The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Mark Watson
Panhandle No till Educator 

No Till notes: 'Dr. Kofi Boa'

 


I had the great pleasure of meeting and visiting with Dr. Kofi Boa at this year’s No-till On the Plains winter conference. Dr. Boa has undertaken an incredibly difficult and rewarding task in his homeland of Ghana, Africa. Dr. Boa is building soil health to stimulate economic growth in an impoverished nation. He is building wealth in Africa two acres at a time. I’d like to share his inspiring story with you.

Dr. Boa was a young child when his mother returned to their home in tears. His mother farmed a two acre farm and her crop of cocoa had burned to the ground. Farmers in this area typically used slash and burn to produce crops. A neighbor’s fire had grown out of control and wiped out Kofi’s mother’s cocoa crop. The income off this two acre farm is what they lived on for the year. Needless to say their family’s fortune was devastated.

Dr. Boa vowed that he would find a better way to produce crops and dedicated his life’s work to do so. Interestingly enough Dr. Boa’s dedication to finding a better way to produce crops led him to western Nebraska. Kofi was very excited when he learned I was from Alliance as he knew the region well.

Dr. Boa decided to further his education in Nebraska and enrolled at the University of Nebraska. His pursuit of higher education landed him at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, where he worked with Dr. David Baltsenberger and Dr. Drew Lyon. While working here in western Nebraska he began to learn the concepts of no till production systems and he knew this system would be the answer to agricultural production in his homeland.

Dr. Boa returned to Ghana to begin implementing no till crop production on the farms in his homeland. The majority of the farms in Ghana are two to two and a half acre farms. Many producers farm with a machete and a bag of seed.

Typical production of slash and burn is to cut down the vegetative growth of the rainforest and burn it, then plant the seed in bare soil. The plants would have to be hand irrigated to survive during their dry periods, often twice a day. The bare soil led to immense soil erosion during the rainy season.

Dr. Boa returned to show farmers how to leave the vegetative mulch on the soil surface rather than burn it. They used the machete to carve out the soil to plant the seed. The problem was trying to educate all the farmers’ two acres at a time.

Dr. Boa knew he needed his own research center where farmers could come to him to learn these techniques rather than him trying to go to each farm. Dr. Boa has now partnered with the Howard Buffett foundation, John Deere and DuPont Pioneer to establish the No Till Centre near Amanchia, Ghana.

Farmers throughout Ghana and neighboring countries have come to the centre to learn about no till crop production. Dr. Boa estimates that he has had over 300,000 producers visit the farm and switch to no till crop production techniques of leaving the vegetative and crop mulch on the soil surface.

The yields on their fields have increased dramatically with this new system of crop production. Less irrigation and weeding are required because the mulch is on the soil surface. This frees up time for the farmers to work off the farm increasing their income. Through increased production and off farm work the farmer’s incomes have increased significantly. They are no longer impoverished.

Dr. Boa has become a hero in his homeland. He remains a humble man when visiting with him. His lifelong work is changing production agriculture across the landscape of Ghana and Africa. Rising from a humble beginning he is shaping the future of his country two acres at a time. I feel truly blessed to have met a man with such an inspirational story to tell.

 

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