Albert Futukpor, GNA
Tamale, Jan 24, GNA - A stakeholders’ workshop to identify the next steps to ensure the success of the Biochar project to improve agricultural production in the country has been held.
It was also to seek inputs of stakeholders to inform further research on the use of biochar to improve crop production to ensure food security and increased incomes for farmers.
The day’s workshop, held in Tamale was attended by farmers, and representatives of research and academic institutions, public sector agencies, civil society organisations and the media.
The Biochar project is a research activity undertaken by the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom (UK) in collaboration with the University for Development Studies (UDS) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with support from Global Challenges Research Fund of the UK Government.
The project began in the country last year and will end this year.
The project seeks to demonstrate the benefits of the use of biochar and also show the problems to encounter with its application for crop production.
Biochar is like charcoal and it is produced by burning organic materials in the absence of oxygen to get a carbonized material, needed to mitigate climate change, and amends the acidic level of tropical soils to make them suitable for cultivation of crops.
It has been proven that the continued application of fertilizers to boost yields led to high acidic levels in soils resulting in low yields, hence the need to use biochar to amend the acidic level in soils or manage nutrients in the soils.
Professor Abdul Halim Abubakari, Head of Department of Horticulture, UDS, who made a presentation on the project at the workshop, spoke about the benefits of biochar, saying “when you apply biochar, you do not need a lot of fertilizers” for crops to do well.
Professor Abubakari said “biochar also conserves moisture in the soil and regulates soil temperature”, which was necessary for crop production emphasising on the need for farmers to know the acidic level in soils before applying biochar.
He said as part of the project, policy makers and the business community were being engaged to see how to support farmers to produce biochar in large quantities to support agricultural production in the country.
He, therefore, urged farmers to continue to link up with the project implementers and the Regional Department of Agriculture as they undertook the project for their (farmers) benefits.
Dr Tom Sizmur, Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, who is the Principal Investigator under the Biochar project, said the findings of the research would be used to apply for funds for a larger research project in the area.
Madam Hawa Musah, Northern Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, whose speech was read on her behalf, described the project as important, especially in the face of climate change and the need for smart agriculture saying it would help to improve the quality of crop production in the country.
Mr Zakaria Abdul-Rashid, Executive Director of Urbanet called on farmers and policy makers to support the project in view of its enormous benefits to agricultural production in the country.
Farmers were concerned about how the adoption of the biochar technology would affect marketing of their crops.