A mango a day keeps development in play

IMG_0007 road from Bolga to Tumu B

On the road from Bolga to Tumu.

Bolgatanga, Ghana, Apr 12, 2013–Ghana’s Upper West Region borders on Burkina Faso to the north and Cote D’Ivoire to the west – and it is unexpectedly green and lush. I know this as we had many hours to observe the land as we bumped and bounced our way across some very rough roads on our way from Bolgatanga.

TUDRIDEP is a new partner for CFTC and they have come on board specifically to participate in our CIDA grant, with a focus on mango seedling production by women farmers as a new form of economic income to supplement their traditional farming activities.

SAM_0408 TUDRIDEP and CFTC Team

The TUDRIDEP team.

These are very remote communities – and do not have the benefit of access to markets and good roads and more buyers of some of the other communities we have visited in the Upper East or Northern regions, however they do have the benefit of the lush soil and a multi-dam system that they leverage for crop irrigation. They are also using bullocks (oxen) to plough their crops and this is also better for soil strength – which can increase yields.

The Program Manager of TUDRIDEP, Jonathan Lanidune greets us at their offices and once again we are provided with an excellent overview of their team, their organizational priorities and their governance structure. The Chair of their Board of Directors joined us for the briefing and it was great to learn about the differences in governance structures in Ghana versus Canada – and to identify where we can share learning on this front to help build the leadership capacity of our partners.

IMG_0089 Farmer Iissfu with Mango Tree.12

Farmer Iisssfu shows off his mangoes.

We travel to the farm of Iisssfu, a farmer who began growing mangoes on his two acres of land 10 years ago. There are dozens and dozens of trees that have been grafted with the larger, higher-priced mangoes onto the smaller ones. He shows us the process from seedling, to grafting the seedlings onto grown trees, to the difference in the size of the mangoes on grown trees.

It is very informative to see the process as this will be a new experience for the women of Digani who have relied in the past on traditional farming – however there is growing demand for seedlings and there is understanding that this crop can lead to new economic benefits.

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Dancing the torah … and heading up to the ‘bump’

Following a very informative meeting – including a very fun dance called the torah (which ends with a hip bump) under a huge mango tree, we learn much about the impact of the changing timing of the rain and the increasing temperature with respect to creating confusion on when to plant what – and the resulting lower yields that then hurt the community.

Both men and women are keen to learn more about climate change through the training that the CIDA grant is supporting with local technical advisors who will train agricultural extension agents – essentially local experts who live in the community – to help the community plan more effectively around planting and crop cultivation.

IMG_0104 Digani Women with Mango Seeds.20

Digani women with baskets of mango seeds

The women also proudly show us the mango seeds they have been storing that will be used to grow the seedlings and they walk us down to an enclosure under a large shady tree where the seedlings will be cultivated, then grafted prior to sale – and you can see the high level of care and commitment of the community to make this project work. Once again, very inspiring when you see the time and care it takes to bring this new approach to life – and the potential within the community to strengthen their livelihoods in new ways.

We also have the opportunity to visit a local radio station that our CIDA coalition partner, Farm Radio International, is working with as part of the CHANGE Project.  Local radio station RADFORD (Radio for Development) will develop radio education programming on climate change and broadcast it to hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers, farm-based organizations and agricultural extension agents in the listening area.

The station manager is very proud of the work that they did previously to help increase literacy rates in the region from 12 to 26 per cent. He is confident that the climate change education is similarly going to bring important new learning to their radio audience that will also benefit the broader community.

This is a great example of how Canadian development agencies can share their areas of expertise to make a significant difference together – and I look forward to doing this more as CFTC grows to create a world where every child thrives.

And just in case you were wondering, the local mangoes are DELICIOUS!