Management to enhance food production in Ghana and Africa

Source: Ghanaian Times


Participants in the programme.

A two-day international workshop on sustainable land use and management to enhance food production in Ghana and Africa opened in Accra yesterday.

Under the theme “Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN),” the programme is meant to come out with solutions to combat desertification and land degradation to boost food production.

It is being attended by more than 30 experts from across the world including Ghana, Senegal, USA, United Kingdom and the Netherlands and formed part of activities to mark the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Week 2022, which will open on Monday and close on Friday.

It is on the theme “Global Action for Local Impact,” which is aimed at coming out with tools to monitor and control desertification and land degradation.

The programme being organised by University of Ghana and University of Energy and National Resources (UNER) in collaboration with the GEO and the Government of Ghana, is being sponsored by the GIZ.

Opening the programme, the Dean of International Relations Office of the UNER, Professor Amos Kabo-Bah, said desertification and land degradation were becoming a problem to Ghana and the global community.

He said productivity of lands in Ghana was declining to due to degradation of the land through illegal mining and urbanisation and haphazard construction of houses.

Prof. Kabo-Bah, who is also the Co-Chair of the GEO LDN Initiative, indicated that one in five hectares of land in the world was degraded and the situation in Ghana was worse.

“Once our population is bound to increase over time, it means that the cost of land and even the productive of the land will become a challenge,” the Dean of International Relations of UNER, stressed.

The Co-Chair of GEO LDN Initiative said the training was to build the capacity of the participants who are policy makers, academics and civil society actors on the LDN and expose them to strategies and measures to enhance food production.

“The training also feeds into a programme UNER will be organising beginning running from January 2023 where experts from Africa will come to the UNER to learn about sustainable land use and management,” he said.

Prof. Kabo-Bah said topics to be treated include tools to access degradation and desertification, strategies of restoring degraded lands and prevent desertification, and policies to combat land degradation and desertification.

The Lead Scientist of the United Nations Conservation to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Dr Barron J. Orr, said the governments across the world on 2017 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted the LDN to control land degradation and desertification.

He said the LDN emphasised the need to halt land degradation and restored the degraded lands and also adopt holistic measures to promote the eco system and biodiversity through sustainable land use and management and good agronomic practices.

Dr Orr said land degradation was spreading desertification, declining productivity of land and creating cracked and barer soil surfaces.

The Lead Scientist for the UNCCD emphasised the need for organic farming to preserve the land and environment to promote food production.

He advised farmers to use fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides in their right quantities and proportions so as to preserve the environment.


MY VIEW ON THE PROBLEM (Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM – Ghent University, Belgium)

A simple way to enhance food production

Let the people build wall gardens close to their kitchen


The easiest way to set up a garden against a facade or a wall is to build 2-3 towers of plastic storage boxes next to each other. We stack 3-4 rows of boxes to the easy to reach height.

In 3 side walls of such a box we drill holes with a diameter of 3-4 cm. The distance between those holes is to be determined by the size (size) of the plants that will grow in them. We can place young plantlets or cuttings (vegetables, herbs, flowering plants, etc.) through the holes, so that their roots can continue to grow in the soil inside the boxes. The fourth side wall will not get any holes because it will stand against the facade or wall.

First we put a layer of potting soil (or garden soil) on the bottom of a box up to the height of the lowest hole (or the lowest holes if they are drilled at the same height). We spray water over that soil to moisten it well, even make it quite wet. Now we plant young plantlets or cuttings in the lowest hole (or holes if there are several). The upper parts of the plantlets (stems and leaves) protrude through the holes, their root system lies inside on the first soil layer. We lay a second layer of soil over the first root systems up to the height of the higher, middle holes. We spray this second layer of soil abundantly here as well to lower the soil level a bit.

In this way we can add new young plantlets or cuttings to that higher layer (stems and leaves outwards, roots inwards). Over that second set, middle root systems, a new layer of soil comes up to the height of the top holes.

Finally, we now continue to fill the box with soil, until the container is completely filled. We also water the box abundantly to make the entire content very moist and to allow the soil to settle as well as possible. If necessary, we will eventually add an extra layer of soil to fill the box completely to the brim.- (See photos 2, 3 and 4). – We do this because the second row of boxes will be placed on the floor of the bottom row.

The boxes of the second row are placed on top of the soil of the bottom row. We drill a few holes in the bottom of these tanks, so that a larger amount of water that could accumulate there (e. g. during prolonged rain) can still pass through to the bottom row of boxes. Those of the second row are filled and planted in the same way as the bottom row. This row is also watered abundantly to get the soil as moist as possible.- (See photos 5, 6 and 7) –

As soon as the second row of boxes is placed against the facade or wall, we start filling the boxes for the third row. This is of course done in the same way as with the previous row (with drainage holes in the bottom)-(See photo no. eight) –

In the end we will place three rows of boxes against the facade in this way (2 towers, each 3 boxes high) – (See photos 9 to 13) –

The facade or wall garden is now complete. In this example, it is planted with various flowering plants or cuttings thereof (ornamental plants). Of course you can also turn it into a vegetable or herb garden.

Finally, we place another box without any holes in the side walls on top. It is the water tank (water reservoir); which we can occasionally fill with spray water. In the 2 side walls, which each reach out above a tower, we drill 1 small hole of, for example, 2 mm. Once filled, the water runs slowly (like a “piss”) through those 2 holes in the bottom of the top row of boxes. – (See photo 14) –


(1) A larger number of plants per unit area, e.g. 60 or more per half square meter (see our example below). This number could also be increased to the maximum (depending on the plant species) without additional costs.

(2) Lower costs than for production with traditional horticultural methods.

(3) Quantity of water used = only 30% of normal watering.

(4) If this technique were to be applied in classical rural farming (agriculture), then, on the same area, e. g. 1 hectare, up to 10 times more could be harvested with significantly less watering.


Are you convinced that it would be a good idea to apply container gardening and vertical gardening (also in agriculture!) on a large scale?

It would certainly help to eradicate child malnutrition and famine.

Would this be heard everywhere? Also where decisions are made and billions are needed for plasters on hunger wounds?



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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