The Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) Programme is assisting farmers in some selected areas in the Ashanti Region to acquire improved varieties of Taro (kooko) planting materials.
The four main new varieties being distributed to the farmers, especially in the Ejisu and Asante-Mampong Municipalities, include 'CRI-Yen anya woa', 'CRI-Agyenkwa', 'CRI-Okumkom' and 'CRI-Huogbelor'.
They are being supplied by the Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-CRI), one of the implementing agencies of the MAG Programme.
A statement issued by the CSIR-CRI, signed by Mr. Solomon Gyasi Boakye, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), and copied the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Kumasi, said the improved varieties had been carefully selected, because they were disease-resistant and climate-friendly.
At Ejisu, about 200 farmers drawn from 30 communities are to receive these new varieties, while 300 farmers at Asante-Mampong are also benefiting for increased yield and sustenance of their income and livelihood.
According to the statement, a farmers' field day for harvesting and commencement of the distribution of the Taro planting materials to farmers at Ejisu, was recently held, under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture.
In attendance were the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Ms. Beatrice Serwaa Derchie, and Dr. David Anambam, Municipal Director of Agriculture, as well as Dr. Ernest Baafi, the Regional Research-Extension-Farmer Linkage Committee (RELC) Coordinator, and some researchers and agricultural extension agents.
Agricultural research scientists estimate that Taro is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Colocasia, and the fourth most consumed tuber crop in the world.
It has enormous health benefits which encompass building a strong immune system, lowering blood pressure, reducing weight gain and fatigue, preventing cell damage, building strong bones, and also supporting thyroid function.
The prevailing importance of the crop, therefore, had necessitated the new improved varieties, with the objective to boost production significantly in the interest of consumers and the Ghanaian farmer, the statement noted.
It said the MAG Programme focused attention on demand-driven research and alternative methods of extension delivery with the objective of increasing productivity through intensive farming.
It is designed to address productivity and value chain development management to add value to farmers' produce for increased incomes while advancing a robust and diverse extension delivery system.
This long-term would help to facilitate the dissemination of technologies to farm households, farmer-based organizations, out-growers of nucleus farms, and others.
The ultimate outcome of the MAG Program is to foster a more modern equitable and sustainable agricultural sector that contributes to food security and also increase the adoption of relevant, production-enhancing technologies by men and women farmers in the country.
Additionally, it is designed to increase the adoption of market-oriented approaches to farm management by farmers, while ensuring private sector investment in sustainable agriculture input supply, production, marketing, and processing in the country.
The statement said some farmers at Gomoa Central in the Central Region, were also being supplied with the disease-resistant varieties of Taro planting materials.
The yield of Taro, according to researchers, was still low in Ghana as a result of poor production practices.
The CSIR-CRI would as such work assiduously through research to enhance its production to help alleviate food insecurity and poverty among rural farmers in the country.