I woke up one morning to a new sound in the village. I was not woken up by a prideful rooster singing at full lung capacity. I wasn’t hearing the famous mix of laughing and crying that is constantly produced by the mass of children in the community. Nope, I was awoken by a constant, soft, and relaxing sound. I was awoken by rain.
The rain had finally come. Farmers could start planting. The few tractors in Komoayili could be started again. Ploughing. Sowing. Weeding. Lunch at the farm. Hoes on the shoulder. Men on bicycles, wearing hats to protect themselves against the harsh Ghanaian sun. Everyone yelling Na pooné? (how is the farm?), to which people invariably answer Naaa! (fine!). Life had taken a new turn, a new twist. The rain had come.
This gave me an opportunity. Since it was the weekend, after convincing my new friends that I was strong enough to work the land, I was able to go to the farm. There I was able to witness firsthand the elusive technology adoption process that I will be trying to understand, and possibly even influence, over the next three months in my small corner of Northern Ghana.
On Saturday I was able to witness broadcasting of groundnuts seeds. Broadcasting consists of taking handful of seeds and throwing them in various directions while walking the full area of the field. Then, the field is ploughed by a tractor to sow the fields into the ground. It’s fast, it’s satisfying, and you get a big farm. You also waste a lot of seeds since most of them won’t germinate from the planting at uneven depths and the damage from the tractor, and the seeds that aren’t planted deep enough suffer from the attacks of various animals and pests.
On Sunday I row planted groundnut seeds. The process is simple. The head farmer walks around with a stick and makes holes at constant spacing and depth in his field along straight lines. Then children, myself, and the occasional adult follows and drops a seed in a hole, kicks soil on top of it with bare feet, and repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. For many hours. It’s hard work and you feel like you’ve planted less seeds then the farmer who is broadcasting. You also use less seeds, have an easier field to maintain for the rest of the season which will need less chemical inputs since they can be applied appropriately on rows, you plant more densely, and more seeds will germinate.
Why do farmers still use broadcasting you ask? I don’t know, why do people eat junk food, start school projects at the last minute, or don’t exercise and wait to get sick in Canada?
Back at the office and armed with my new farming experience, I still asked the question to my coworkers. I had very meaningful talks with intelligent, articulate, and passionate Agricultural Extension Agents.
Some said that farmers don’t see their farming activities as a business. Hence, it’s very difficult for them to do a cost-benefit analysis and analyze the final profit of their farm. Even if the bigger broadcasted farm has more yields the profit is much lower. Others said that farmers prefer to have a bigger farm instead of reducing the land size since it’s more satisfying and brings more social status. Finally some mentioned that with appropriate technology like tractors to sow or money to hire more labour, everyone would row plant. All mentioned that educating and training illiterate farmers on these issues is a challenge and that they were understaffed.
I had a long conversation with Mr. Abanga, an Extension Agent, about tech adoption, Ghana, my purpose, and life in general. Pointing at the primary school in the distance, he mentioned that technology adoption should start at that level, to educate the next generation of Ghanaians. The idea, the seed, the dream to always learn more and doing things better should be sowed in these young minds. I also realized that I’m only in Ghana for a very short time. I’ll be gone before the groundnuts I planted will be harvested. I’m not here forever. Earlier in the week I was a little frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to drastically change the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in my short stay. I won’t be able to make the myriad of NGO projects always distracting the staff more efficient and have a more holistic approach. But I will plant seeds. I will plant seeds of change, ideas, and I will row-plant them to give them the best opportunity to germinate.
Many ideas have been planted in my mind from very brilliant, caring, and passionate Ghanaians at work and in my community Komoyaili who have very generously invested in me. I’ll try my best to take care of these precious gifts and make them create the most beautiful garden possible in Canada. I guess a farming season can last a lifetime….