Thursday, May 27, 2010


From: Joseph Ziem, Nyankpala

A three year grant support project awarded to the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Development (IFDC) Ghana chapter, by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has been launched at Nyankpala, in the Tolon-Kumbungu District of the Northern Region.

The project entitled: “Linking Farmers’ to Markets (FTM) and to be implemented in the three Northern Regions of Ghana would cost 1.8 million dollars.

It aims to assist smallholder farmers of staple crops in Ghana gain easier access to markets and earn higher incomes by linking them to commercial buyers and processors. The project would, among others, develop partnerships for effective establishment of long-lasting farmer to market linkages.

The three-year project will focus on easing the flow of produce from farms in Ghana's Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions to commercial buyers and processors of maize, rice, sorghum and soybean in Ghana.

As lead implementer, IFDC would build alliances with local partners to provide farmers with skills to improve their farm productivity and business and marketing services to ensure sustainable supplies of high-quality produce for industrial buyers.

"The project will directly benefit smallholder farmers, buyers, and consumers," said Dr Kofi Debrah of IFDC. "By linking with buyers before production, farmers can be assured of regular farm incomes, he said, adding, traders, processors, and large retailers will also benefit because they will be able to obtain reliable and regular supplies of a quality produce".

According to Dr. Debrah, as part of the project, AGRA and IFDC will partner with several local organizations to strengthen capacity at farmer organization level. The collective organizations will serve as an intermediary between farmer groups and buyers at the top of the supply chain.

These groups he said include the Savanna Farmers' Marketing Company, Ltd (SFMC), a farmer-owned marketing company with a network of 8000 farmers, OFRAM Enterprises, and nearly 50 community women's rice processing groups in the Northern Region.

Director of AGRA's Market Access Program, Anne Mbaabu, in an address also emphasized that "many Ghanaian farmers lack access to reliable markets where they can sell their produce at a profit," adding, “this makes farming an unattractive investment for most farmers”.

She maintained that functional markets are absolutely essential to making investments in agriculture more appealing to farmers, noting that farmers have no incentive to grow more food if they do not have a market for their surplus.

Agriculture is the main engine of economic growth in Ghana, and smallholder farmers represent 80% of farm production. AGRA is working to improve smallholder farming in Ghana through programmes and partnerships that focus on improving farmers’ access to good seed, fertilizer, and sustainable farming practices and increasing farmers' access to credit, crop storage, and markets.

Statistics showed that the Northern Region, which represents 41% of Ghana's total land area, has been identified by the Government of Ghana and AGRA as a breadbasket area because of the region's high production potential for staple food crops like rice, maize, sorghum, and soybean and large rural farming populations. Yet the North is also the poorest region, with nearly two-thirds of the population living in poverty.

Agricultural development projects traditionally focus on crop productivity issues like increasing the use of improved seeds and fertilizers and new farming methods.

Very few address the need to ensure that the increased production finds its way to the markets without adverse effects on prices and incomes of farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain.

In Ghana, recent efforts by the private sector, donors, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and relief agencies are now working to address the marketing issues.

In 2005, the Association of Church Development Projects (ACDEP) helped create the Savanna Farmers Marketing Company Ltd (SFMC), whose principle objective is to pool participating farmers’ produce of crops like sorghum, groundnut, soybeans, and cashew for large industrial buyers. Between 2005 and 2008, SFMC supported approximately 5,000 smallholder farmers in the three Northern Regions of Ghana to sell a total of 4,307 metric tonnes of sorghum, soybeans, cashew, and shea butter, valued at GH¢1,672,920 or US $1,394,100.

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