Erratic rainfall hampering millet cultivation in U/E

Cultivation of the early millet, a major staple food in the Kassena- Nankana Municipality and parts of the Upper East Region, is fast phasing out due to changes in the weather pattern.

The age long early millet used to be planted early in the past (March/April) and harvested first (June/July) before the major harvesting season in September and October.

It provides the lifeline for the people and is usually referred to as the “hunger –breaker.”

Some farmers Ghanaian Times interviewed in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality said erratic rainfall was no longer conducive for its cultivation.

They are usually planted by smallholder farmers on family plot lands around their houses and other farm lands.

The early millet is used for the preparation of TZ, koko, foroforo (local beverage), Maasa (fried cake), among others.

A public servant and subsistent farmer in Navrongo, Cletus Katafisiga, told the Ghanaian Times that in the past it was planted between April and May and harvested between June and July.

“Now the rainfall is erratic, we don’t get early rainfall.By the time it starts raining, it is late to plant it. Also, at the time we need the rains for maturing of the crop, it fails,” he lamented.

“The subsistent farmers have now shifted to planting of other cereals like maize and the late millet that guarantees good harvest, given the changing weather pattern,” he added.

Another resident, Vida Adongo, also said the early millet was becoming extinct because it did not grow well due to the changes in the weather.

“In the past, we used to plant early and harvest early before the major harvesting season in September and October.Now they don’t grow well, we have shifted into cropping the late millet and maize, except for few people who still plant them,” She added.

The Upper East Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Francis Ennor, confirmed the phenomenon to the Ghanaian Times by phone yesterday.

He said “climate change largely caused by human beings has come to haunt us.”

Mr Ennor blamed the changes in the weather pattern and its consequence for agriculture production to human conduct such as, bush burning, cutting down of trees and burning of fossil fuel.

He said researchers are investigating into suitable early maturing crops that would withstand the changes in the weather pattern, as the cropping of the early millet was being affected by changing weather condition.

However, he explained that it would take between 5 and 10 years for new varieties to be developed.

Asked whether it would not lead to food shortages, Mr Ennor said it won’t affect food security because a lot of the farmers had shifted to maize production and other cereal.

 “It won’t affect food security, a lot of people are now cultivating maize, five years ago, maize was not a major crop,” Mr Ennor said adding,” however, we cannot afford to lose the early millet.”

FROM SALIFU ABDUL-RAHAMAN, NAVRONGO

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