Hope for palm oil livelihood and yield improvements in West Africa

Solidaridad’s Sustainable West Africa Palm oil Programme (SWAPP) hosted a workshop last week to share its Best Management Practices on palm oil agronomy. The key message from the workshop was one of optimism, namely that: yields in Ghana and West Africa region can reach 15-16 tonnes per hectare on well-managed farms. In other words, BMP holds promise for enhancing both yields and livelihoods.

SWAPP, in collaboration with the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and other stakeholders in the oil palm sector, are piloting Best Management Practices (BMP) initiatives in Ghana. Due to the need to supplement a limited domestic supply, the BMP initiative aims to enable farmers to adopt best agronomic practices in order to boost production to meet the huge demand in a country that already currently imports 70,000 tonnes of oil palm.

Best Management Practices are agronomic methods and techniques that have found to be the most cost-effective and practical means to reduce the gap between the actual and maximum economic yield while minimising the impact of the production system on the environment by using external inputs and production resources efficiently,” said Mr Thomas Fairhurst, a SWAPP consultant in agronomy.

The workshop was well-attended by a range of interested parties such as SWAPP staff, implementing farmers, high-level government ministries, and other partners. Mr Thomas Fairhurst, said “results after seventeen months of BMP implementation show a yield improvement of range from 1.0 to 7.4 tonnes per hectare. With an average of 3.12 tonnes per hectare.”

Minister of State Public Private Partnership, Mr. Abdul Rashid Pelpuo, spoke at the workshop and conveyed that oil palm production held great potential to support the sustainable economic development of farmers in Ghana.

Mr Delle Kpebessan, SWAPP Regional Programme Manager, explained that SWAPP is implementing the project not only to promote the idea that oil palm is profitable, but to encourage farmers to intensify the cultivation of oil palm as a means of diversification from the traditional exports. He went on to note how BMP can attract both attention and resources from financial institutions such as banks to fund and further grow the sector.  This remains crucial, as access to finance remains a major obstacle for most famers.

Mr Tuffour Quarcco, the best farmer of Bogosso district of the Western Region of Ghana who increased his yield from 7 tonnes per year to 11.9 tonnes per hectare, stated that: “BMP is the surest way to go. Adopting BMP makes work easy; it improves yields and incomes.”

Since 2012, a total of 20 BMP have been established on selected farms in the Eastern, Central, Western, and Ashanti regions of Ghana in order to demonstrate benefits of the BMP approach that focuses on best agronomic and management practices to improve yields and the profitability of the sector.

Thus far in Ghana 400 smallholder farmers have been trained in BMP, an additional 27 new BMP partners have adopted the practice, and as a result, 183.5 hectares of land is now under BMP. SWAPP is also expanding the BMP approach into Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

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