The Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Professor Ebenezer Oduro- Owusu together with a team of researchers and administrators, hosted the Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Mr. Koji Makino and three officials at the Soil and Irrigation Research Centre, (SIREC) at Kpong on Friday, May 20, 2016.
SIREC is one of three research centres in the School of Agriculture. The Centre was established in 1954 by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Gold Coast, with assistance from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to conduct investigations into mechanized irrigated agriculture on the Vertisols, (the dominant black clay soils) of the Accra Plains. The Administration of the Centre was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the University of Ghana in 1957. SIREC, Kpong with a total land area of 1024 hectares is 22 m above mean sea level and lies on the shorelines of the head-pond of the Kpong hydro-electric dam, 3 km off the main Accra-Akosombo highway.
The Dean of the School of Agriculture, Professor John Ofosu-Anim welcomed the team from JICA and highlighted some of the areas in which research is conducted at the Centre. This included research into mechanized irrigated agriculture on the Vertisols and other soils in the Accra Plains. He also explained that the soil found within that area was very peculiar and as such research into the cultivation of fruits such as mango, sugar cane, maize, soybean, cowpea and vegetables are also conducted SIREC. He indicated that the Centre engages in beef cattle and sheep rearing, semi-commercial scale rice cultivation and cage fish aqua culture to generate additional income for the Centre.
Professor Boateng Onwona-Agyeman, the Ag. Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology spoke briefly on the purpose of the meeting, which was to upscale the commercialization of the Centre’s rice and cage fish aqua culture productions.
Professor Ebenezer Oduro-Owusu impressed upon the team the need to commercialize the University’s Centre’s to generate enough money and contribute to Ghana’s food security. The Provost emphasized the need for complete mechanization of farming activities at the University’s research Centers. He said this would attract more people to come for training at the Centres.
The Head of the Centre, Dr. Stephen Narh briefed the delegation on the activities in these two areas and shared the current challenges inhibiting large scale production. Dr. Narh stated that the Centre currently has 20 hectares of land under rice cultivation and the produce is sold mostly to the University Community. The variety under cultivation is Baika and demand is high because of its taste. He explained that the current yield stands at 4.5 to 5.0 tonnes per hectare if there are no production challenges; however, under water-stressed conditions due to low water levels in the Volta Lake, yields are reduced to about 3.0 tonnes per hectare. He highlighted the following as additional factors which affect production;
In the area of aquaculture, Dr. Narh stated that the Centre has 30 cages that are fully stocked with fingerlings and fish at different growth stages. During the tour to the cages, the manager of the farm indicated that each cage stores about 10,000 fish which are fed 2 to 5 times daily depending on their size. The fish are often harvested when they are at an average weight of 400 grams. The project manager Mr. Stephen Selormey explained that although most of the fish is bought fresh, there is also a storage facility to ensure year-round availability.
There is a huge market for the fish by market women and hotels; this was evident by the presence of a sizeable number of women waiting to purchase fish in bulk during the group’s visit. Both the Head of the Centre and the project manager expressed the need for additional cages to increase the scale of production to meet the demand. Although the Centre is currently requesting for 20 additional cages without the need to expand its human resource, it has the capacity for 1000 cages along its shoreline. Presently, this is being run purely for commercial purposes.
Mr. Makino expressed his excitement in the cultivation of Rice and the volumes of fish at the aquaculture farm. He highlighted the fact that JICA is interested in three main areas, one of which is Agriculture. He indicated that JICA is already engaged in two rice projects.
The group visited the rice fields, milling and bagging warehouse, and the cage fish culture production farms. It also critically assessed the conditions of some of the equipment used at the Centre, such as the combine harvester and the pumping station at the lakeside. While at the pumping station, the group witnessed firsthand efforts by workers to remove water plants that pose severe threats to the pumping system.
The visit validated the interest of the Centre and its staff to commercialize part of their activities to boost income generation for the University. It also reinforced the commitment of the Provost of College of Basic and Applied Science and his highly qualified, experienced and competent staff to drive the commercialization process while maintaining their research focus. The College is hopeful that the representatives from JICA would share the vision of commercializing the rice and aquaculture activities of the Centre and support it as it seeks to address the current challenges to enable the up scaling of the commercialization process to take off smoothly.