Only a handful of farmers in the north are able to meet the key criteria of quality grain production set by cereal aggregators and major food processing companies such as Nestle Ghana Ltd and Premium Foods who procure large quantities of farm produce from farmers. 

Meeting such criteria is the target set by Ms. Asimwu Ibrahim, a 29-year old farmer at the Bontanga Irrigation Scheme. Ms. Ibrahim, a member of the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), intends to produce grains that meet such lofty standards in the next cropping season after receiving a BUSAC fund-sponsored Business Development Services (BDS) training on crop production and processing. 

Six-months after participating in the capacity-building programme, Ms. Ibrahim put into practice lessons learnt from the training by harvesting at the right time, threshing her rice on tarpaulin to avoid stones and ensuring her grains were well winnowed to eliminate all unwanted materials. 

She cheerfully testifies that after implementing such good cultivation practices, she sold seven 100-kilo bags of rice each for GHC 105 to aggregators from southern Ghana. 

“This is my all-time record sale. Last year the aggregators bought the same quantity of my produce for just GHC 60, because of the lower quality. I will strive to continue to do clean work in order to get value for money, expand and be able to sell to the big companies so they will pay me a premium price,” she remarked with a smile.  

 But the knowledge Ms. Ibrahim gained at the capacity building programme is not all about improved rice cultivation skills. She quickly hinted that the negotiating skills learned during the training had helped her to rent two additional acres of land to add to her existing plot in other expand her farm and cultivate more quality rice.

“Now that I am about to expand my farm and increase my productivity, my aim is to work hard and use my income to support my husband and family members who are in school,” she said.

Due to the low quality of produce and inadequate coordination, many smallholder farmers in northern Ghana are unable to sustain high-value markets for their agricultural produce. To address this challenge, members of the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC) sought capacity-building support in September 2017 from the BUSAC Fund and its development partners, Danida, USAID and the European Union. Through the BUSAC Fund’s Business Development Services (BDS) support, Ms. Ibrahim and her fellow GTLC members learnt very useful skills in Participatory Market System Development.

The skills acquired by members of GTLC is helping to increase collaboration among market actors, improve market access to high-value markets, increase advocacy among market actors to improve the agribusiness environment in Ghana.

Alhaji Ibrahim Akalbila, President of GTLC noted that as part of the effort to prepare and orient farmers, they were given hands-on training to expose them to Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that would enable the crops to respond in a better way for the inputs. 

 “We realise that farmers lack GAPs because some aggregators complain that sometimes the produce they buy from farmers are not are not up to the required quality standards. This problem has to do with production so we tried educating farmers to appreciate some of these pertinent issues and follow the right instruction to get good produce,” he noted.

 Alhaji Akalbila noted that ensuring GAPs in every aspect of farm operations facilitates economic and social sustainability for on-farm processes, enable efficient use of farm resources and result in safe and quality agricultural products. 

The better understanding of these practices Alhaji Ibrahim indicated had led to a quality outcome from field operations in terms of high productivity and better resource-use efficiency. 

Commenting on the impact on other members who were into shea processing, Alhaji Akalbila said the training had educated the women in the industry to collect healthy fruits and preserve them well in other to get good shea butter.

That he said would help reduce the high free fatty acids in some of the shea butter in other to get access to good and long-term profitable markets.

After the training and its subsequent positive results, Alhaji Ibrahim received an invitation from many people, especially the chiefs of Kpopolu and Derimo communities to train farmers. 

“We are now very attractive”, he added.