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General News of Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Source: GNA

Two institutions collaborate to enhance food security in Ghana

Accra, Aug. 31, GNA - International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC), is implementing a project to address marketing and post-harvest problems affecting farmers.

The three-year project being financed by Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is expected to cover about 50,000 smallholder farmers cultivating maize, rice, sorghum and soybeans in Northern, Upper East and West Regions.

It is to develop commercial relationship with industrial processors, Ghana School Feeding Programme, World Food Programme, local entrepreneurs as well as urban consumers within the southern sector.

In an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra on Tuesday, Dr Kofi Debrah, Country Representative of IFDC, said the project dubbed: "Linking Farmers to Markets (FTM) would assist smallholder farmers cultivating staple crops to have easy access to market and increase revenue.

The FTM project, he explained, would in addition, develop partnerships for effective establishment of a long-lasting farmer to market linkages.

Dr Debrah said while the northern sector became the source of supply, the southern sector and neighbouring countries would be the main markets and destinations.

He said under the project, alliances would be formed with partners to build farmers' organisations, management, productivity and entrepreneurial skills.

Small and medium-scale enterprises engaged in commercial activities and processing like Savannah Farmers Marketing Company, private rice millers and wholesalers would be trained and equipped to facilitate their operations.

Dr Debrah said during the outreach phase of the project, the partners would identify and create database for all participating farmers, associations, small-scale processors, industrial and institutional purchasers.

The database and profiles would be collected electronically to facilitate the use of cell phones to link and manage suppliers, buyers, transporters and other stakeholders to improve efficiency in the value chain.

It would in addition, promote linkages between actors, disseminate information on available crops and provide market intelligence.

Dr Debrah said "Smallholder farmers in Ghana face two major marketing problems that affect agricultural profitability. First, farmers sell marketable surplus on ad hoc basis because of limited access to reliable produce purchasing sources that pay acceptable market rates.

"Secondly, they are limited by poor access to labour, financing, market information and post-harvest facilities that would allow them to respond to existing market opportunities in a timely manner".

Dr Debrah said as a result, farmer's agricultural incomes were low and sporadic, making agriculture unattractive as a dependable source of income.

He said that as long as these issues persist, farmers would have little incentive to invest in yield-enhancing technologies to boost agriculture, which was expected to be the source for Ghana's future economic growth.

Dr Debrah said "Currently, low investments in agriculture translate into low productivity, and result in the country's inability to produce enough food and raw materials to meet human and industrial demands.

"Under these circumstances, government's dependence on imports has increased, raw materials from domestic sources have become inadequate and agro-industries have failed to perform to their potential - all of which have led to lost revenues and low employment," he said.

Dr Debrah said that the FTM project would ensure the commitment of buyers, processors, markets and support smallholder farmers and associations to meet the market requirements by facilitating the transfer of management and technology packages, input supply and access to funds and credits.

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