Notes to broadcasters
Cowpea is grown on more hectares than any other legume crop in Ghana, and is the second biggest legume in terms of yield. Most cowpea in Ghana is grown in the northern savannah zone. But cowpea can be grown everywhere in the country.
Cowpea is an important and cheap source of protein for rural and urban families. Indeed, Cowpea is often referred to as “the poor man’s meat” because of its high protein content. The potential yield of cowpea is up to 1.5 tonnes per hectare, but the usual yield in Ghana and the rest of West Africa is less than 300 kilograms per hectare.
Cowpea is tolerant of shade and therefore can be used in intercrop with maize, millet, sorghum, and other crops. This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the dry savannah zone. In these areas, dried stalks of cowpea are a valuable animal feed.
The major constraints to cowpea production in Ghana include insect pests, Striga infestation, diseases, drought, and low soil fertility. Insects and Striga can cause losses of 15 to 100% of yield, depending on the level of infestation and the susceptibility of the variety.
Bushy varieties of cowpea provide forage for livestock as well as grain, while indeterminate or vining varieties provide soil cover, smothering weeds and protecting the soil against erosion. All varieties capture and fix atmospheric nitrogen, which increases soil fertility.
Cowpea is a heat- and drought-tolerant crop. The best times for sowing in northern Ghana are between mid-July and early August during the rainy season, or in October using residual moisture along river banks and other bodies of water. In valleys, cowpea can also be planted in May with the early rains. Between mid-July and early August, well-distributed rainfall is important for the crop to become establish and create pods. After maturity, a dry period is required for drying.
Cowpea provides rural families with food, animal feed, and cash income. Processed products include: cowpea flour, cowpea cake, cowpea fritters, and cowpea chips. These are sold in village markets.
This drama focuses on managing pests in cowpea. It is based on interviews with farmers and experts.
You might choose to present this drama as part of your regular farming program, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use this script as research material or as inspiration for creating your own programming on growing cowpea or similar topics in your country.
Talk to farmers and experts who are growing cowpeas or are knowledgeable about the crop. You might ask them:
Is growing cowpea common in your area? If so, what challenges do farmers face, especially with pests and diseases? Have some farmers devised solutions to these challenges that they could share on your program? What do extension agents and other experts say about these challenges?
Do farmers mostly raise cowpea for home consumption? Is growing cowpea a profitable business in your area? What are the economic prospects?
Estimated running time for the script: 20 minutes, with intro and outro music.
Episode 1signature tune up, then fade and hold under below
Pests are one of a cowpea farmer’s greatest challenges. This drama will help us understand what to expect and how to deal with them.
Trust me, my husband. I have some ideas which will help us. You remember that my sister and her husband said we could use their land when they move to the city in three weeks? We can farm on both pieces of land.
(INCREDULOUS) What do you know about farming? Did you see my sister’s cowpea farm last season? Did you see how she made a big mess of the entire farm? I don’t know if the land she used for cowpeas was cursed, or what. But I will not be part of this shame, and I demand that you stop all this foolishness!
I don’t think the land or even the cowpeas Yawa planted were cursed. She had issues with pests—that’s what caused her to lose her whole crop. I believe we can do a better job with our cowpea farm.
I don’t want to hear any more about cowpeas. If you think you are ready to farm, you can join me on our maize farm and stop your backyard gardening. That is my final word!
(PAUSE, EXCITED) Yes! I will join the Integrated Farmers’ Organization and get all the information I need. I will visit Yawa and ask for her help too. I’m sure she must have some experiences to share. Who knows? She may be looking for another opportunity to clear herself from her shame.SIGNATURE TUNE UP, THEN FADE OUT.
SIGNATURE TUNE UP AND CROSS-FADE INTO BELOW
Another thing: you should remove all weeds, stubble, trees, and shrubs, because these can harbour pest insects. All this preparation decreases the pests load on your farm.
Your other mistake, Yawa, was not making time to scout your farm for pests. I remember seeing you on your maize farm, but you hardly made any time for your cowpeas.
But I missed the right time to spray my field with insecticides. And when I finally did, I sprayed so much for two weeks that it caused more damage than the pests.
I spent a lot of money on pesticides and on paying labourers to spray my farm. But then one of the labourers had to be rushed to the local clinic one afternoon because he was throwing up. The doctor ran some tests and told us he had been poisoned. They found traces of pesticide. That was when I realized I was doing things wrongly.
And sometimes, it’s important not to take action against some insects. Insects like the praying mantis and lady beetles are pest predators and bees are pollinators.
SIGNATURE TUNE UP, THEN FADE OUT.
SIGNATURE TUNE UP AND CROSS-FADE INTO BELOW
As Afariwa was heading home from the market square, she met the chief’s messenger. Over the last few weeks, government officials, agricultural extension officers, and the traditional council had inspected the competing farms and chosen a winner. Because of her hard work and dedication, they chose Afariwa as the best cowpea farmer. She runs home to tell her husband the good news.
SIGNATURE TUNE UP AND OUT
Contributed by: Jennifer Amoah, Programs assistant (volunteer), Farm Radio International, Ghana
Reviewed by: Francis Kusi, Research Scientist (Entomologist), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Tamale, Ghana
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany, 2014. Field Guide to Non-Chemical Pest management in Cowpea Production. http://www.oisat.org/downloads/Field_Guide_Cowpea.pdf
Republic of South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, 2011. Production guidelines for cowpeas. http://www.arc.agric.za/arc-gci/Fact%20Sheets%20Library/Cowpea%20-%20Production%20guidelines%20for%20cowpea.pdf
Interviews: Mr. George Akrong Morton, Programs Manager, Farm Radio International, Ghana, October 15 and October 21.