Smallholder farming just got better in Ghana

The pilot phase of the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative which began in 2010, has officially ended. Smallholder and low-income farmers who participated in it, as well as partnering organizations which trained them, unanimously agree that P4P has improved farmers’ lives and livelihoods, and more fundamentally, empowered them to approach farming as a business. 

 

Abdallah Mohammed Sugri (below) is one of more than 1,500 smallholder farmers in the Ashanti and Northern Regions who participated in the P4P initiative. The farmers were trained to improve food production, adopt good agricultural practices; and were supported to acquire farming tools and access new markets. The result has been an improvement in the quality of food they produce, a significant increase in crop yields and in their income.

"Before we joined P4P, most of the farmers in our group used to practice the ‘all die be die’ method of planting where we used to scatter seeds on our farms,” said Abdallah, secretary to Kpalsi Zisung, one of twenty-six farmer groups that participated in the programme. “After we were taught to plant in rows, my harvest increased to 100 bags of rice, more than double of what I used to produce.”   

Implemented with funding from the Canadian Government, the P4P initiative aimed to address some of the challenges facing smallholder farmers, such as low productivity, high post-harvest losses, inadequate market infrastructure and access to markets. The programme focused on maize, rice and beans, which are staple foods WFP purchased for its food assistance programmes across the country. 

The farmers were trained to improve the quality and storage of food they produced and equipped to reduce post-harvest losses which is the bane of most smallholder farmers. They were helped to construct warehouses and acquire tools such as tarpaulins, rice reapers and threshers, stitching machines, grain testers and mobile toolkits used to detect aflatoxin, a highly toxic chemical produced by mouldy grain.

As a result of improved food quality, farmers were able to sell to markets which they could not previously access.  By the end of 2015, they had sold 5,000 mt of maize and 100 mt of rice worth US$2 million to WFP for its food assistance programme, 50 mt of maize worth US$15,000 to Premium Foods, a food processing company, and 13mt of rice, beans and maize to caterers to feed 4,000 school children, under the home-grown school feeding programme. They also participated in a tender to supply food to secondary schools in the Ashanti Region.  

Gideon Aboagye, the former Director of the Ghana Grains Council, a private sector organization made up of grain value-chain actors, commended P4P “for reducing post-harvest losses and improving the quality of grains which farmers produce.” 

Introducing weighing scales

Before P4P, farmers in Ejura Sekyedumasi in the Ashanti Region had no scientific method of estimating the quantity of maize they sold. The traditional “bush weight” system consisted of farmers gauging the weight of large heaped bags which often weighed between 150kg and 170 kg, although they were only paid for 100kg, depriving them of the extra kilos being sold.

WFP provided weighing scales to the farmers during its first maize purchase in 2012. The farmers realized that this weighing system earned them more money than the “bushweight” system. Consequently, they appealed to their local government and traditional authorities to enforce the use of weighing scales through the enactment of a bye-law. Weighing scales were not available to all farmers in their district, and so they agreed to the ‘size 4’ as the standard bag to be used. Size 4 bags weigh 110kg, the closest to the 100kg weight.

“The flagship success story of P4P is undoubtedly the impact of weighing scales on the maize market in Ejura Sekyedumasi,” said Magdalena Owusu Moshi, acting WFP Country Director in Ghana. “This measure has more or less eliminated the traditional “bush weight system” which 'cheated' farmers.”

The Ashanti Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Faalong concluded that the standardization of weights in Ejura proves that when farmers are well informed and organized, they are empowered to take decisions that improve their lives.  

WFP partnered with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and its department of Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD), Farm Radio international, Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and several other government, non-governmental organizations, academic and private institutions to implement P4P in Ghana.