Green Cohesive Agricultural Resource Management (WEBSOC)


Start date: 1 January, 2014 End date: 31 December, 2019 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 13-01AU Countries: Ghana Thematic areas: Agricultural production, Economic development and value chains, Energy, Lead institution: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Ghana (UG), Ghana University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Mathias Neumann Andersen Total grant: 9,999,996 DKK Project files:

Project summary

The present project proposal wants to promote growth and employment through research on green, cohesive Water, Energy-from-Biomass, Soil, Organics, and Crop (WEBSOC) agricultural management strategies in Ghana, as present agricultural development depends on deforestation and show little or no increase in productivity per unit of land. WEBSOC is intended to intensify agriculture to create jobs in poor rural areas. The project will investigate the use of crop residues to produce biochar and woodgas for household-use to lessen the pressure on forests for firewood and charcoal as an intelligent way of recycling organics and reducing CO2 emission. The application of biochar to agricultural fields increases carbon sequestration into the soil and thereby represents a CO2-negative approach to sustainable increase soil fertility, crop yields, and carbon storage. Further intensification will be achieved by small-scale solar drip fertigation systems allowing one to two more growing seasons per year to produce high-value horticultural crops. This is a triple-win situation where farmers get sustained higher yields (from irrigation and improved soil fertility), CC gas emissions are reduced (from increased carbon sequestration), and households get energy (from pyrolysis of straw). Finally, agricultural value chains, both on the supply and processing side, will be developed in cooperation between local SMEs and universities. The research into these options will be pursued within a framework designed to educate PhD students and young scientists.


Project Completion Report:

New ideas for improving agriculture in Africa have shown great potential.
Researchers from two Ghanaian and four Danish universities have completed a research project in Ghana, which points to new solutions to increase crop yield in African agriculture, and slow deforestation. Results that are more than welcome in a time when hunger and malnutrition has started to increase globally, and in Africa in particular.

Imagine this: a new kind of agricultural production in Africa that offers greater crop yields, improves soil fertility, reduces deforestation, protects the environment and provides more growth and employment in the local area - all in a sustainable way tailored to local conditions and resources. It sounds like a dream scenario, but nonetheless, it was the goal of the WEBSOC project when it started 6 years ago. The research project, which was awarded DKK 10 million from Danida, had two main purposes. One was to build research capacity, and the second purpose was through research and experiments to find solutions that could improve Ghana’s agricultural production.

To build research capacity meant, among other things, to educate more PhDs. “Over the last six years, six PhDs and three master studies have been completed in Ghana. As well we trained two postdocs and published more than 20 international scientific articles,” says professor Mathias Neumann Andersen from the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, who was the project leader.

The WEBSOC project aimed at changing some of the farming strategies in Ghana, so that simple, but modern, technologies would improve small-scale agricultural production. By using irrigation, farmers can have 3-4 growing seasons instead of 2 per year, and by adding biochar, the quality of the soil is improved and the crop yield increased. Biochar is charred plant material. In Ghana, it can be produced from straw as well as residual products from the palm oil industry. The quality of the soil in Ghana is a major problem for agriculture. The soil is simply too acidic. Just like in Denmark, over time the soil comes to lack lime, but this is not available locally in Ghana. Biochar turned out to be a great option to remediate this and´improve the soil quality, but it must be produced locally before it is profitable. The increased yield will create more growth and higher employment in the local area, thereby alleviating poverty. With higher yield in the fields, also the need for cutting down forest to get more agricultural land decreases.

One of the Phd-students build a stove that used organic waste from the palm-oil industry to produce biochar and energy for refining of palm oil. The biochar was used in field experiments, which showed that in combination with irrigation, yield of vegetables and maize was several times higher than in traditional farming due to the liming effect of the biochar making more phosphorus available to the crops. Ghanaian farmers tested both the biochar and an automatic solar irrigation system, developed as part of the project, and which is several times cheaper than comparable systems. The evaluation by the small-scale farmers was that they definitely made a profit from the new methods but that it is still difficult for them to find the money for the investment.

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