The rains in the Upper East Region of Ghana normally start in May. This year they didn’t come until July.
Farmers near the community of Navrongo are feeling the effects of the changing seasons, many of them coping with long droughts or surprise floods.
Lawrence Hiya, a farmer and retired teacher, says the changing climate is leaving farmers unsure of the one growing season in the arid north.
“Because we don’t have constant and regular rains, the crops do not normally do well,” he says. “For which reason, most of our farmers — even though they are hard workers — they are not able to get good produce to feed the family and to sell.”
Lawrence listens to a farm radio program on Nabina FM about orange-fleshed sweet potato.
But this year they have grown less of orange tuber than in years past because of the rains, he says.
“This year we are not sure whether it will mature because it takes time for the roots to enter the ground and then to also grow. If there is no water, it is a problem for us.”
Those who are able to grow the sweet potato have been able to supplement their food stores and incomes, despite the unsteady rains
Many farmers in the north are switching to crops that mature earlier, like the orange-fleshed sweet potato because of the shorter growing season.
Despite this, food security is still an issue, because many farmers lack access to consistent sources of water.
“We need rain,” says Lawrence. “We depend largely on rain because we don’t have enough dams. We have only one dam in the area which is not sufficient for other farmers, because the majority of our farmers also depend on tomato farming, and then rice cultivation.”
Lawrence hopes that once day the farmers in his area will have access to a dam or more wells.
It’s the best the farmers of the north are hoping for, when the rain patterns they have relied on for decades are changing.
Reducing vitamin A deficiency with orange-fleshed sweet potato is a three-year project conducted in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helen Keller International, The International Potato Center, and the Sweet Potato Action for Security and Health in Africa. It aims to add OFSP to at least 500,000 rural households’ diets in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.