Land Area: 550 square kilometers
Boundaries: It is bordered to the north by Kwahu West Municipal, to the west by Asante Akyem South and Adansi South Districts to the south by Akyemansa District to the east by Atiwa and Kwaebibirem Districts.
Relief : Undulating and mountainous in nature in some cases rising to over 61 metres above sea level. Rainfall for high areas about: 170cm per annum.
Heights above sea level; To the east of Akoasi up to the north eastern part of the district: about 244 metres above sea level. From Amuana Praso in the north to Tweapiase in the east, New Abirem and Hwiakwae to the south and Ntronang and Praso Kuma to the west: between 243-183 metres above sea level. The southern part of the district comprising the area stretching from the south of New Abirem, through Nkwateng and the surrounding areas can be described as very low lying areas ; maximum height of 61 metres.
Drainage: Drained mainly by the Pra River: serves as the boundary between the district and the two districts in Ashanti Region.Other tributaries: the Nwi, Mamang, Adechensu, Sukrang and Afotosu rivers. All these rivers and streams flow generally from the north east to the south west to join the Pra which flows southwards and enters the sea at Shama in the Western Region.
Implications for development: can be utilized to boost agricultural production through irrigation to generate employment & increase agricultural productivity all year round, reduce poverty, and enhance the standard of living of the people. It could also be harnessed and treated to supply potable water to many of the towns in the district
Rainfall: The district experiences a double maxima rainfall pattern: First rainfall season starts from late March to early July. Second season is from mid August to late October. Amount of rainfall received in the district is between 150 cm and 200 cm reaching its maximum during the two peak periods of May-June and September – October yearly.
Temperatures: Between a minimum of 25.2 degree Celsius and a maximum of 27.9 degree Celsius.
Relative humidity: of about 55-59 per cent during the entire year.
Implications for development: Has the potential of improving and sustaining agricultural activities as it supports the cultivation of food and tree crops such as oil palm and cocoa giving rise to increased farming activities in the district.
The district lies within the Semi-deciduous forest belt of Ghana comprising tall trees with evergreen undergrowth. It contains large species of economic trees valuable for the timber industry.
It is home to nine forest reserves. Has a lot of undergrowth but the rapid expansion of the cocoa and oil palm industries, coupled with the activities of the illegal chain saw operators and frequent bushfires is fast changing the original forest into a secondary type.
Geology and Soil types in the District
The soils of the district can be classified into five broad categories. These are:
- Swedru-Nsaba/Ofin Compound Association;
Atewa-Atukrom-Asikuma-Ansum Compound Association;
Bekwai-Oda Association; and
The Swedru-Nsaba Ofin Compound Association is the predominant soil formation. They are developed over granite. They can be found around Prankese , Nkwateng, Otwereso, Abenase. This compound association consists of two simple associations; Swedru-Nsaba and Nta-Ofin Association, Nta Offin developed from the transported products of the erosionof the former Swedru series occur.
The Swedru Nsaba series which is high in magnesia and potash, is a very good soil for tree and arable crops, and are particularly excellent for cocoa.
Ofin soils are unsuitable for tree crops and mostly used for growing dry season vegetables, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and rice.
The soil in the Atiwa –Atukrom-Asikuma-Ansum compound series found around the Amuana Praso area and is restricted to a smaller part of the district. Consist of dark brown slightly humus , silty, clay and loam top soils overlying reddish brown to red silky clay loam sub soils. These two soil series are infertile because of strong acidity and low base status. They are recommended for coffee, oil palm, other tree crops and forestry.
Juaso-Manso-Adubea Associaiton can be found around Noyem, Prasokuma and Atobiaso.It is dark brown and shallow.Supports the production of oil palm.
Bekwai- Oda Association found around New Abirem, Ntronang . Well drained and are suitable for the production of a wide variety of tree and arable crops such as cocoa, coffee, citrus, oil palm, avocado pear, mangoes, yams, maize, cassava and plantain.
The Oda series occupy also flat, fairly extensive lands adjacent to rivers and streams. They are well suited for mechanized irrigated rice farming.
The Birim-Chichiwere Association found around Edubia. Developed over the River Birim deposits.
It is moderately well drained, deep and easy to work with machines, Occur on almost flat lands where susceptibility to erosion is virtually nil or very slight and is Suitable for a wide range of tree and arable crops. Chichiwere is considered bad for tree crops.
Average household size; 3.8 persons per household.
Number of dependants is relatively equal to the population in the active labour force group as given by the dependency ratios. Majority of households in rural areas are headed by males. The mean age of rural households heads: male; 56 years, females; 53 years.
The mean age of urban household heads: males; 54years females; 44 years.
Current urban towns include; Akoase, Amuana Praso, Afosu, New Abirem, Ntronang, Nkwarteng and Old Abirem. The spatial distribution of population is presented in figure 9.
Population Distribution by Economic Activity
Agric ;73.5 %of the working population. Fertile soils and good climatic conditions are favourable for crop production. Existence of big companies into Agriculture, especially oil palm production and existence of Agricultural Research Institutions both within and outside the district offer good opportunities for agricultural production.
The existence of ready market for oil palm and cocoa and other food stuff within and outside the district.
Table 1.14: Structure of the District Economy of Birim North District
|Sector||Percentage of Labour|
Source: Birim North DPCU, 2010 18.104.22.168 Migration
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the Birim North District. As indicated, about 73.5 percent of the labour force in the district is engaged in one form of agricultural enterprise or the other. The major crops cultivated in the district include cocoa, oil palm, citrus, rice, maize, plantain, cassava, cocoyam and vegetables. The following areas are considered under the Agricultural sector; Land – availability and acquisition, farm sizes and holdings, Farming systems, Farm labour, Area under cultivation and Types of crops cultivated as well as their estimated yields, Sources of finance to the Agricultural sector, Extension services, Farm tools and equipment, Storage and marketing systems.
Land is acquired by lease, rental, share tenancy (abunu and abusa)and inheritance.
Major Crops Grown, Farm Sizes and Crop Yields
The total area of land under cultivation in the district is about 91,037 hectares. Cash crops account for 77,546 hectares whilst about 13,491 hectares is under food crops and vegetables cultivation. These cash crops include oil palm, cocoa and citrus. The major food crops cultivated in the district are maize, plantain, cassava, cocoyam, and vegetables. The various areas of land used in cultivating the major staples are presented in the table below.
Table 1. Hectares of Land under Cultivation and Output Levels
|CROP||HECTAREAGE UNDER CULTIVATION||OUTPUT LEVELS
|OUTPUT PER HECTARE (MT)||NATIONAL OUTPUT LEVELS/HECTARE
Source: District Agricultural Directorate (BND) 2009
Farming is generally undertaken on a subsistence level with few exceptions in the case of those engaged in commercial farming. The average farm size for the district is estimated at 1.2 hectares. The farm sizes have a major effect on the income levels and poverty situations in the district as their output depend to a greater extent on their farm holdings.
From the table above it is realized that the district is doing well in the cultivation of the selected food crops. The average output of maize of 1.2 metric tonnes per hectare is closer to the national average of 1.5 metric tonnes per hectare.
Farm Tools and Equipment
Farmers in the district use simple farm implements like the hoe and cutlass. The use of these simple farm hand tools for agricultural production can be one of the reasons for small farm sizes. The use of tractors is limited to carting of farm produce.
A farming system, which depends on the use of simple farm implements like hoe, axe and cutlass, requires much manpower. The main sources of farm labour are household or family and hired labour as shown in table 2 below.
Table 2 Type of Labour Used
|More than one type||7.0|
Source: MOFA DADU Birim North, 2009.
From the table, 51.3 percent of farmers use hired labour. Farmers who rely on only household labour constitute about 37 percent. Seven percent of farmers depend on more than one type of labour for their farming activities.
Mixed cropping and inter cropping are practised, with the former being predominant for both major staples and cash crops. Land preparation in the district involves slashing and burning, which frequently accounts for bush fires.
Cocoa is widely produced in the district. It is produced and marketed by private farmers. Licensed buying agencies like Adwumapa, Kuapa, Amajaro, PBC, Evadox, FEDCO and Trans Royal operate in the district. The above listed purchasing agencies operate by purchasing cocoa from farmers through their Purchasing Clerks (PCs). The cocoa is then assembled at their various district depots after which they are inspected, sealed and transported to the harbours for shipment abroad.
Oil palm is widely grown on an out grower scheme operated by Ghana Oil Palm Development Company (GOPDC) in Birim North District. It is also grown by individual farmers without assisstance from GOPDC. The crop does well in the low lying areas where sufficient moisture is available. The bulk of the produce is purchased by GOPDC. Currently the company buys a tonne of harvested fruits at GH¢ 140.00. GOPDC is headquartered at Kwae in the Kwaebibirem district. It has a total of 8000 hectares of land of which 5000 hectares has been planted with the crop. The company has 7000 outgrowers who have between them 14,000hectares of the crop. Their outgrowers are spread over Kwaebibirem, Birim North and Akyemansa districts. Oil palm production is a major economic activity in the district. Small scale processors numbering about 120 in the district are engaged in extraction and marketing of palm and kernel oil.
Urban based middlemen and women play a very significant role in the distribution trade. Farmers often sell their produce at the nearest local market to middlemen who in turn sell at other urban markets such as Kade and Nkawkaw. Most of the farmers however, sell their produce within the district. The food crops are marketed at centres such as New Abirem, Ntronang, Akoase, and Amuana Praso. Pricing of agricultural produce usually depends on the outcome of haggling between the farmers and the buyers. The buyers usually have the bargaining edge over the farmers resulting in low incomes for the farmers.
Farmers’ limitation in accessing bigger markets, which can offer better prices for their produce, is still prevalent. Thus, returns to production for the farmers are low. This has the effect of reducing output as the farmer is not able to mobilize enough resources for agricultural production. Farm produce pricing as well as distribution could be addressed by the farmers forming marketing co-operatives to collectively bargain with middlemen.
Post Harvest losses
It is estimated that about 30 percent of all agricultural produce in the district go waste. This high figure is due to the inadequacy of storage facilities, inadequate resources to finance post harvest loss reduction and a generally poor attitude towards produce quality maintenance. There are very few storage facilities in the district. Most of the crops are stored using traditional methods. About 91 percent of the farmers store their cereals in the traditional cribs. The district lacks driers and modern silos for storing produce. The absence of these facilities is hampering large scale agricultural production. Perishable produce like fruits (citrus) and vegetables are often sold readily since there are no storage facilities for them. Farmers also fail to observe simple post harvest loss reduction practices which results in losses ranging between 5-40%. The percentage losses for the major crops are presented in table 3.
Table 3: Post harvest Losses
Source: District Agricultural Directorate (BND) 2009
The highest post harvest losses are recorded for vegetables and citrus. This may be due to the fact that storage and processing facilities for these crops are not available in the district. For the district to derive maximum economic benefits from these crops it should in conjunction with other institutions set up processing plants for citrus and also provide cold storage facilities for the storage of vegetables in the district. Also the private sector should be assisted by the district assembly to set up processing plants to add value to the agricultural products in the district. The level of post harvest losses and the availability of market determine to a large extent the area under cultivation. It can be seen from table 3 that the cash crops that have ready market have lower post harvest losses and also have large tract of land under cultivation. It therefore means if there is ready market for the produce, then farmers can increase their investment in the sector so as to increase the production crops.
Extension services are undertaken in the district to assist local farmers in increasing food production. The services provided by extension agents include the dissemination of improved technology to farmers; monitoring and evaluation activities, provision of practical on-farm training demonstration on crops and participatory learning farmer field schools. Farmers are also assisted in forming groups.
Farmer Groups in the District
The district has some farmer based groups. These groups mainly are involved in production and processing of raw agricultural products. These groups are spread across the district. .
Table 5: Farmer Groups in the District
|Name of Group||Location|
|Adom Women’s Association||Praso Kuma|
|Adwumapa Palm Kernel Oil Processors||Old Abirem|
|Odoye Kuo||New Abirem|
|ADRA Citrus Farmers Cooperative||Amuna Praso|
|Edframso Foundation Palm Oil Millers||New Abirem|
|Dadeeso Aba Farmers Group||Nkwarteng|
|Women Farmers Group||Adausena|
|Onipa Hia Mmoakuo||Tweapease|
|Emaahi Farmers Association||Ntronang|
|Vegetable Growers Association||Akoase|
Source: District Agricultural Directorate (BND) 2009
Livestock production is predominantly undertaken as a hobby rather than as an economic activity in the district. The main animals kept are goats, local poultry and sheep. These animals are kept by farmers who also engage in crop farming. The district directorate of agriculture in its bid to improve livestock activities in the district is promoting the production of poultry by introducing cockerels to improve the local stock of birds in the various communities and producing broilers and layers to make available meat and egg products in the district capital – New Abirem. Most livestock are kept to supplement household incomes.
Method of Feeding
Livestock feeding in the district is based mainly on open grazing and supplementary feeding. The open grazing method has attendant effects such as the degradation of the land and pollution of water bodies. Alternative policies of feeding livestock have to be identified in order to reduce environmental degradation.
Fish farming in the district is limited to pond culture of Tilapia and Mudfish. There is a total of 22 fish ponds with a surface area of 782.25 m2 dotted around the district.
The district agricultural directorate manages the under listed agricultural interventions to improve productivity and ensure food security:
• Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme (RTIMP)
• Cocoa Diseases and Pest Control Programme (CODAPEC)
• Agricultural Improvement and Land Access Programme (AILAP)
• Block Farm Scheme
ROOT AND TUBER IMPROVEMENT AND MARKETING PROGRAMME (RTIMP)
The objective of the root and tuber improvement and marketing programme (RTIMP) is to increase yields of roots and tubers notably, sweet and frafra potatoes, yams, cocoyam and cassava through the multiplication and distribution of high yielding and disease tolerant varieties and ensuring their domestic and industrial utilization by facilitating marketing through linking stakeholders in the industry.
Major activities undertaken by the programme include plant material multiplication and distribution to farmers and establishment of farmer field fora (FFFs) for specified root and tuber crops.
The district has between 2009 and2011 established four 1 acre fields of cocoyam at Old Abirem, Odontuase, Addokrom and Ntronang and 1acre cassava at Ntronang as FFF fields where farmers, researchers and agricultural personnel meet to learn and share knowledge and skills in the cultivation of the mentioned crops.
The Birim North District established 9.6 acres of improved cassava (Afisiafi) planting materials and distributed to eighty two tertiary farmers for further multiplication on their fields in 2010. In 2011, 15 acres of cassava planting material has been established with a targeted 150 tertiary farmers.
COCOA DISEASES AND PEST CONTROL PROGRAMME (CODAPEC)
The cocoa diseases and pest control programme (CODAPEC) is a threefold programme of capsid control, black pod disease control and soil nutrient (fertilizer) amendment in cocoa farms. The objective is to raise national annual cocoa output to one million metric tonnes.
The district has 34,234 cocoa farmers who between them cultivate an estimated 40,164 hectares of cocoa.
It has 38 capsid spraying gangs made up of six sprayers and a supervisor each and 5 black pod spraying gangs with each made up of 10 sprayers and a supervisor.
As a way of replenishing lost soil nutrients in mature cocoa farms, COCOBOD through its high-tech programme supplies cocoa fertilizer to the district agricultural directorate for sale at subsidized rates to farmers.
AGRICULTURAL IMPROVEMENT AND LAND ACCESS PROGRAMME (AILAP)
New Abirem, the capital of the Birim north district is home to Newmont golden ridge limited’s Akyem mine and by way of ensuring food security, the company has introduced the AILAP programme which it is jointly implementing with the district agricultural directorate. Under the programme project impacted farmers whose farms were affected by the mine take are assisted with inputs, financial assistance and technical backstopping to re-establish new farms after taking compensations for the impacted farms. A total of 1800 farmers are expected to benefit from the three year programme which started in the last quarter of 2010.
BLOCK FARM SCHEME
This is a production scheme designed to create employment for the youth and safeguard national food security. Under the scheme beneficiary youth come together to cultivate a block of land and are assisted with inputs (seed and Fertilizer) on credit which is 100% recoverable in cash or kind without interest at harvest.