Growing in Ghana

Saturday, November 10, 2012
Dan Peters, right, of Milford, examines the crops in Ghana with partner Dale Opheim, of Graettinger. The two, along with Ghanian Chief Thomas Owusu Boanoh, make up North American Farms. (Photos submitted)

While the fall harvest near Dan Peters' home town of Milford wrapped up more than a month ago, it has yet to begin in Ghana, where he is a partner in North American Farms.

Peters has partnered with Dale Opheim, of Graettinger, and Ghanian Chief Thomas Owusu Boanoh to help feed the people of Ghana. Opheim, a former customer of Peters at Pro Co-op in Graettinger, started the organization and asked for Peters' assistance.

"When I saw photographs of corn fields killed by improperly applied chemicals last fall in Ghana, I decided it was time for me to lend a hand," Peters said. "We're taking a chance on this collaborative venture, but I believe it will pay off."

Dan Peters shows a map of Ghana, where he now farms corn. One of the major challenges Peters faces is a lack of infrastructure, including quality roads.

In August, Peters helped with the first harvest of 2012, which yielded 60 to 70 bushels per acre, compared to the natives' harvests of 10 to 20 bushels per acre.

"They do theirs by hand; we ship machinery over," Peters said.

An eight-row planter was used to plant the first crop in March. Even with a combine on site, the 1,000 acres of corn had to be picked by hand.

"The combine couldn't get through the field," Peters said. "It was too weedy. We're still working on the right chemicals to use over there."

One challenge is that chemicals can only be bought in liter bottles. The corn itself is purchased in 50 kilogram bags and must be returned to those bags when it is harvested.

Another challenge, in addition to a language barrier, is a lack of good roads.

"It takes 90 minutes to two hours to go 20 minutes to our farm from the nearest town," Peters said.

Furthermore, temperatures rarely fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and have been known to reach 120 degrees or more in the country near the Equator and Prime Meridian.

"Corn doesn't like really hot weather," Peters said. "It likes to take a break at night and it's not getting that."

Peters does not get much of a break from the heat either, as the area in which he lives does not have running water or electricity.

"You have to face the heat without air conditioning and fans," he said.

Those conditions cannot keep Peters away. He's hoping to improve yields to 100 or 150 bushels per acre in the sandy loam soil that is known for producing nuts, trees and pineapples. He'd also like to find a soybean variety that will grow there.

"There are still a lot of things we're working on," Peters said. "It's just a challenge, but we're trying to help them out."

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  • what do you do for the people in America that are starving???

    -- Posted by iowagirl on Sat, Nov 10, 2012, at 5:50 PM
  • So what would you suggest should be done??

    -- Posted by clayfarmer on Mon, Nov 12, 2012, at 6:29 AM
  • 78 million people on food stamps (up 50+% over the past four years)? If people in America are going hungry it must be because of they don't know how to access the current SNAP program! That is not the farmers' fault.

    -- Posted by Mechler on Mon, Nov 12, 2012, at 11:33 AM
  • It's a good thing he is over there trying to teach these ppl how to do it. Teach someone how to fish and they will eat for their life time. Hand them food and they will eat for a day. Hmmmm so he farms here and the goverment or the industry decide to do what ever they want with his crops.(which most likely is grain for cattle) But ppl are going after him on this? He is doing the right thing, because the faster we teach them, the faster we can pull our money back to the U.S!!!!!!!!

    -- Posted by acerdj on Fri, Nov 16, 2012, at 4:44 AM
  • I LOVE this idea! He is helping arm them with the knowledge to help themselves and the communities around them! Yes there is a hunger issue here in america that shouldn't be neglected but people here also have access to information and numerous organizations that can help them, these people don't. This is his calling! Who is anyone to judge that? It can be you, the next person, or any of the other people that live in america that can help the american hunger issue.

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 3:19 PM
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