries through technology transfer relating to crop nutrition, conservation agriculture and climate-smart agriculture. The tangible benefits are visible, with improved production for smallholders and commercial farmers.
African Development Bank