A community engagement session on biotechnology has been held to educate women farmers at Tinkurugu in the Nanton District of the Northern Region on the new BT Cowpea seed, which is expected to be made available to farmers soon.
It was organised by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Ghana where research scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) took turns to explain the current developments regarding issues of Genetically Modified Organisms in the country to the farmers.
Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, National Coordinator of OFAB Ghana, speaking during the event, said the community engagement session was to ensure that the farmers received information about the BT Cowpea seed directly from the scientists to counter the disinformation being spread by some people about the seed.
With the BT Cowpea, farmers will reduce spraying of their cowpea farms from eight times to two times, prevent up to 80 per cent of pest destruction on cowpea farms, and harvest up to 20 times more on their cowpea farms.
Currently, varietal release trials of the BT Cowpea are ongoing in certain areas in line with the National Biosafety Authority’s approval for environmental release of the BT Cowpea.
Dr Ampadu-Ameyaw spoke about the current developments regarding the BT Cowpea seed and said “So, we have environmental release now to be able to grow it in certain areas. Now, what we are hoping to do in the next few weeks is to go for commercialisation certificate. Then, we can put the seed in the hands of the farmers to grow it on their own farms and harvest it for sale.”
Dr Daniel Osei Ofosu, Research Scientist at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission told the farmers that the BT Cowpea was a good one, and a farming changing technology, which would improve their operations even at a reduced cost, which was life-transforming for resource poor farmers.
Professor Sandow Alhassan, a former Director-General of CSIR, and Senior Country Advisor, Programme for Biosafety Systems, International Food Policy Research Institute said the current way of producing cowpea in the country was expensive, tedious and presented health concerns for the farmer and the environment.
He urged farmers to embrace the BT Cowpea because it was cheaper to cultivate, healthier for the farmer and the environment and high yielding to increase productivity and incomes of farmers.