The University under the auspices of the School of Agriculture has hosted the WEBSOC Project Stakeholders’ Conference on campus.
WEBSOC which stands for “Green Cohesive Water, Energy from Biomas, Soils Organics and Crop Management Strategies” is a collaboration between UCC and the University of Ghana and three Danish institutions namely Aarhus, Copenhagen and Technical University of Denmark for five year period spanning from 2013-2018. The project was aimed at promoting growth and employment through research on the green, cohesive Water, Energy-from-Biomass, Soil, Organics, and Crop management strategies in Ghana, as present agricultural development depends on deforestation and show little increase in productivity per unit of land. Through the project, two innovative but affordable technologies were developed to help boost the productivity among small-holder agriculture to create jobs especially in poor rural areas. The project introduced the Biochar and solar drip fertigation systems which were piloted in some communities in the Central and Eastern Regions of Ghana.
UCC Privileged to be Collaborator for WEBSOC
Opening the programme, the Provost of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Prof. Jojo Eghan, noted that the University was privileged to have been a collaborator in the project. He mentioned that some graduates had been trained at both the M.Phil and PhD levels through the project “Apart from the human capacity building, the project has also brought on board some equipment and facilities to further improve agricultural education, research and productivity” he added.
Extension of Project to Farmers in Africa
Prof. Mathias Neumann Andersen from the University of Arhaus in Denmark, presented an overview of the WEBSOC project and its benefit to farmers and academic researchers and indicated that efforts were being made to liaise with the Ghanaian government and other international agencies to adopt the technology to boost agriculture production in the country in particular and Africa in general.
Innovations Introduced by WEBSOC Project
The Central Regional Minister, Mr. Kwamina Duncan whose speech was read by the Regional Co-ordinating Director, Mr. Kingsley Agyei Boahene, was excited that the WEBSOC Project had brought about technologies and innovations that were directed towards sustainable production of high-value horticultural crops using soils amended with biochar derived from agricultural wastes such as corn cobs and rice husks among others. “I want to emphasise that Agricultural research has unveiled various innovations along the agricultural value chain leading to massive employment especially among the large masses of unemployed youth in Ghana,” he noted.
Investment in Agricultural Research
The Central Regional Minister indicated that there was an urgent need for establishment of a platform to promote dialogue and collaboration among relevant sectors and non-state actors to invest in agricultural research. “There should be a public sector institutional change to enhance new and expanded policy and strategy to make research funding easily available to our farmers” he stressed. The Minister reiterated the need to channel more investment in Agricultural research noting that “I am convinced that huge investment in agricultural research is the surest way to support government to achieve its vision to transform our economy and to ensure food security”.
Aims of WEBSOC Project
The Head of Trade at the Danish Embassy in Ghana, Ms. Naja Møller Jørgensen, said Denmark was proud to support the project through the Danida Fellowship Centre. She noted that the project sought to support and promote the development of sustainable solutions within the agricultural sector in Ghana to the benefit of farmers, local communities and the environment. “The project holds a particular potential for a positive impact as the agricultural sector is a critical component of the Ghanaian economy and the largest job-provider of all sectors in Ghana” she explained.
Ms. Jørgensen noted that within the food and agriculture sector where Denmark has extensive knowledge, resources and interests, there was a solid foundation for collaboration with Ghana. She mentioned Ghana’s longstanding relations with Denmark and indicated that “Denmark has been in Ghana since 1961 and the two countries have since 1992 shared a successful and extensive development cooperation across a variety of sectors”.
Ms. Jørgensen said her country was appreciative that the collaboration between universities and the agricultural sector had been of immense benefit to farmers and the environment. “This is an important vehicle to supporting the continued sustainable growth of the Ghanaian economy” she stated.
Impact of WEBSOC Project
On the impact of the project, she was of the firm belief that the creation of jobs in the rural areas and the reduction of the negative impact of agricultural development on the environment through the WEBSOC project had been very beneficial and pointed out that “The WEBSOC project has directly addressed a number of the Sustainable Development Goals including number 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth” and number 13 “Climate Action”. She was confident that the project would support Ghana on the journey towards harnessing the potential of the country’s agricultural sector.
There were presentations by researchers from UCC and UG on Energy and Biochar Production from Agricultural residues, Soil Fertility Improvement in Ghana by Biochar Amendment, Green and Sustainable Irrigation Techniques for Smallholder farmers and Boosting Crop Yield by Biochar Amendment and Irrigation.
Other presentations touched on the Economic Evaluation of Costs and Benefits of WEBSOC Technologies, Agricultural Research and Community Development from a chief’s perspective; Use of Biochar and Irrigation from a farmer’s experience and Biochar, Agriculture and Community Development from an NGO’s perspective.
Present at the conference were some academics from the partner institutions, farmers, traditional leaders and non-governmental organisations.