Scaling Triple S through collaborating with Damongo Agricultural College, Ghana

In July 2018 Issahaq Suleman, CIP’s Triple S scaling champion in Ghana, paid a visit to Damongo Agricultural College in the West Gonja district of Northern Ghana, with the goal of advocating for practical training on farming improved varieties of orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP). He also wanted to introduce the college to the use of Triple S technology, to conserve roots and generate quality planting material after a long dry season such as that experienced in Northern Ghana. Damongo Agricultural College is one of the five colleges in the country that train agricultural extension agents. It offers both certificate and diploma courses and currently has 224 students who undergo training over a maximum period of two years.  One of the goals of the Triple S scaling project in Ghana, funded by both the RTB scaling fund and the African Development Bank through the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) project, is to increase the number of farmers aware of the technology through influencing the inclusion of the technology in the curriculum of institutions that train agricultural extension agents (AEA). AEAs are government agents who work with farmers to continuously train farmers on good agricultural practice and new technologies.

During Suleman’s visit, he met with the acting principal of the college at the time, Mohamed Adam, and explained the advantages of OFSP for food and nutrition security, the availability of improved varieties released by the national research institution, CSIR – CRI (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute) as well as improved farming technologies aimed at improving yield. Triple S is one such technology as it allows farmers to have quality planting material in sufficient quantities, in time for the planting season. Traditionally, roots are conserved by burying them in the field which exposes them to weevils, which in turn affects the quality of the planting material generated.

Damongo Agricultural College was receptive to the technology and with a go-ahead from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), underwent an initial training. There were 126 students and eight tutors involved in the trainings that were delivered through printed material, instructional videos and hands-on demonstration of the innovation. After the training, the students cultivated an acre of OFSP on the College premises in August 2018.

In November, the roots were ready for harvesting and sorting for storage. CIP then organized training on how to harvest, select and store OFSP in the sand (in a pit or a basin).

Storage pit with a capacity to hold 500 kilos, Damongo Agricultural College                              Photo Credit: I. Suleman

Recently, participants at the annual Triple S review and planning meeting, held in Tamale from the 22nd – 24th of January, visited the institution as part of a learning journey[1] to engage with the students and tutors on their experience with the Triple S technology.

“The course was very interesting and will have a good impact, because we watched videos, clearly describing the technologies, followed by practical training. This was the first time we were shown a video, which helped us to quickly understand the innovation and apply it practically. We learned a lot about the nutritional benefits of OFSP and how one can store roots up to 4 months by sorting out the damaged roots, arranging the good roots in a sandpit or basin and monitoring them on a monthly basis” said Yakubu Muzanin, a second-year student at the College.

Learning journey participants, students and tutors meet at the Damongo Agricultural College
Photo Credit: Asfaw F

Richard Dantey, a tutor at the College, told the visiting group that they have developed courses which address OFSP and the Triple-S innovation namely: roots and tubers crops, post-harvest and storage technology, farm-led nutrition, and practical cookery.

The students now have a full understanding of the technology and have identified income generating opportunities they can engage in such as producing vines for sale to farmers and roots for sale to processing plants. Interestingly, the male students are more inclined to the production of vines while the female students favor roots production. Roots harvested from the trial plot were consumed by the students as part of their meals at the college.

Richard Annobil, Director of Human Resources and Capacity Building at MoFA, who was also one of the participants in the learning journey; has become an advocate for OFSP and Triple-S at the national level. He proposes adaptation and dissemination of course materials to the three other agricultural colleges, as well as five farming training institutes in Ghana. This will help in the sustainable integration of OFSP and Triple-S into the national education system. He promised to support the International Potato Center (CIP) and Damongo Agricultural College participate in the national revision of curricula for agricultural training, an exercise scheduled for July 2019, so that they would make the case for incorporation of the Triple S technology to other stakeholders.

Issahaq Suleman from CIP and Richard Dantey, a tutor from Damongo Agricultural College, inspect seed beds planted using material germinated using the Triple S technology. Photo: T Van Mourik/CIP

Getting OFSP and Triple-S into the national agricultural training curricula is key to encouraging self-scaling of this technology without additional financial support from projects. Another key factor for success is getting these innovations into the annual workplans of the regional and district levels development plans, so that budget is available for dissemination in the future.

“With such a strong partnership and clear benefits of OFSP and the Triple S innovation for food and nutrition security, as well as business opportunities in Ghana, the sky is the limit!”  concluded Richard Annobil (MoFA).

The blog is written and photos provided by Rosemary Kihiu, with contributions from Issahaq Suleman and Thomas van Mourik (CIP Ghana). 

[1] A Learning Route (LR) is a planned journey with learning objectives that are designed based on i) the knowledge needs of development practitioners that are faced with problems associated with rural poverty and, ii) the identification of relevant experiences in which local stakeholders have tackled similar challenges in innovative ways, with successful results and accumulated knowledge which is potentially useful to others. The Route allows for the experiential encounter between travelers and hosts, both having mutually useful experiences and knowledge. For more information on LRs, visit www.africa.procasur.org.

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