Dahwenya Irrigation Greenhouse Enclave. Source: http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/greenhouse-revolution-to-attract-youth-into-agriculture.html
Despite increases in agricultural productivity globally per hectare, productivity levels remain significantly lower in the developing world. A combination of high rates of investment in crop research, infrastructure, and market development and appropriate policy support that took place during the first Green Revolution increased farmers’ prosperity, improved rural employment, and encouraged capitalist farming. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa was the exception to the global trend. Aggregate output on the continent remains low and the prevalence of subsistence farming is high. Climate change and rising food prices continue to exacerbate food insecurities in the region, from northern Nigeria to Somalia.
Is it Africa’s time to experience its own green revolution? Increasing agricultural yields can improve well-being indicators for families and contribute to increases in economics growth. The Youth Employment Support (YES), an initiative by the Ghanaian government, hopes to utilize greenhouses to improve yields, solve the fresh produce shortage, and encourage farmers to adopt farming technologies in the Ghana’s capital, Accra.
YES is building 74 greenhouses and a nursery on a five-hectare land where seeds will be nursed and transplanted. YES will help farmers acquire new skills, through its training program, to use profitable innovate techniques in one of the 74 greenhouses. Collectively, the farmers are projected to produce an estimated 357 tons of vegetables each season (every three months). In the greenhouse, the farmer can plant year-round under high intensive cultivation. The project can reduce the market price of fresh produce in Accra and beyond. The Chief Executive of YES, Mrs. Helga Boadi, hopes that “the prices (of vegetables) will come down because we are not importing and paying duties” (Bokpe).
The YES Greenhouse village is a modern approach to the classical land contract model in development economics. In this case, the farmer enters a fixed rent contract with YES- they are granted loans to operate their greenhouse and pay back the credit after harvest. Since the greenhouse belongs to the farmer after receiving the loan, he will exert effort to obtain the highest yields possible because “the money that comes from your greenhouse is yours, less production cost” (Bokpe). Technical advancements in agriculture, like the YES Greenhouse project, have the “potential to raise aggregate growth rates in the world’s poorest countries” (Shaefer) and the economic model supports this prediction. Empirical evidence suggests that there is an inverse relationship between farm size and productivity. This project allows farmers who operate small firms to pool together to capitalize on the advantages that larger farmers have. One farmer in the village may not have the resources to fund his/her own greenhouse, but the YES Greenhouse project creates the opportunity for individual farmers to benefit from agricultural technology.
Traditionally, technology adoption depends on the target input model. The farmer has basic knowledge on farming practices, but is unaware about the target inputs- water, fertilizer, and etc.- necessary to optimize his output. After the harvest, the farmer observes how close his input or his neighbors’ input usage is to the optimal amount. Overtime, the farmer gains more knowledge on the right quantities of inputs he needs. The YES Greenhouse village significantly decreases the farmers time to discover the target level since the “system delivers just enough water and fertilizer in equal quantities to each plant” (Bokpe). Even though Mrs. Boadi is confident that the YES project will increase farmers’ output, what would incentivize farmers in the community to participate in a greenhouse project or to adopt the lessons from the training outside of his greenhouse project?
Agricultural technology adoption decisions
The simple economic model of technical adoption implies that farmers will adopt technologies, and participate in initiatives such as YES’s Greenhouse, if they are knowledgeable about the costs and benefits of adopting the new technology and the institutional conditions affecting the profitability of the technology adoption. Even if farmers have knowledge on operating a greenhouse, his financial constraints must be limited for him to participate. The project’s training process, especially for younger farmers, will prepare farmers to have successful yields in the greenhouse and utilize them in the future. With hopes that farmers in this initiative will expand their production outside of the greenhouse, information on effective farming practices can spread. Research by Conley and Udry on social learning in the diffusion of a new agricultural technology in Ghana found that farmers are highly responsive to information, so diffusing information on farming techniques in the community will benefit the entire farming network, even those who are not participating in the YES project.
Community education in Malawi. Source: http://theconversation.com/how-low-tech-farming-innovations-can-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient-47684
If the greenhouse model in Dahwenya succeeds, how can it be implemented in other regions of the country and potentially across Africa? Farmers learn through social networks, so a communal approach, rather than picking farmers from different communities to work together, may expedite production growth and participation in other greenhouse initiatives. Also, government funding must curb the costs for the individual farmer or provide microcredit loan opportunities, and educate farmers on greenhouse horticulture. The success of the building other greenhouses depends on a constant source of water for the irrigation process. Lack of proper irrigation infrastructure partly contributes to the low agricultural productivity; therefore, implementing greenhouses in regions prone to drought, like northern Ghana, may be challenging.
Africa may be lagging in agricultural productivity and on well-being indicators, but innovative ideas like the greenhouse village can be starting point to another Green revolution. In future projects, the risks and uncertainties in mirroring this project must be considered. Farmers’ ability to bear the risks of the loan to participate in a greenhouse project and his individual risk preferences are critical to his participation. Policy makers must incentivize farmers to take the loan and participate in a greenhouse initiative.
Bokpe, S. (2017, February 27). Greenhouse revolution to attract youth into agriculture. Graphic Online. Retrieved from http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/greenhouserevolution-to-attract-youth-into-agriculture.html
Schaffner, Julie. Development Economics: Theory, Empirical Research, and Policy Analysis. Wiley, 2013.