Helping Ghanas farmers to grow their business


12 December 2008 Helping Ghanas farmers to grow their business World ORTs International Cooperation Department has returned to Ghana, raising rural incomes by providing administrative training for farmers and facilitating their shift to more profitable organic produce. Under the direction of ORT IC Field Coordinator Danielle Gold, the Farmers Advancement Project is planting seeds of change for the people of Ningo, a district near the capital Accra. With the financial support of the Western Union Foundation and the Citigroup Foundation the project is creating new opportunities for low-income, small scale farmers many of them women by enabling them to enter the organic and fair trade export markets. We are helping farmers to prepare and receive organic and fair trade certification in cooperation with the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), said ORT IC Director in Washington Celeste Angus (pictured, centre). This includes training farmers to design and maintain an internal control system, meaning keeping records, conducting inspections and meeting the demands of IMO certification standards. ORT IC is also helping the farmers to research and experiment with crops and crop varieties for specialty markets, and to identify markets particularly dried produce. In this regard, the ORT IC project has provided low-cost, portable solar dryers for use by project beneficiaries. Designed in collaboration with GTZ, a German enterprise committed to sustainable development, the equipment can dry the tomatoes, chilli peppers and other fruit and vegetables the farmers grow. Previously, farmers dried their produce on roadsides, exposing it to vehicle fumes and animal waste, so this is much more hygienic, Ms Angus said. In addition, perishability means that much of the food does not make it to market in Accra. The introduction of food drying means the produce has a longer shelf-life and opens the possibility for these farmers to develop new markets, including for export. Ghanas traditional export markets lie in Europe but a Californian company has already expressed interest in importing the projects tasty and wholesome results. Fruit drying is done by a womens cooperative, the Ebenut Company, which until now has focused on selling locally. It uses one of the buildings constructed by ORT during its first Ningo community project a European Union-funded mother and childcare programme. ORT returned to Ghana in 2004 to assist women seamstresses and batik artists through the Elmina Womens Textile Project. And farmers use the equipment to dry their own fruit and vegetables. This latest venture is a result of a request from the Ministry of Womens and Childrens Affairs, Dangbe tribal leaders and local government officials, Ms Angus said. That our previous partners in the area were so happy to have us back says a lot about the quality and efficacy of ORT IC programmes. Indeed, without ORT ICs current project, Ningos farmers would probably not have the increased income they are now enjoying. In addition, the project is having a domino effect on the community. Were working with farmers but were also working with those who are buying and marketing the farmers produce. As the marketers increase their income they will have a greater incentive to sell the produce in Accra and internationally, Ms Angus said. The domestic economy of Ghana, a former British colony, continues to revolve around agriculture, which accounts for about 35 per cent of gross domestic product and employs about half of the work force, mainly small landholders. It therefore provides fertile ground for the improvements generated by projects such as ORT ICs. We aim to improve the socio-economic standing of our beneficiaries and we do that by building from the bottom up working with local people at a grass roots level, Ms Angus said. Danielle [Gold] has done an amazing job of developing partnership with all the local stakeholders resulting in a successful programme. Over the long term, the effects could ripple out way beyond Ningo. The financial support of the Western Union Foundation for the World ORT project would give Ghanaian farmers a fair chance to make a better life for themselves, said Foundation President Luella Chavez d’Angelo. We are pleased to partner with World ORT and realise the vision of Western Unions Our World, Our Family programme to facilitate greater economic opportunity; to help families stay connected, overcome barriers and achieve their dreams.’