Increasing productivity and production of rice is a major challenge facing the government of Ghana which spends >100 million dollars annually on rice imports. In Ghana more than 50% of the rice lands can be described as upland and hydromorphic and these are distributed across the country. These are lands mostly used by the most vulnerable in society, i.e. women and the poor. In Ghana very few rice varieties adapted to these ecologies have been formally released. Even where released varieties exist, their seed is neither readily available to the poor farmers nor necessarily the type of cvs farmers or consumers want. Participatory approaches, including Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS), offer one way to overcome these constraints by involving farmers directly in the process of variety improvement and testing, as well as by utilising informal seed systems for dissemination. The PVS programme in Ghana was initiated in 1997 and this report covers the period 2000-2003. The programme has so far been implemented in six out of the 10 Regions of Ghana and has involved more than 2500 farmers. Researcher-managed, extension/NGO facilitated and community managed PVSs and Mother and Baby systems have been piloted with farmers. Based on experiences of the above over the past six years, it is proposed in Ghana to have a PVS process starting with:
- a cv needs assessment to identify plant types and bring the community into the process;
- nurseries or rice gardens in the community (i.e. 'Mother' trial) over one or two years;
- 'Baby' trials for two years in parallel with formal testing;
- cv release;
- formal and informal seed dissemination.
Facilitation of the process would appear to be essential along with seed multiplication and the provision of seed for at least the first two years. Post-harvest traits must be evaluated as early as possible in the process. Seed dissemination was monitored following seed distribution (1-2 kg per farmer) using different pathways in five communities around Hohoe. The most successful dissemination method was a community seed bank, whereby for each kg a farmer received, 2 kg had to be returned to the bank after harvest. Two communities independently organised such a seed bank. Irrespective of how seed was initially distributed, seed moved first through kin relations, often by exchange, and was only sold when larger quantities were available. Seed sold at a premium and demand far outstripped supply in the first two years. However, by the third year a few seed producers were harvesting large quantities of seed and there was a noticeable increase in uptake. By 2003 seed had moved >100 km through informal channels. A survey of C. 2500 upland rice farmers around Hohoe showed that 36% of them were growing a PVS cv, and 83% were aware of PVS cvs. The most popular cv was IDSA85, a cv with a highly desirable grain type, and which farmers named 'Idana', meaning you'll not be tired to reflect it's ease of threshing. Three other cvs from the original PVS were also being grown widely. In northern Ghana, SARI formally released a cv, IR12979-24-1 using a combination of formal and PVS/ Mother and Baby data. This cv was first tested in 1985 but was promoted only after it's inclusion in a PVS in 2000 and subsequent selection by many farmers. This cv performed outstandingly well on-farm. An integrated system of PVS/Mother and Baby trials and formal multi-locational testing is proposed to release cvs in Ghana.