In the face of high prices of existing mineral fertilizers, farmers in Ghana need cost-effective Soil Fertility Management (SFM) technologies to address the problem of low crop yields, which are particularly pronounced in grain legumes. This study assessed the financial returns associated with different SFM trials conducted on grain legumes (soybean, cowpea and groundnuts) in northern Ghana in order to examine farmers’ adoption decision ex-ante and willingness to pay for the most financially rewarding technologies. Benefit-cost ratio analysis based on experimental data identified bio-fertilizer technologies (Biofix, BR3267 and Legumefix) as the most financially viable SFM technologies for grain legumes (soybean, cowpea and groundnut respectively) production. The study elicited primary data from 400 grain legume farmers randomly selected from Northern (200) and Upper West (200) Regions to evaluate adoption decisions and willingness to pay for the three selected SFM technologies. Evidence from the study shows that a significant proportion of farmers (>50%) were willing to adopt each of the three selected biofertilizer packages when they are made available on the market. A multivariate probit model identified farming experience, membership of Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs), farm income, amount of credit used and distance to extension office as critical variables influencing farmers’ adoption decision. Generally, legume farmers in Northern Region were willing to pay higher for the three biofertilizer packages as compared to their counterparts in Upper West Region. For 0.2 kg each of Biofix, BR3267 and Legumefix, farmers in Northern Region were willing to pay approximately GHC 17.00, GHC 12.00 and GHC 23.00 respectively whereas those in Upper West Region were willing to pay GHC 14.00, GHC 9.00 and GHC 11.00 for the same quantity of each SFM technology respectively. The study has revealed that farming experience, FBO membership, awareness and use of biofertilizers are the significant determinants of farmers’ willingness to pay for biofertilizers. The most critical constraints hindering adoption of SFM technologies among grain legume farmers were identified to be high cost of technologies, unavailability and inadequacy of information on potentials of SFM technologies. Even though, biofertilizer technologies present key opportunity in resolving soil fertility deficiencies, they are quite new and most farmers are unaware of their use in grain legume production. The study therefore recommended sustained awareness creation through periodic education and sensitization by using FBOs as leverage points. This and other recommendations from the study are expected to improve the future adoption of biofertilizers to improve the productivity and profitability of grain legume production in northern Ghana.


1.1       Background to the Study
1.2       Problem Statement
1.3       Research Questions
1.4       Objectives of Study
1.4.1    Main Objective
1.4.2    Specific Objectives
1.5       Justification of Study
1.6       Organisation of Study

2.1       Soil Fertility Status and Crop Production in SSA
2.2       Soil Fertility Management (SFM) Technologies in SSA
2.2.1    Definition of Concept
2.2.2    Paradigm Shifts in SFM in SSA
2.2.3 Components of SFM Technologies in SSA Biofertilizer as a Component of SFM Mineral Fertilizer as a Component of SFM Organic Fertilizers as a Component of SFM The Use of Different Fertilizers in Combination (ISFM)
2.2.4    Legume Production in Ghana
2.3       Cost and Benefits Associated with Improved SFM Technologies
2.4       Adoption of Improved SFM Technologies
2.4.1    Concept of Adoption and Adoption Theory
2.4.2    Measurement of Adoption
2.4.3    Determinants of Adoption
2.4.4    Constraints to Adoption of SFM Technologies
2.4.5    Ex-ante Evaluation
2.5       Farmers’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) for Improved SFM Technologies
2.5.1 Concept of WTP
2.5.2 Measuring WTP
2.5.3    Determinants of WTP

3.1       Study Area
3.1.1    Northern Region
3.1.2    Upper West Region
3.2       Data Types and sources
3.3       Sampling Procedure
3.4       Data collection
3.5       Analytical Framework
3.5.1    Cost-Benefit-Analysis
3.5.2    Factors Influencing Adoption of Selected SFM Technologies Ex-ante
3.5.3    Willingness to Pay for ‘best’ SFM technology
3.5.4    Constraints to Adoption of SFM Technology Practices

4.1       Descriptive Results
4.1.1    Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
4.1.2    Information on Farming and Institutional Variables
4.1.3    Crop Production
4.1.4    Crop Production Area and Output of Major Crops Cultivated in 2015 Cropping Season
4.1.5    Farm Income and other Household Income Sources
4.2       Awareness and Use of SFM Technologies
4.3       Financial Analysis of SFM Trials in Northern and Upper West Regions
4.3.1    Quantities and Costs of Inputs under Different SFM Trials
4.3.2    Output and Market Values Obtained under Different SFM Trials
4.3.3    Profitability of Grain Legume Trials under Different SFM Technologies
4.4       Ex-ante Adoption of Financially Rewarding Biofertilizer Technologies by Legume Farmers
4.5       Willingness to Pay for SFM Technologies
4.5.1    Determinants of Farmers’ Willingness to Pay for Selected SFM Technologies
4.5.2 Mean WTP for Selected SFM Technologies
4.6       Constraints Hindering Adoption of SFM Technologies

5.1       Summary of Key Findings and Conclusion
5.2       Recommendations

1.1 Background to the Study
“Soil” has been identified as farmer’s greatest asset (Fairhurst, 2012). This notwithstanding, soil fertility status continues to be an issue of great concern in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where an estimated amount of 75% of farmlands are recorded to be severely depleted of essential soil nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus). Ghana has been identified as one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa with the highest rate of soil nutrient depletion (World Bank, 2007).

Ghana has a total landmass of about 155,000 km2 (23,853,900 ha) of which about 57% is considered arable; a significant portion of this landmass is however inherently deficient in terms of fertility (Guo et al,. 2013; Jayne, 2015; USAID, 2015). Of the total agrarian land cultivated in Ghana, smallholder farms dominate with about 90% being less than two hectares, typically rain-fed and with the use of rudimentary agricultural technologies accounting for about 80% of total agricultural production.

There is need for substantial investment in soil health and fertility as continuous degeneration in soil fertility status stands out as the key-contributing factor to low per capita food production leading to food insecurity and poverty among smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sanchez et al,. 1997).

A substantial segment of people in SSA live in extreme poverty most of who are smallholder food crop farmers with the main cereal and legume crops being their priority crops of cultivation. The yields of these crops are however far below the actual attainable levels and this has been attributed to no or low-level of fertilizer use. Yields of the main grain cereals have been reported to be less than 1.5 tons/ha as against the actual attainable yield of about 5 tons /ha and that for legume has been estimated at about 0.7 ton/ha as against the attainable yield of about 3 tons/ha (Smale and Heisey, 1993; Jager et al,. 2001; Mutegi and Zingore, 2001).

In Ghana, poverty is noted to be mostly concentrated among smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana (Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions) who are mostly food crop farmers with family oriented farms practicing traditional production technologies (GSS, 2007). Their traditional practices of nutrient management have however become obsolete due to increased concerns about environmental stewardship in agriculture and cost related factors. Hence, to practice sustainable agriculture, farmers are being advised to reduce the use of expensive chemical inputs and intensify the use of natural or biological inputs. Conventional fertilizer use and intensity in Sub-Saharan Africa remains the lowest in the world due to several factors including cost. The use of bio inputs is gaining attention as a potential solution to the improvement of soil fertility and agricultural productivity in SSA owing to their cost-effectiveness and environmentally-friendly nature (Stella et al,. 2013; Chapoto et al,. 2015).

A study by N2 Africa (2013) in Ghana recognized legumes (soybean, cowpea and groundnuts) as very important contributors to household income and food security. They are referred to as meat for the poor due to their protein content (Mushi, 1997), with production concentrated mainly in the three northern regions of Ghana (Northern Region, Upper West and Upper East).

The two most prevalent challenges facing legume farmers in Ghana are erratic rainfall pattern together with inaccessibility and exorbitant prices of fertilizers including grain legume specific fertilizers (Single Super Phosphate, Urea and Triple Super Phosphate among others). Since little can be done about the climatic conditions affecting legume production, to a large extent, if appropriate and affordable fertilizer technologies are established, the existing yield gaps in grain legume production in Ghana can be bridged.

Consequently, there are calls for increased use of less costly and more environmentally friendly soil fertility management technologies. And these include the use of biological sources (organic fertilizers and biofertilizers) and/or integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices (i.e. integrated use of the different fertilizer sources). Some of the aforementioned technologies have been proven agronomically to increase yields of legumes and also increase the reserves of the most limiting plant nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) for the benefit of other non-leguminous crops planted in rotation. However, the financial/economic assessment of the technologies and the future adoption behavior of grain legume farmers are still in the realm of speculation. This study was intended to shed light on these important issues in order to bridge the knowledge gap that currently exists.

1.2 Problem Statement
A sector that once served as the backbone of the Ghanaian economy, agriculture now forms only a fifth of Ghana’s GDP, employing more than 40% of the economically active population with an approximated 2.74 million households engaged in farming. Also noted as the country’s major foreign exchange earner, a total of 80% of agricultural output is supplied by smallholder farmers (GNC, 2010; ISSER, 2010; FAOSTAT, 2014).

Despite the sector’s immense contribution to livelihoods, the incidence of low crop productivity is a general problem facing most farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with deteriorating soil fertility status standing out as a major constraint. Soils in SSA are usually low in nitrogen and phosphorous (the most limiting plant nutrients) and this gives rise to low yields.

These low yields are particularly pronounced in grain legumes as a result of low or no use of fertilizer sources by farmers. This behavior of legume farmers is attributed to lack of awareness of the possible economic returns from fertilization and/or the high cost of fertilizers (mineral fertilizer) which majority of African smallholder farmers are unable to afford.

Low cost and sustainable solutions compatible with the socioeconomic conditions of smallholder farmers are therefore needed to solve these soil fertility problems. A recognized approach by soil scientists and agronomists to dealing with soil health and fertility problems of smallholder farmers has been the introduction of cost effective and yield rewarding soil fertility management technologies or packages (biofertilizers, organic fertilizers and ISFM). The adoption of such modern improved agricultural technologies has however been low in Ghana and this has been acknowledged as a key factor to low productivity of agriculture in the country (Abunga, et al,. 2012).

The IITA project on “Institutionalization of quality assurance mechanisms and dissemination of top quality commercial products to increase yields and improve food security of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (COMPRO-II) has supported trials of different soil fertility management technologies in a number of African countries including Ghana. The trials are aimed at identifying various technologies that enhance soil fertility and agronomic performance of crops in order to recommend such soil fertility management technologies to farmers for adoption.

Even though positive agronomic responses have been observed in a wide range of field trials, there is remarkable inconsistency in responses across crops, regions and agroecologies.

Without downplaying the importance of the soil and agronomic outcomes (i.e. biological parameters) of these trails, a major and equally important aspect is the financial profitability/viability of the different treatments or combinations of soil fertility management technologies or packages since it is very critical for policy, dissemination and adoption purposes. Such an assessment of the different technologies will provide a holistic view to guide the selection of the most promising options for dissemination to farmers.

Upon selection of the ‘best/viable’ SFM technologies, farmers’ perceptions about them and their willingness to adopt and pay for such packages needed to be examined to boost the success of future dissemination and adoption efforts.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 130 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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