Francis Npong, Tamale

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An international agricultural research aimed to improve food security and effective resource utilization in urban and peri-urban agriculture in West African cities has commenced simultaneously in Tamale, Ghana, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Dubbed “Urban Food Plus” the research project is examining West African urban agriculture not only to enhance urban and peri-urban agriculture but also to facilitate the adoption of appropriate innovation and technology in urban farming.

The project financed by the Germany Ministry of Education (BMBF) and supported by International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF) is partnering three universities in Ghana including the University for Development Studies (UDS) and the Council for Scientific  and Industrial  (CSIR) to undertake comprehensive urban and peri-urban agriculture research.

The research project led by prominent international researchers and agricultural scientists is also looking for ways to improving soil fertility, water management and food safety.

Speaking in an interview, one the Researchers from the United Kingdom (UK) Dr, Imogen Bellwood-Howard said the research is supporting urban and peri-urban farmers in two West African cities in Ghana, and Burkina Faso.

The project which began in 2013 in the cities of Tamale and Ouagadougou would also cover Bamenda in Cameroon and Bamako in Mali by 2016, she said.

photoDr Bellwood-Howard said the broad aim of the research is to enhance resource use efficiency and improve food security in urban and peri-urban agriculture of West African cities, through the adoption of simple but new farming technologies.

She said the researchers on the project also include PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from four German Universities who are currently partnering some selected West African Universities to carry out the research.

Urban Food Plus is the first comprehensive research project launched to look at the urban and peri-urban agriculture in West Africa.

Project researchers are working in sub-projects that are dealing with specific aspects of urban agriculture. The sub-project group is investigating the use of bio-char, a type of charcoal produced at a very low oxygen levels, to improve soil quality.

The Social Scientists are looking at farmers’ access to productive resources and its effect on innovation adoption, while the livestock team is characterising different animal husbandry systems with the idea of eventually testing new technologies on-farm.

In Tamale, the soil and agronomy sub-projects are establishing a central experiment in a test site at a community called Zagyuri, partnering with some farmers in that community who use waste water from the Kamina barracks to irrigate traditional leaf vegetables, mostly ayoyo.

Whilst the soil scientists explore the effects of this water and biochar on crops and the social anthropologists interact with marketers and farmers to discover how they share quality and price information including negotiating for land and water access.

Some international partner institutions such as RUAF is facilitating dialogue between the many stakeholders concerned with UFP’s target issues.

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