Ghana’s Northern Rural Growth Programme - innovative way to make agriculture a worthy investment for rural farmers



The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) sought the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) financial support to implement the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in Ghana at a total cost of US$ 92.79 million. The programme was designed with the overall goal of ensuring equitable and sustainable reduction of poverty and food insecurity among rural households in Northern Ghana. The NRGP exemplifies a participatory operation based on a new innovative concept of women empowerment.

Empowering women, transforming livelihoods

Women have a critical role in the march towards food security in Ghana. Statistics suggest that about 66 percent of all smallholder farmers in Ghana are women. However, the NRGP gave equal attention to both male and female.

Salma Abdulai is one of several women supported by the programme. The 32 year-old mother of three is a very active and entrepreneurial woman. She lunched her enterprise “Unique Quality Production Enterprise”, located in Pagzaa community, in 2013. It is an agro-processing unit that specializes in the processing of Fonio*(DIM FONIO) into fine-textured product, distributed and marketed locally.

“We are working with farmers that have embraced best practices in the production of Fonio. This will encourage them to go into the production of these crops, generally characterized by their low production cost. Women play an important role in the processing of FONIO; we are working with more than 600 farmers (including 409 women, 103 men, and many youths); this is contributing to improve their livelihoods and reduce malnutrition among the children” said Salma.

Salma’s processors encountered a major problem during the rainy season: “After harvesting, hulling, whitening, and cleaning, fonio needs to be dried; about 60% of the processing is drying which is not possible when it rains, according to Salma. She added: “SAVANA AGRICULTURE RESEARCH INSTITUTE (SARI) built a mini solar dryer and we built a manual one, but both were not the best”

During the last quarter of December 2016, Salma saw the NRGP’s call for requests for productive equipment support under the Productivity Investment Fund. She submitted her application and subsequently benefited from the solar dryer.

Salma is grateful to the NRGP. The solar dryer also prevents contamination (by dust, insects, etc.) of her produce, thereby ensuring quality.

“With this solar dryer, we are able to process fonio during all the seasons (wet and dry). I employed about 20 women who are providing the main workforce for the processing of Fonio. They work from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to deliver between 15 and 20 bags (1.5 to 2.0 tons) per day and they are paid 20 Ghana Cedis (US$ 4.7) per bag, according to Salma.” These women are now able to send their children to school and feed their family with rich and healthy foods”

Salma is also employing 6 permanent sales representatives in Accra and Tamale. Her main targets are children, pregnant women, diabetic patients, breast feeding mothers and elderly people because of the nutritive value of the FONIO (it contains major sources of energy, protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and minerals). This explains why Fonio is also demanded by international consumers.

*Fonio is a small cereal that contains a lot of nutritional components that isn't found in today’s major cereals, it is tasty and can be used for variety of dishes

Salma says that she had exported about 1 ton to Los Angeles (USA) and also to Israel. She is still receiving requests to supply more products to foreign market but she wants to satisfy the higher local demand that stands at 3 to 4 tons per month.

“I have been in this business since 2013; I am now monopolizing the FONIO market and have clients all over the country; people advised me to focus on satisfying local demand, if you export someone else can come and take all your clients”, said Salma.

When asked about her incomes, Salma confirmed that her net revenue after deducting all operational expenses (packaging sourced from China, salary, power, etc.) is 6 Ghana Cedis (1.5 US$)/bag.

As an indigenous crop, Fonio can be harvested three times in a season, it needs little water to grow and has a maturity period of 8 weeks. Fonio can grow on marginal soils. Salma has started looking for a warehouse to storage her Fonio. Therefore, Unique Quality Production Enterprise can be extended to include a much larger geographical area and promote Fonio consumption in the international market.

Together to break out of poverty

The NRGP was organized around four main components, among them Commodity Value Chain Development, consisting of strengthening of Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs) and District Value Chain Committees (DVCCs). FBOs and DVCCs were established and strengthened to facilitate the implementation of value chain activities in order to improve the productivity and incomes rural dwellers whose main occupation is farming.

The description of DVCC, given by Alhadji Imoro Azuri, the chairperson of the Garu DVCC is: “DVCC is a platform that put together actors within the value chain. Its membership comprises farmer groups including women, financial institutions like the rural Bank, tractor service, input dealers and also local aggregator, buyers, off takers and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture”.

Developed in 2009, the DVCCs aimed to help address some of the challenges (limited access to market, poor financial services, inadequate access to others services and inputs, lack of capacity building opportunities, etc.) confronting agriculture value chain development in the programme area. “DVCC is an innovative concept linking farmers to value chain’s actors, we started with 15 FBOs in 2011, now we are 76 FBOs (among them 790 are women). DVCC is also attractive for youth representing 70% of young farmers”, confirmed the village man. “We are very happy with the programme, it has helped many women to improve the livelihoods and welfare of their families because they had access to improved seeds, modern agronomic practices such as the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) and methods of post-harvest handling of farm produce.”

Solomon Awini, Manager of Bessfa Rural Bank noted that: “Loan applications received through DVCCs are reliable because we believed they were already screened by DVCC’s Executive Committee before coming to us, thus the person is eligible for the loan, the reimbursement is guaranteed and the monitoring of the utilization of these loans will provided by the DVCC.”

The NRGP supported the establishment of 57 DVCCs in all districts in Ghana. About 60% of these are fully functional. Similarly, about 8,127 FBOs have been established and are operational. A total of 525 Youth Groups were also supported to engage in irrigated agriculture. The effectiveness of these platforms contributed to increases in productivity of targeted commodities from 0.8mt to 3.5mt for maize, 0.5mt to 2.2mt for Soybean, 0.5mt to 1.90mt for Sorghum, and 1.90mt to 3.5mt for rice and considerable increases also for other crops. In addition, the cultivated area by the beneficiary farmers of these crops have increased from 30,000 ha to nearly 50,000 ha.

DVCC is a prominent and attractive concept that should be replicated in others projects.

The AfDB contributed US$ 54.27 million for the implementation of the programme followed by IFAD with US$ 21.92 million and US$ 16.60 million from other supporters (including government).
Fonio before treatment

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