Agriculture is the lifeblood of Ghana’s economy, contributing around 20% of its GDP and sustaining the majority of its rural population. However, this critical sector is under threat due to its heavy reliance on rain-fed production systems, making it highly vulnerable to environmental changes.

Climate change and variability are wreaking havoc on Ghana’s agriculture. Shifts in temperature and rainfall patterns have shortened growing seasons, reduced productivity, and pushed many farmers into poverty. Disturbingly, almost half of Ghana’s population experienced food insecurity, with rural areas being hit hardest.

The implications are profound. The majority of Ghana’s population depends on smallholder farmers in rural areas for food. Climate change exacerbates their struggle to produce substantial yields. Farmers face challenges like pest infestations, diminishing soil fertility, and unreliable rainfall patterns.

In Africa, home to half of the world’s smallholder farmers, these challenges are particularly daunting. Climate change threatens food security across the continent. The need to enhance crop resilience is paramount.

Take cowpeas, for instance. Maruca Vitrata pests ravage these crops, destroying up to 60% of farms. Desperate farmers resort to frequent pesticide spraying, incurring additional costs and environmental risks. The Maruca pest attacks at every growth stage, making it a formidable adversary. Scientists advocate biotechnological solutions like Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to develop pest-resistant crops, providing hope for farmers grappling with climate change.

The success stories of GMOs are evident in countries like the USA, Argentina, Spain, Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland, Czech Republic, Paraguay, Uruguay, Slovakia, South Africa, and Nigeria. GMO crops are designed to resist pests and thrive with minimal water, ensuring higher yields and income.

Ghana’s scientists embarked on developing Bt Cowpea, a GMO variety resistant to Maruca pests, in 2012. The Bt cowpea has shown promise in trials, with impressive effectiveness against Maruca and potential yields of 1900kgs per hectare, compared to conventional varieties’ 500kgs per hectare.

However, challenges loom, primarily due to anti-GMO campaigns and a lack of political will. These campaigns spread unfounded myths about GM crops, creating fear and resistance. Nevertheless, Ghana is making progress, thanks to the persistence of its scientists and the advocacy efforts of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB-Ghana).

Leading figures like Prof. Walter Alhassan, Prof. Kenneth Ellis Danso, Prof. Eric Danquah, and Dr. Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw have played instrumental roles in dispelling misconceptions about GMOs and advocating for their adoption.

Dr. Ampadu-Ameyaw assures the public that GMOs developed by Ghanaian scientists prioritize safety and sustainability. GMOs present a solution to reduce the environmental impact of chemical pesticide use, lower production costs, and increase yields.

Farmers like Kwesi Arhin and Auntie Esi, who have battled Maruca pests, eagerly await the release of Bt cowpea seeds to ease their struggles.

With Ghana’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA) granting approval for the commercial release of Bt cowpea, farmers may gain access to these seeds by 2024. This approval marks a significant milestone in the fight against Maruca and promises a brighter future for Ghanaian agriculture.

GMOs hold the key to enhanced crop resilience, improved yields, and food security in the face of climate change. Ghanaian scientists are committed to driving this transformative change, ensuring a sustainable future for their nation.

Stay tuned for updates on this groundbreaking development in Ghana’s agricultural landscape.