Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana and formerly the Gold Coast, lies within latitude 4o 44 N and 11o11 N and 3o 11 W and 1o11 E. The Republic of Togo borders Ghana on the east, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) on the north-west and north and Côte dIvoiré on the west. The Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean lies south of the country, forming a coastline 550 km long. The Volta River basin, including the artificially created Lake Volta, dominates the countrys drainage system (Figure 1).
Ghana has a population of 18.4 million with a growth rate of 2.5 percent per annum and a mean population density of 77 persons/km2. The population distribution is varied across the 10 administrative regions and eco-zones of the country with 68 percent and 32 percent living in the rural and urban areas respectively. About 52 percent of the labour force are engaged in agriculture, 29 percent in services and 19 percent in industry. Approximately, 39 percent of farm labour force are women. Agriculture contributes 54 percent of Ghanas GDP and accounts for over 40 percent of export earnings while at the same time providing over 90 percent of the food needs of the country. Ghanas agriculture is predominantly smallholder, traditional and rain-fed (SRID, 2001).
Figure 1: Map of Ghana
Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
About 136,000 km2 of land, covering approximately 57 percent of the countrys total land area of 238,539 km2 is classified as "agricultural land area" out of which 58,000 km2 (24.4 percent) is under cultivation and 11,000 hectares under irrigation. About 60 percent of all farms in the country are less than 1.2 hectares, 25 percent are between 1.2 to 2.0 hectares with a mere 15 percent above 2.0 hectares, and the mean farm size is less than 1.6 hectares. Small and medium size farms of up to 10.0 hectares account for 95 percent of the cultivated land (SRID, 2001).
Ghanas farming systems vary with agro-ecological zones. However, certain general features are discernible throughout the country. The bush fallow system prevails wherever there is ample land to permit a plot to be rested enough to recoup its fertility after one to three years cultivation. Staple crops are often mixed-cropped while cash crops are usually monocropped. In the forest zone, tree crops are significant with cocoa, oil palm, coffee and rubber being of particular importance. The food crops in this area are mainly inter-cropped mixtures of maize, plantain, cocoyam and cassava. The middle belt is characterized by mixed or sole cropping of maize, legumes, cocoyam or yam, with tobacco and cotton being the predominant cash crops. Cotton and tobacco are also important in the northern sector, where the food crops are mainly sorghum, maize, millet, cowpeas, groundnuts and yam. Rice is important in all the zones. Although the majority of rural households keep some sort of livestock, livestock farming is adjunct to crop farming. Poultry predominates in the south, while cattle production is concentrated in the Savannah zones. Sheep and goat production is generally widespread throughout the country (MoFA, 1998).
Livestock production is a major feature in Ghanas agriculture and contributes largely towards meeting food needs, providing draught power, manure to maintain soil fertility and structure and cash income, particularly for farmers in the northern part of the country. The livestock sector contributes in direct products about 7 percent of agricultural GDP (SRID, 2001), excluding manure and draught power that is provided to the crop sector. Ruminant livestock play a major role in the socio-cultural life of the farming communities as a partial determinant of wealth, payment of dowry, and act as a bank and insurance in times of difficulty. Sheep and goats are often slaughtered for various occasions and functions such as births, funeral and marriages (MoFA, 1990).
Domestic livestock meat production is low and amounted to 66,283 metric tons in the year 2000 (Table 1) of which beef contributed about 27 percent, mutton about 18 percent, goat meat and pig meat about 17 percent each, and poultry meat about 21 percent (SRID, 2001). Domestic milk production is estimated at 13,700 metric tons for the same period. Both the meat and milk production represent about 30 percent of the national animal protein requirements. The country depends on imports of livestock, meat and milk to meet the animal protein shortfall. It is, however, difficult to estimate the amount of livestock and meat imported, as most of the live imports from the northern neighbours, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, are not recorded. The quantity of livestock product imports (through the main port at Tema) in 1998 was 22,727 metric tons; made up of 10,143.5 metric tons poultry, 1,724.0 metric tons beef, 757 metric tons pork, 9,941.1 metric tons dairy and 362.7 other products (LPIU, 1999).
Table 1. Domestic meat production (ton) and off-take rates ( percent)
Source: SRID, 2001
The livestock marketing system operates fairly well, following well-defined rules and practices, and involves itinerant traders, middlemen and butchers. The general flow of cattle, sheep and goats is from the three major livestock producing regions of Upper West, Upper East and Northern as well as the Volta Region to the urban centres in the southern sector of the country. The itinerant traders canvass the hinterland purchasing animals from livestock producers. They move the animals to the secondary markets where they sell them to individual consumers, local butchers and big traders, who bulk their purchases and ship truckloads of livestock to the terminal markets. Prices of ruminant livestock, especially sheep increase during festive seasons of Christmas, Easter and Ramadan.
Legally, all land in Ghana is vested in the state. However, land is predominantly regulated by customary rather than statutory laws. The state has the power to appropriate land anywhere in the country for development purposes, however, compensation has to be paid to the traditional owners. Channels of access to land in Ghana include the family, spouses, sharecropping, lease, outright purchase, deed of gift and mortgages or pledges. Communal ownership is the major feature of land tenure in most parts of Ghana with family heads, chiefs (traditional rulers) and tindanas as the custodians of land on behalf of the people. Although some individual ownership does occur, this comprises a small fraction of the countrys landmass (Fianu et al. 2001). After crop harvest all members of the community have the right to graze their stock on any farmland, and grazing land (natural pasture) is generally communally owned.
Most of the soils of Ghana are developed on thoroughly weathered parent materials, with alluvial soils (Fluvisols) and eroded shallow soils (Leptosols) common to all the ecological zones. Generally, most of the soils are plagued with inherent or human induced infertility (MoFA, 1998).
The soils in the Forest zone are grouped under Forest Oxysols and Forest Acid Gleysols. They are porous, well drained and generally loamy and are distinguished from those of the
Savannah zones by the greater accumulation of organic matter in the surface resulting from higher accumulation of biomass. They occur in areas underlain by various igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, which have influenced the nature and properties of the soil (MoFA, 1998). Soils of the Savannah zones, especially in the Interior Savannah, are low in organic matter (less than 2% in the topsoil), have high levels of iron concretions and are susceptible to severe erosion. Thus well-drained upland areas tend to be droughty and when exposed to severe incident sun scorch, tend to develop cement-like plinthite. These conditions make it imperative that manure be incorporated regularly into the soils in the Savannah zones (MoFA, 1998).
The topography of the country (see figure 2) is mainly undulating with most slopes less than 5% and many not exceeding 1%. The topography of the high rainforest is, however, mainly strongly rolling. The uplifted edges of the Voltarian Basin give rise to narrow plateaux between 300 to 600 m high. Despite the general undulating nature of the terrain, about 70% suffer from moderate to severe soil erosion (Boateng, 1998). A high degree of gully erosion is common in the Savannah zones along the north and south, and to some extent along the west.
Figure 2: Relief Map of Ghana
Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
Climate Ghanas climate is influenced by the hot, dry and dusty-laden air mass that moves from the north east across the Sahara and by the tropical maritime air mass that moves from the south-west across the southern Atlantic ocean. The climate ranges from the bimodal rainfall equatorial type in the south to the tropical unimodal monsoon type in the north. The mean monthly temperature over most of the country never falls below 25o C, a consequence of the low latitude position of Ghana and the absence of high altitude areas. Mean annual temperature averages 27o C. Absolute maxima approach 40o C, especially in the north, with absolute minima descending to about 15o C. In the coastal areas, where the modifying influence of the sea breeze is felt the annual range of temperature is between 5 and 6o C. In the interior on the other hand, the range is higher, about 7o to 9o C (Dickson and Benneh, 1988; Benneh et al. 1990).
The rainfall generally decreases from the south to the north. The wettest area is the extreme southwest where the rainfall is over 2,000 mm per annum. In the extreme north, the annual rainfall is less than 1,100 mm. The driest area is in the south-eastern coastal tip where the rainfall is about 750 mm. Much of the rain falls in intense storms of short duration, especially at the beginning of the season resulting in heavy runoff and erosion. The annual mean relative humidity is about 80 percent in the south and 44 percent in the north (Dickson and Benneh, 1988; Benneh et al. 1990).
Agro-ecological zones Ghana is divided into six major agro-ecological zones: these are Rain Forest, Deciduous Forest, Forest-Savannah Transition, Coastal Savannah and Northern (Interior) Savannah which comprises Guinea and Sudan Savannahs (Table 2). The bimodal rainfall pattern in the Forest, Deciduous Forest, Transitional and Coastal Savannah zones gives rise to major and minor growing seasons. In the Northern Savannah the unimodal distribution results in a single growing season. The rainfall determines largely the type of agricultural enterprise carried out in each zone.
Table 2: Agro-ecological zones
Source: SRID, 2001.
Livestock resources The ruminant industry is composed largely of small-scale enterprises involved in the rearing of cattle, sheep, and goats. The ruminant livestock population stood at 1.3 million cattle, 2.7 million sheep and 3.1 million goats in the year 2000 (Table 3). In addition, there were 2,700 horses and 13,100 donkeys.
Cattle. The most prominent cattle breed in the country is the West African Shorthorn (WASH). The name of the breed is coined as a general descriptive term to cover all the variations of small non-humped cattle, generally black and white in colour but sometimes fawn and white. It is an indigenous tough breed of cattle, thick set with short fine-boned limbs. Zebu influence in the WASH becomes much more marked towards the northern frontier and especially towards the north-east where the tsetse challenge is much less (Hutchinson, 1962). The breed accounts for about half the cattle in the country and has developed a degree of tolerance to tsetse-borne trypanosomiasis. The Sanga, a natural cross between the WASH and the large humped Zebu cattle, follows the WASH in abundance. The Zebu cattle, which are susceptible to trypanosomiasis, are found mainly in tsetse fly free areas. There are no pure exotic dairy cattle in the country at the moment. Most of the crossbred dairy cattle available now, about 500, were produced through artificial insemination with imported semen.
Table 3: Livestock population (,000)
* Non-ruminants Source: Veterinary Services Directorate, 2001
Sheep. The major sheep breed, the indigenous West African Dwarf or Djallonké breed is distributed nation-wide. The breed is acknowledged for its hardiness, trypanotolerance, prolificacy and suitability for year-round breeding. Although it is a small animal, with an adult weight of 25-30 kg in males and 20-25 kg in females, the Djallonké does not exhibit traits associated with dwarfism. The larger and long-legged Sahelian sheep, and crosses between the Djallonké and the Sahelian sheep, are found mostly in the north of the country and peri-urban areas.
Goats. Most goats in Ghana are of the indigenous West African Dwarf (WAD) breed, an achondro-plastic dwarf. The adult male weighs 20-25 kg and the female 18-22 kg. The breed is very prolific, precocious and trypanotolerant and are found throughout the country. There are considerable numbers of the much larger and long-legged and exotic Sahelian as well as crosses between the WAD and the Sahelian goats in the north of the country and in the peri-urban areas.
Non-ruminant herbivores.Most horses in the country are used as symbols of authority and wealth by chiefs in the northern sector of the country and for racing and polo games. Donkeys are used mainly for carting goods. Ghana has an array of herbivorous wildlife that ranges in size from the massive elephant to rodents, which live on forages and food crops. They are present in all the agro-ecological zones, vegetation types and farming systems. Wildlife is a source of considerable value to the nutrition and economy of many rural households as a source of animal protein and income respectively. The species of wildlife commonly exploited for food in the country is the West African grass (sugar cane) cutter, Thrynomys swinderianus (ADB, 2001). Attempts are being made by researchers and farmers to domesticate and breed the grass cutter and render it more available to reduce the rate of harvest from the wild.
Ruminant Livestock production systems. Ghana has no major pastoral or transhumant population relying on extensive cattle and small stock production. The main production system is based mainly on extensive grazing or free range among smallholder farmers with only a few commercial farmers operating mainly in the Coastal Savannah zone.
Smallholder agro-pastoralism.The smallholder agro-pastoralism, the main cattle production system in Ghana, is geared towards beef production. It is linked with milk production system whereby milk is shared between the herdsman and the calf, with the surplus going to the market (Okanta, 1992). In this system, settled farmers whose main occupation is crop cultivation own livestock. Ownership may be direct, personal and individual, or in the form of trusteeship for family group property held in trust. Where a large herd is found the owning family group may be several, varying widely in size and in relationship. It frequently occurs that the apparent owner is not the sole owner and he is unable either to authorize or approve extensive interventions without consultation with the co-owners.
The practice of herding under smallholder agro-pastoralism has not changed over decades. It has been described by Hutchinson (1962) as a function of the type of settlement and distribution of the community, influenced by other factors such as proximity to the frontier, security of danger from predators and cattle thieves and by the availability of and quantity of grazing areas. In the compound farming areas, the cattle-owning people live in scattered compounds each surrounded by a farm. Soon after dawn each herd is released from the compound and driven through the compound farm by the owning familys children. Herding is, however, by adult members of the family where there are standing crops. The young children then take charge and herd them to a rendezvous where a number of herds are combined under the leadership of an older boy for grazing. Towards the end of the afternoon they gradually make their way back towards their homes.
After harvesting annual crops, it is the practice of some communities in the north-west and the north-east of the country to drive their herds from the compounds into the unfarmed areas without any form of herding, where they remain wholly untended until the next farming season. This is an annual event and generally cattle from a group of compounds tend to keep together and go to the same grazing grounds year after year. They follow the same annual itinerary from one grazing place and watering point to another until with the approach of the next farming season make their way on their own accord to the vicinity of the settlements from which they came. Diseases, accidents and theft tend to diminish the stock population during this period of free range. Elsewhere in the country, human settlements are nucleated and herding methods are consequently different. Cultivated land is located at a little distance from the settlement and grazing land is much further away. In these circumstances herding is usually by hired Fulani herdsmen.
Integrating livestock with tree crop plantations.There is a long history of integrating livestock into farming systems in Ghana, the major one being rearing of cattle and sheep under tree crop plantations. This is mainly found on oil palm, citrus and coconut plantations. Introduced forage species of Centrosema pubescens and Pueraria phaseloides constitute the main diet of these animals in the plantations. However, a wide range of volunteer forbs and grasses, such as Aspilia africana, Asystasia gangetica, Euphorbia hirta, Panicum maxium, P. laxum and Phyllanthus muellerianus, contribute significantly to the forage biomass. Green herbage yield of cover crops under citrus plantation averaged 20.8 metric tons/ha. However, the herbage biomass could be significantly reduced in old plantations due to dense overhead canopy (Fianu et al, 1994). Farmers who have adopted the technology of integrating livestock with tree crops show higher standards of stock husbandry than the agro-pastoralists.
Backyard small ruminant rearing.Backyard small ruminant rearing is popular in peri-urban areas. In this system, simple pens are usually provided for sheep and goats within or attached to the owners house. The pens are constructed from locally available materials such as timber offcuts, bamboo, tree branches and mud, and roofed with leaves, split bamboo or metal sheets. Children often undertake daily management, such as provision of water, feed and bedding as well as cleaning of pens. The system is based on cut and carry of forages, and the use of household wastes, mainly cassava and plantain peels, crop residues and crop by-products. Breeding is normally not controlled and the animals are therefore open to conception as soon as puberty is attained. Although most farmers have access to veterinary services, curative "self-medication" is commonly practised at times using various herbal concoctions. The backyard system supplies fattened rams and bucks for the expanding urban market, particularly during religious festivities.
Commercial.Commercial cattle farming, with absentee ownership by professionals and businessmen, are almost entirely limited to the Coastal Savannah zone with varying levels of management. There are also a few farms belonging to para-statal institutions with herds ranging from 1,000 to 3,000. In this system, cattle graze on sown pastures as well as natural pastures, which are often improved with forage legumes. The system represents a comparatively safe, automatically incremental and readily realizable investment. There are no large-scale commercial sheep and goat farms in the country.
Feeding systems.Sustenance for cattle, and to lesser extent small ruminants, is almost entirely dependent on grazing on natural pastures, with its extreme seasonal variation in quantity and quality. Most farmers practice supplementary feeding, using crop residues, in the dry season. Those who fatten cattle and back-yard sheep and goat farmers in the cities and towns practise stall-feeding. The animals are fed on both crop residues in the form of groundnut tops, maize cobs, by-products from grain winnowing, cowpea pods, and peels of plantain and cassava. These are often supplemented with cut grass and browse as well as leaves from fodder plants. In some communities practising compound farming, sheep and goats are only let loose after the crops are harvested. Otherwise they are tethered and graze in a limited area. The animals are moved to different areas daily to ensure that they have access to adequate forage.
Limitations.The growth of the domestic ruminant livestock industry has been impeded by several constraints such as lack of improved breeding stock, disease, poor nutrition, inadequate stock water, poor marketing, lack of capital, high interest rate on loans and lack of a grassland policy. Notwithstanding this, recent developments show that the country has the potential to increase the off-take of livestock and produce good quality meat and milk to satisfy a greater part of the nations animal protein requirements.
Diseases.In the area of animal disease and disease control the dominant factor is the continental character of the country. Except for the comparatively short coastline in the south, the country has a long land frontier, marked by few natural features that would serve as effective barriers to the passage of infection. Vectors of disease of all kinds may therefore pass unhindered into and out of the country. Main diseases of concern in cattle are contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Brucellosis, anthrax, tuberculosis, rabies, foot and mouth disease, trypanosomiasis, dermatophilosis, heartwater and babesiosis. Helminth infestation is a problem with all ruminant livestock countrywide, and is often associated with low standards of animal management. It is a prime cause of ill health and unthriftness in all classes of livestock with high mortality in the young and low productivity in the adult. In small ruminants, Peste de Petite Ruminants occurs as an epidemic with usually high morbidity and mortality rates, while ectoparasitism caused by ticks and mange is a major cause of poor productivity.
Stock water. Provision of water for livestock is not a problem in the rainy season. However, considerable difficulties are encountered in the dry season in the Savannah zones as supplies dwindle. The livestock owners trek cattle over long distances, causing hardships to both herders and livestock. Some cattle get dehydrated which often leads to loss of condition and mortality.
Access to improved breeding stock and artificial insemination. Lack of improved breeding and growing stock is a major constraint to increasing livestock production and productivity. The indigenous livestock breeds are small, and the cattle have limited genetic potential for milk production and remain mediocre producers even when the best possible conditions are provided. Improved sires are scarce and are available to only a few farmers. There is an on-going programme for artificial insemination in the production of dual-purpose cattle for the peri-urban dairy scheme in place of the dermatophilosis prone exotic dairy cattle. However, inadequate logistics and indefinite oestrous behaviour in the Sanga cow have limited the impact of artificial insemination in enhancing milk production.
Use of animals in herding. Cattle have to be trekked over long distances in the dry season in search of feed and water in most places in the Savannah zones causing considerable stress to herders and stock. Children, on a limited scale, ride on oxen and donkeys in herding cattle. Horses and dogs are not used.
Socio-economic limitations. High illiteracy among farmers, low adoption of appropriate technology, unwillingness to sell animals as well as communal ownership of grazing lands are among the impediments to the improvement of the ruminant livestock industry. Furthermore, agriculture extension is biased towards crop production with very little emphasis on livestock production and health. Although there is a national livestock breeding policy whose remit is to ensure the genetic development of the indigenous livestock breeds and limit indiscriminate importation of animals for breeding purposes it has not been effectively implemented.
Vegetation. The vegetation of Ghana (Figure 3) forms part of the complex of types, which lie, without regard for political boundaries, between the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea. The main vegetation formations as described by Benneh et al. (1990) are the Coastal Strand and Mangrove, the Coastal Savannah, the Closed Forest, the Derived Savannah and the Interior Savannah.
The Coastal Strand and Mangrove. Coastal Strand and Mangrove vegetation occurs along the coastline, around lagoons and estuaries of the larger rivers. Its total area is small and therefore relatively unimportant. Mangrove trees grow to a height of 12-15 metres and are closely packed and green throughout the year. Ecologically however, it provides a definite habitat. The zone is of relatively little agricultural importance and does not support livestock. The plants that occur include Ipomoea pes-caprae and Avicenna sp.
The Closed Forest. The Closed Forest, covering an area of about 135,670 km2, is floristically divided into rain forest and semi-deciduous forest. High temperatures coupled with heavy rainfall of 1,500-2,200 mm, which is well distributed throughout the year in the zone, promotes very rapid plant growth. The zone has an even tree canopy at 30-40 metres while emergents may attain 60 metres. Canopy trees may be deciduous in the dry season but the understorey shrubs and trees are evergreen. A herbaceous layer which may include a few specialized grasses occurs over a variable portion of the forest floor. Compared to that of the Savannah zones, pasture resources in this zone are not very significant. Furthermore, ruminant livestock production is of minor importance as the area is not only dominated by food and tree crop farming but also associated, in some places, with heavy infestation of tsetse flies, the transmitter of trypanosomiasis.
The Savannah Zones. The Savannah zones may be conveniently divided into the Interior or Northern Savannah and the Coastal or Southern Savannah which is also known as the Coastal Scrub and Grassland. The three northern political regions, Northern, Upper West and Upper East, carry two-thirds of the nations grasslands, while the Coastal Grasslands make up one-third of the Savannahs. Between the Interior and Coastal Savannah is the Derived Savannah Zone or Ecotone of Forest-Savannah Transition fringing the Forest Zone between latitudes 7 o and 8 o N.
The Coastal Savannah. The Coastal Savannah occupies about 20,000 km2, and comprises the Ho-Keta Plains, the Accra Plains and a narrow strip tapering from Winneba to Cape Coast. The main climatic factor is rainfall, which comes in two peaks. March-July is the main season and September-October, the minor rainy season. August is a dry but cloudy break during which bright sunshine may be less than two to four hours per day. Eight hours of sunshine per day occurs during the long dry season, except for the harmattan months of December to February when the haze of sand laden north-easterly winds from the Sahara prevail. The annual total rainfall is about 700 to 800 mm in the Accra Plains, and slightly higher in the western half of the zone.
In the past four decades, human activity, notably cultivation, firewood extraction and bush burning, has changed the tree cover of the Accra Plains from the forest relicts of Ceiba, Bombax, Antiaris and occasional Triplochiton and the introduced Azadirachta. There may also be a sprinkling of pockets of short trees and shrubs like Albizia, Baphia, Milettia, Clausena, Lonchocarpus, Carissa, Dicrostachys and Xanthoxylon. The grass cover is still dominated by Vetiveria fulvibarbis, but a high frequency of Sporobolus and Imperata or Rhynchelytrum along with Ctenium newtonii on lighter soils reveals the effects of overgrazing and cultivation, respectively. Gravelly soils carry Ctenium newtonii, Brachiaria falcifera, Schizachyrium schweinfurthii, and Andropogon canaliculatus dominate grazing land in excellent condition. The more humid areas which line the north-western boundary of the Accra Plains, feature Panicum maximum, Hyperthelia dissoluta and an occasional Andropogon gayanus var. bisquamulatus as indicators of excellent grazing (Fianu et al. 2001).
Figure 3: Vegetation Types of Ghana
Dickson and Benneh (1988)
The Winneba-Cape Coast Plains are more wooded than the Accra Plains because the population pressure is much less so cultivation and tree cutting are less intense. Besides, the frequent estuaries of streams entering the sea support fringes of forest relicts. Nonetheless, areas of open Panicum-Hyperthelia grassland are quite evident over patches of exhausted soils of abandoned farm sites. In the vicinity of Winneba, Vetiveria fulvibarbis is dominant over the heavy clays with Sporobolus indicating overgrazed areas (Fianu et al. 2001). The carrying capacity of the plains is about 2.5 ha per adult ox (Hutchinson, 1962).
The Interior Savannah. Rainfall in the Interior Savannah zone comes in one peak, which starts in April - May and builds up slowly to a height in August-September and declines sharply in October-November. The total precipitation is about 1,100 mm per annum, with a range from about 800 mm to about 1,500 mm. Average ambient temperatures are high year round (about 28°C) but the harmattan months of December and January are characterised by minimum temperatures that may fall to 13°C at night, while March and April may experience 40°C in the early afternoon.
The zone has an extension through the Akosombo gorge and into the Ho plains in the south-west, and covers an area of about 129,000 km2. It is typically Guinea Savannah, i.e. a tree Savannah or a continuous grass cover interspersed with generally fire resistant, deciduous, broad-leaf trees. In the most luxuriant form the trees show varying completeness of canopy. A narrow strip of degraded grassland vegetation fringing the countrys northern border corner, about 7,200 km2, is sometimes classified as Sudan Savannah on account of its shorter grasses and shrubs. However, in view of the rather high population pressure in the area, this small patch is more likely the result of degradation by man rather than a climatic biome. The grasses associated with the Interior Savannah are not uniform but differ according to soil type and moisture regime. The grassy background of the zone is invariably dominated by Andropogon gayanus with Hyparrhenia and Schizachyrium as co-dominants in some areas. The tree cover includes Butyrospermum, Khaya, Ceiba, Pterocarpus, Parkia, Anogeissus, Diospyros and Adansonia (Fianu et al. 2001). The zone has a wide range carrying capacity of about 4 to 12 hectares per adult ox (Hutchinson, 1962) depending on herbage availability.
The Transition Zone. This is an expanding zone along forest fringes where grassland is gradually replacing forest. Rainfall is in one peak in some years and two peaks in other years, although the double maximum is more common. This variation in the distribution of rainfall shows the transition nature of the zone: between the Guinea Savannah to the north and the Forest to the south.
The vegetation is a degraded forest with a wide range of tall grasses. Among the surviving forest relicts are Antiaris, Phyllanthus and Elaeis. While Borassus, Lophira, Daniellia, Lonchocarpus, Pterocarpus, Burkea and Parkia represent the Savannah intrusions. Similarly, among the grasses, the humid zone representatives include Pennisetum purpureum and Panicum maximum, while the subhumid zone species include Andropogon gayanus, A. tectorum, Hyperthelia and Hyparrhenia spp. (Fianu et al. 2001).
Natural pastures. About 360,00 km2 or 15 percent of the total land area in Ghana is used as permanent natural pastures. If the unreserved Savannah woodland area of 71,000 km2 (i.e., 30 percent of the total land area) is added then the potentially available land area for production of pasture is 107,000 km2 or 45 percent of the total land area. The bush fallow areas and land for other uses constitute 6000 km2 or 2.5 percent of the total land area (SRID 2001). However, this area may be excluded from the potential pasture producing area as it includes settlements.
The growth pattern of the forages follows the rainfall pattern within the different agro-ecological zones. In the Coastal Savannah area, there is a growing season of seven months and a "non-growing" period of five months while in the Northern Savannah area, the growing season lasts for five months and the "non-growing" period for seven months. The annual total dry matter yields have not changed much over the years and are 1,965 and 2, 170 kg/ha in the Coastal and Guinea Savannah zones respectively. In both zones, about 80 percent of the yields are achieved within the growing season. The ligneous species within the natural pastures are estimated to give forage dry matter (DM) yield of 700 to 1,000 kg/ha/year. The nutritive value of the natural pasture herbage varies over the year according to the season. Protein content is high (8-12 percent DM) at the beginning of the rains but may drop to as low as 2 to 4 percent DM in the dry season. Phosphorus levels also vary ranging between 0.16 and 0.06 percent DM. Forages from shrubs and fodder trees are very high in protein (12 percent) and also in minerals and vitamins. The total forage production in the country is estimated at 10,600,000 tons of which some 70 percent emanate from grassland herbage. The annual Total Digestible Nutrients, Digestible Protein and Digestible Nitrogen production levels are 5.93, 0.84 and 0.13 million tons respectively (Agrovets Consultancy, 1989).
Sown pastures. Numerous indigenous and exotic species of grasses and legumes have undergone trials at the agricultural research stations and the promising ones established as pastures on state owned and a few commercial and small holder farms. About 2,750 ha of forages have been established as pure grass and legume stands or as mixed pastures, while a further 110 ha of intensive fodder plots comprising mainly forage trees, and averaging 0.1 ha per plot, have been set up close to dwellings for zero grazing. Ghana has about 8,500 ha of sown pastures including rangelands oversown with Stylosanthes hamata and Andropogon gayanus as well as forages introduced into plantation crops. Although the rate of establishing pastures in the country has generally been low, the role of sown pastures in supplementing grazing from natural pastures, and in particular during the dry season, is well acknowledged by both commercial and smallholder farmers. The major constraint to expanding smallholder pasture development has been encroachment by alien herds and wildlife as the pastures are not fenced. Recent increasing demand for forage seeds among both existing and emerging commercial farmers and for rehabilitation of lands that have been subjected to surface mining has been very encouraging. In view of the limited availability of locally produced forage seeds some commercial farmers and mining companies have resorted to importing seeds for their own use.
The grass species cultivated include Panicum maximum, Cynodon nlemfuensis, Chloris gayana, Andropogon gayanus, Bracharia ruziziensis, Tripsacum luxum, Setaria sphacelata and Cenchrus ciliaris. The legume species widely used are Centrosema pubescens, Macroptilium atropurpureum, Pueraria phaseoloides, Stylosanthes spp., Flamingia congesta and Lablab purpureus. A number of forage trees, prominent among which are Leuceana leucocephela, Sesbania grandiflora, and Gliricidia sepium, as well as a few indigenous palatable browse species such as Pterocarpus evinacelus, Afzelia sp. and Ficus sp. have also been cultivated for fodder. The browse plants are mainly found as shade trees on paddocks, in intensive fodder plots and as fencing posts.
Cajanus cajan has of late become very important as a dual purpose crop in the Savannah zones as forage and seed for livestock and human consumption respectively. Grazing trials in the Guinea and Sudan Savannahs indicate that sown pastures of Andropogon gayanus survive only when grazed heavily and given adequate periods of rest thereafter. Constant light grazing causes the pasture to revert to Heteropogon contortus and Aristida sp., both of which are almost useless from the grazing point of view.
Improved natural pastures. Stylosanthes hamata Cv. Verano has been identified as one of the most appropriate legumes for natural pasture improvement in Ghana. It is estimated that about 5,000 ha of natural pastures have been oversown with the legume in almost 300 communities in the Savannah zones since 1994. The legume has, however, spread over a larger area as a result of dispersal of the seed by wind, rain and through droppings of grazing ruminants. Alternative methods of introducing Stylosanthes hamata into the farming systems, including undersowing annual crops, have been used to a lesser extent. Undersowing crops with Stylosanthes hamata benefits the crop through nitrogen fixation that reduces the need for inorganic fertiliser. After the crop has been harvested the residue including legume forage is either grazed in situ or collected and fed to stock or conserved for later use. Sufficient seeds usually remain in the field at the end of the dry season for the legume to re-establish itself in subsequent years. Andropogon gayanus has also been used to improve natural pastures in the Sudan Savannah zone
Crop residue. After harvest, crop residues normally complement standing hay and in some cases take the place of natural grasses in the range in providing the bulk of ruminant feed. Many possibilities for using crop residues are ignored by farmers and not many attempt to recover from the field, store and improve the quality of these valuable resources. In spite of this, crop residues, such as groundnut and cowpea haulms, bean vines, maize, sorghum and millet stover, constitute the bulk of ruminant feed during the dry season. It is estimated that about 8,000,000 metric tons of cereal stalks and 3,500,000 metric tons of residues from roots and tubers are potentially available as animal feed in each year. However, quantities of these that are actually fed to livestock form a very small fraction of the available crop residues. Large scale systematic feeding of crop residues is hindered by alternative uses such as fuel source (e.g. sorghum and millet stalks), thatching, and by the problem of collection (MoFA, 1998) in view of the bulkiness of the residue and in some cases distance from settlements. Other potential feed resources, which are not made adequate use of, include by-products of the agro-processing industries. Among these are spent brewers grains, wheat bran, rice bran and hulls, cocoa husk and oil seed products.
Forage seed production Mainly national agricultural institutes produce forage seed. These are the Animal Research Institute, the Crops Department at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the Plant Genetic Resources Institute and the Crop Services and Animal Production Directorates of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The forages multiplied are the types well adapted to lowland tropical areas, viz., Centrosema pubescens Macroptilium atropurpureum, Stylosanthes guianensis, Stylosanthes scabra cv. Seca, S. hamata, Macroptilium lathyroides, Cajanus cajan, Leucaena leucocephala, Cenchrus ciliaris cv. Gayndah, Andropogon gayanus, Brachiaria brizantha and Urochloa spp. Forage seed yields from manual harvests are much higher for legumes than grasses. Highest yields of Centrosema pubescens and Cajanus cajan, were 505 and 3,896 kg/hg respectively, while the grasses, Cenchrus ciliaris and Andropogon gayanus yielded 333 and 114 kg/ha respectively at Pokuase in the Coastal savannah zone (Barnes and Alhassan, 1993). Sixty eight small holder farmers trained by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in S. hamata seed production produced a total of 11.2 tons of clean seeds in 1998 from an average of 0.4 ha per farmer (Alhassan et al. 1999).
Limitation of forage resources
Infertile soils. As indicated in Section 2, the soils of the Savannah zones generally have low organic matter that imparts a low fertility status to the soil. In the past, fertility regeneration was achieved through long fallow periods, which as a result of increased human population have been very much reduced or fast disappearing. The extensive grazing system pertaining in the zones results in thinly spread manure over a wide area of the grazing land. Furthermore, night kraaling of livestock does not enhance return of large qualities of manure to the fields. Manure is now in great demand in both the rural and urban areas. In the farming communities manure would rather be used to improve soil fertility for cash crops such as maize rather than to improve pastures. Since chemical fertilizers are not used on natural pastures, the soils tend to lack some essential nutrients and minerals, which affect the condition of pastures (MoFA, 1998).
Poor quality of natural pastures. Most of Ghanas natural pastures are under-utilized, and the grasses are characterized by very rapid growth, with feeding value high only in the early part of the wet season, declining rapidly thereafter and becoming extremely low in the dry season. Even where the supply of dry matter is adequate in the dry season, it is seriously deficient in protein, vitamins and minerals. The resultant inadequacy of feed, in terms of quantity and quality, negatively affects the productive and reproductive performance of grazing livestock.
Weed encroachment and poor pasture management. Overgrazing of natural pastures, bush burning and felling of fodder trees for fuel-wood, have led to the decline in the quality and quantity of the biomass which supports livestock. Grasses of mediocre nutritive quality and acceptability to livestock, such as Heteropogon sp. and Sporobolus sp. have invaded the natural pasture at the expense of the more nutritive and palatable ones. The preferred species are now endangered and could disappear entirely in favour of invaders of poor nutritive quality. Most natural pastures are communally owned for grazing purposes and as such, there is no obligation on stockowners and herders to either ensure proper management or invest in its improvement. Unlike farming land, no permission is needed before grazing and herders graze their animals anywhere there is feed irrespective of the pasture condition. This has resulted in denuding of large patches of the natural pastures.
Lack of access to high quality seed and planting materials. Pasture establishment is not a culture in Ghanaian livestock farming. Consequently the demand for forage seeds and vegetative planting materials is extremely low, and erratic. There are no commercial forage seed producing companies at present. A few multiplication units, on request from livestock farms, produce forage seeds by hand. A big extension effort is needed to educate livestock farmers on the need to introduce improved pastures into farming systems, while ensuring that seed and vegetative planting materials are readily available.
Bush fire. Bush fires often occur as a result of illegal and uncontrolled burning of bush after harvest to remove rank vegetation, or for hunting or just for fun. The incidence of bush fires can be correlated with human presence, as indeed can cattle density, since fires occur most frequently in areas with very high cattle populations. Damage done by fire to the natural pastures is very significant and is a major contributing factor in the decline in the condition of both natural and sown pastures as well as the greatest constraint to the success of oversowing natural pasture with forage legumes. Uncontrolled bush fire destroys standing hay and crop residues lying in the field. Although there have been efforts at educating the farming communities against bush burning, the impact has not been very effective, particularly in the Coastal Savannah zone. This may be due partly to lack of collaboration among the sectors in anti-bush fire campaign and inadequate logistic support to fire fighting volunteers. Whereas a group of anti-bush fire campaigners place emphasis on "early-burning" as a solution to the wanton incidence and the devastating effect of bush fire, others preach "no-burning" concept, which tend to confuse the farmers (Alhassan et al. 1999).
Rehabilitation of natural pastures. Excellent results have been obtained in the denuded and badly eroded land in the establishment of grassland by broadcasting Andropogon gayanus seeds in the Sudan Savannah zone (Rose Innes, 1962). The method has proved itself as an effective instrument in the rehabilitation of eroded land and the grass has persisted for about 40 years after establishment. Rehabilitation of heavily grazed natural pastures by oversowing with Stylosanthes hamata has been very promising in view of the numerous benefits observed by farmers associated with the exercise. The major ones are improvements in productivity and health of livestock, improvement in soil fertility, and increase in feed quality and availability (Alhassan et al., 1999). It is therefore necessary that efforts be made to increase the coverage of the natural pasture improvement.
The evident palatability, bulk, suitability for hay making, viability, ease of establishment and natural adaptability to local conditions makes A. gayanus and S. hamata the ideal forage species for improving natural pasture in the Savannah zones. However, pasture improvement on a large-scale demands equally large quantities of forage seeds which are prohibitive to import in view of the high cost. There is therefore a need to improve and expand the developed local capacity for producing forage seeds among farmers and the agricultural institutes.
Grassland policy. A grassland policy, whose absence has negatively affected the development and management of the nations grassland resources, will have to be introduced. Such a policy should be simple and reflect the peculiarities of the various vegetation zones. It should focus on the Savannah areas with emphasis on indigenous forage species. It should incorporate studies on the introduction of adapted exotic grass and legume species on forest fringes and valley bottoms in the Interior Savannah where large tracts of land previously under rice cultivation are being abandoned due to soil impoverishment and heavy weed invasion (Alhassan and Barnes, 1993).
Integration of forages into farming systems. Other than Andropogon. gayanus, Stylosanthes hamata, Cajanus cajan, Desmodium intortum, Dolichos lablab and the tree species of Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium there has not been any effective and deliberate introduction of forage species into the farming systems. The prospects are good for a simplified approach for introduction of fodder trees and shrubs. There is also a good scope for the incorporation of some more intensive on-farm strategies based on forage legumes. A combination of these strategies would facilitate the development of relatively sustainable and productive cropping and livestock systems. Extension advice is, however, needed to convince farmers that the forage legumes will benefit companion crops and are not in competition for nutrients.
Intensive fodder production. Cattle owners and herders, particularly under the peri-urban system, should be encouraged to establish intensive fodder plots with forages of high nutritive quality near their kraals to supplement range grazing. Suitable forages for intensive production that are amenable to zero grazing include Stylosanthes hamata, Panicum maximum and Cenchrus ciliaris. A one hectare intensive fodder plot, zero grazed, will provide substantial supplementary feed for a 50 cow herd and their calves.
Weed control. Rehabilitating sown pastures is concomitant with weed control since weed encroachment is a major problem. Most pasture weeds are annuals. The few perennial weeds found are coppiced shoots from plants missed during land preparation. Some of the pernicious weeds commonly found in developed pastures are Imperata cylindrica, Sporobolus sp., Icacina sp., Mimosa sp. Chromolaena odorata, Sida acuta, Commelina sp., Hyptis sp. and Azadirachta indica. The manual weed control normally undertaken in pastures is very laborious and time consuming. The use of chemicals of proven efficacy, such as glyphosate and dalapon, both of which are safe, as possible adjuncts to cultural methods for controlling very stubborn weeds in pastures will ensure better establishment and increased productivity of forages.
Forage conservation. In order to prevent losses in animal productivity especially in the dry season, feed conservation in the form of hay and or silage should be undertaken. Natural grassland hay has been successfully made but not much use has come out of this abundant resource as a reserve for dry season feeding. Since the most suitable stage of growth for haymaking coincides with a period of heavy rainfall, high temperature and high humidity, silage making could be a logical alternative. Silage of excellent quality has been made from a variety of fodder crops in the country, notably sorghum, millet and maize. Both hay and silage making are, however, not popular among farmers and need to be encouraged.
Crop residue and agro-industrial by-products. A lot of good feed resources, such as groundnut vines and cereal stalks, are left in the fields after harvest and lost through bush fires. Most farmers know their feeding value and would like to feed to their stock to improve productivity. Under-utilization of crop residues is rather due to their bulky nature that makes carting to the homesteads laborious. The use of inexpensive appropriate wooden baling crates would enhance compactness of the products into sizes that can be conveniently conveyed to the households, even by bicycles. The crude protein content and digestibility of some of the products, such as cereal stalks and maize husk, could also be increased significantly by urea treatment. There is a gradually increasing conservation and use of crop residues and agro-industrial by-products for fattening small ruminants in the peri-urban areas. The success of commercial cattle farms and peri-urban dairy production depends largely on ready availability of large quantities of good quality and inexpensive feed. Procurement, handling and transportation of crop residue and agro-industrial by-products would, however, interfere with the running of the farms. It is therefore necessary that entrepreneurs are encouraged to take up the supply of such products as a separate activity from food crop and livestock farming.
Stock water. On the whole, provision of stock water in the Savannah zones is not a problem in the rainy season, but becomes a major constraint to ruminant production in the dry season. The shortage of water causes livestock owners to trek cattle over long distances, causing hardship to both herders and their animals. Since access to adequate water year-round is a pre-requisite to a successful livestock enterprise, provision of simple water facilities in cattle rearing areas deficient in reliable water bodies will undoubtedly improve the productivity (including milk yield) and health status of cattle in these areas.
The Animal Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Faculties of Agriculture in the universities are the main institutions dealing with pasture and range research. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture undertakes implementation of range improvement programmes and extension services in pasture development. The institutions and key personnel involved in pasture and range research and development are:
Ministry of Food and Agriculture,
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Animal Research Institute,
Institute of Renewable Resources,
Faculty of Agriculture,
Department of Agricultural Education,
Faculty of Agriculture,
African Development Bank. 2001. Ghana: Livestock Development Project. Project Preparation Report. Abidjan.
Agrovets Consultancy. 1989. Livestock Study: Ghana. Preparation of the Medium-term agricultural Development Programme. Accra.
Alhassan, W. S. and Barnes, P. 1993. Problems and prospects for forage improvement and utilization in Ghana. Proc. XVII International Grassland Congress. New Zealand and Australia. pp. 499-500.
Alhassan, W. S., Karbo, N. Aboe, P. A. T. and Oppong-Anane, K. 1999. Ghanas Savanna Rangelands: Agro-ecology, current improvement and usage practices, research needs and sustainable criteria. National Agricultural Research Project. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Accra, Ghana.
Barnes and Alhassan, W. S, P. 1993. Status of forage seed production in Ghana. Proc. XVII International Grassland Congress. New Zealand and Australia. pp. 1758-1759.
Benneh, G., Agyepong, G. T. and Allotey, J. A. 1990. Land degradation in Ghana. Food Production and Rural Development Division. Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House. Pall Mall. London.
Boateng, E. 1998. Proceedings of workshop on land use planning. FAO Land Use Planning Project. TCP/GHA/6715/A.
Dickson, K. B. and Benneh, G. 1988. A new geography of Ghana. Longman Group UK Limited. Longman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex, England.
Fianu, F. K., Addai, P. C. and Adjorlolo. 1994. Sheep rearing under tree crop plantation in Ghanas forest zone: Problems and prospects. In: Lebbie, S H. B. and Kagwini, E. (eds). Small Ruminant Research and Development in Africa. Proceedings of the Third Biennial Conference of the African Small Ruminant Research Network. UICC. Kampala, Uganda. 5-9 December 1994. International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 87-81.
Fianu, F. K., Fialor, S. C., Asante Mensah, S. 2001. Commercialisation channels of distribution of forage seeds in Ghana. Consultancy Report. UK Department for International Development / Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Accra. Ghana.
Hutchinson, R. A. 1962. Stock methods of animal husbandry. . In: J. Brian Wills (ed). Agriculture and land use in Ghana. Oxford University Press, London. pp 425-436.
LPIU (Livestock Planning and Information Unit). 1999. Analysis of meat and animal products imports. Occasional Report No. 8. Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Accra, Ghana.
(MoFA) Ministry of Food and Agriculture 1998. National soil fertility management action plan. Directorate of Crop Services. Accra. Ghana.
(MoFA) Ministry of Food and Agriculture. 1990. Ghana Medium Term Agricultural Development program (MTADP). An agenda for sustained agricultural growth and development (1991-2000) Accra. Ghana.
Okanta, S. A.. 1992. Partial milking of cattle in smallholder herd in the Accra Plains: some factors affecting daily partial milking yield and milk composition. Animal Production. 54: 15-21.
Rose-Innes, R. 1962. Grasslands, pastures and fodder production. In: J. Brian Wills (ed). Agriculture and land use in Ghana. Oxford University Press, London. pp.416-424.
Statistics, Research and Information Directorate (SRID). 2001. Agriculture in Ghana. Facts and figures. Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Accra. Ghana.
Veterinary Services Directorate, 2001. Livestock Census. Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Accra. Ghana.
For information on Stylosanthes
agronomy and utilization
For information on forage utilization
and rehabilitation of natural pastures.
This profile was prepared by Dr. Kwame Oppong-Anane who is a Deputy Director of Animal Production and Head of Forage and Range Unit.
Animal Production Directorate
This profile was written in August 2001 by Dr. Kwame
Oppong-Anane who also will undertake periodic updating.