AgroCenta PlantRite. Tackling the Sorghum shortage problem

We started AgroCenta so we can provide farmers with access to a large enough market for them to sell their commodities. With great effort we got a Purchase Order from a large multinational company to supply them 1,000,000 kilograms of Sorghum over a couple of months. We were very excited but soon learned with time that the supply on the market was very inadequate to meet the demand of our multinational client. We had two options. To either throw our hands up in despair 🙆🏽‍♂️ or find a way to get the supply. We decided on the latter but importing was out of the question. After a few brainstorming sessions PlantRite was born.

PlantRite is AgroCenta’s Sorghum planting initiative that seeks to cultivate several acres of Sorghum (Kaapala variety) with farmers in selected locations in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana.

The Pilot

We ambitiously planned to do 1000 acres but scaled down to approximately 350 acres and 350 farmers for this initial pilot, with plans of scaling back up to 1000 acres once we have learned enough for phase two. A farmer is responsible for an acre. We believe this will be less tedious for a farmer thus making them more committed. The pilot started in July with the 2017 major farming session.

Job creation

Every farmer enrolled in this program went through a selection process to ensure they fit the profile of the caliber of farmers we wanted to work with for this pilot — just like a white collar job interview. We signed contracts that clearly spelt out the terms of engagement. Prior to signing up for PlantRite some of these farmers were having a hard time deciding what to plant for this season. Of course this hard time is due to the usual problem of finding a market after harvest. As per the contract we have with the farmers, everything that’s harvested will be purchased by us. They need not go hunting for buyers.

The Benefits

There are three things that sap farmers’ cash when the planting season is near. Farmers who are unable to afford these miss out on the season or end up tilling very small patches of land. AgroCenta provided its PlantRite farmers with:

Tractor services

Well of course!! The land needs to first be adequately prepared for planting. This has to be done in time to ensure planting starts when the rains begin.

Seeds

Getting certified seeds is important as this coupled with good farming practices and enough rainfall can guarantee a good yield to a large extent. AgroCenta supplied its PlantRite farmers with certified sorghum seeds.

Fertilizers

This is the big one. When cultivating sorghum or maize, an acre requires 3 bags of fertilizer (2 bags of NPK and 1 bag of Sulphate of Ammonia). Fertilizers don’t come cheap. Even at the subsidized government of Ghana prices, farmers still struggle to make purchases. Each of our farmers walked away with 3 bags of fertilizers. Interestingly, farmers who are hard to track down always appeared when it was time to pick up fertilizers.

The Ready Market

Come harvest time our farmers wouldn’t need to worry about buyers. We’re buying it all. Every single grain. Farmers immediately see the cash reward of their sweat. Enough money in their pockets to take care of their families.

Monitoring and Evaluation

In order to promote frequent site visits to help farmers properly implement the best farming practices, as well as supervise purchasing and distribution of fertilizers among other duties, we equipped our site coordinators with brand new motorbikes. We are looking forward to a bumper harvest this year and a bigger PlantRite phase two come next farming season.