Ghana Smallholder Farmer Market Integration Project (GSFMIP) — Northern Region
The Republic of Ghana is one of West Africa’s strongest and most diversified economies with strong manufacturing, hydrocarbon, and minerals sectors. Despite Ghana’s relative economic successes, the agricultural sector is heavily focused on industrial commodity exporters with little to no support for small subsistence farmers. In 2012, Ghana’s agricultural contribution to GDP decreased. Ghana’s agricultural industry cannot meet domestic meat demand and relies upon imports to cover production shortfalls.
Approximately 53% of Ghana’s total population is engaged in agriculture. This percentage jumps from between 70% and 90% in rural and northern regions. The vast majority of rural farmers earn below 1USD per day and live in areas without access to roads or storage facilities and engage in traditional, non-intensive farming practices.
Northern Ghana is divided into three regions: Northern, Upper East, and Upper West. These regions are referred to as Ghana’s “breadbasket” because they produce more than half of the country’s total agricultural output. These three regions comprise a total of 50 administrative districts with a combined population of 4.2 million. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there are 1020 farmer based organizations in the three regions, representing at least 10,000 farmers.
The northern regions of Ghana are not as economically developed as the southern regions, consisting of very rural populations. Because of their remote settings and the lack of good roads and infrastructure the vast majority of these rural farmers are excluded from Ghana’s national markets.
This exclusion keeps the farmers economically depressed and many exist either at a subsistence level or are forced to sell their crops at below market prices to predatory middle men. Food security and self-sufficiency have been national goals for the Republic of Ghana for quite sometime yet little government support or initiative has focused on small farmers. One solution to this problem is the application of Agri-tech approaches to increasing market participation, inclusion, and efficiency.
Francis Obirikorang and Michael Ocansey have developed AgroCenta as an online platform to connect all shareholders in Ghana’s agricultural value chain under a single umbrella for effective trading. The platform is focused on the producers, rural smallholder farmers.
The platform is designed to connect and integrate small rural farmers into Ghana’s national markets by providing them with real-time commodity pricing information, logistics services, farming and weather information, agricultural training and products, and an online platform to offer goods for sale across Ghana.
AgroCenta is currently working in 3 districts with 5,000 farmers recruited to the platform. AgroCenta’s four core values are 1) Ensuring Sustainable Food Security; 2) Livelihood empowerment for smallholder farmers; 3) Job creation; 4) Accelerating growth in agriculture using technology and innovation.
INTYON (Integrated Youth Needs And Welfare Organization) is dedicated to providing education and economic empowerment initiatives to rural youth in Northern Ghana. The organization has previously partnered with UNICEF and governmental organizations within Ghana on a series of initiatives including medical awareness and agricultural economic empowerment initiatives involving rabbit farming.
Given the mutually shared interest in rural economic empowerment and agriculture, AgroCenta and INTYON are natural partners in the AgroTrade — Northern Region Ghana Smallholder Farmer Market Integration Project (GSFMIP). INTYON was founded in 2003, and has an extensive on-the-ground network in Northern Ghana. INTYON’s focus and experience in training youth provide the necessary reach and experience to help promote AgroCenta’s platform.
AgroCenta and INTYON plan to conduct an intensive field campaign to promote AgroCenta’s platform and recruit and train smallholder farmers to participate. As a part of their activities, INTYON will take on monitoring and project administrative responsibilities, while AgroCenta will provide training, recruitment, informational materials, technological and logistic support.
With an ultimate goal of covering all of the Republic of Ghana, AgroCenta and INTYON will focus on the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Districts for the period of the grant’s funding (36 months, through 2019). In this time, AgroCenta and INTYON aim to recruit 120,000 smallholder farmers and more Farmer Based Organizations to use the AgroCenta platform.
AgroCenta and INTYON will work to actively recruit smallholder farmers across Ghana to use the AgroCenta platform. AgroCenta has already begun recruiting and educating farmers and farmer based organizations in the Northern Region of Ghana, resulting in more than 5,000 farmers signing up from 10 villages in 3 districts and will continue work in the Northern Region of Ghana through 2017.
In 2017, AgroCenta and INTYON will target the Upper East Region followed by the Upper West Region in 2018. INTYON and AgroCenta have chose to prioritize these areas because of the high percentage of very rural farmers. INTYON and AgroCenta believe that the benefits of AgroCenta’s platform would have the greatest potential for impact in these areas.
By empowering smallholder farmers with timely commodity pricing and a logistics service, AgroCenta’s platform will allow farmers to offer their goods for sale at fair-market prices.
AgroCenta and INTYON believe that this project will contribute to Sections 2, 5, and 6 of UN SGD 8. Section 8.2 will be achieved through by increasing Ghanaian agricultural output through technological services. AgroCenta’s platform utilizes existing technological infrastructures (mobile phones, SMS) to connect farmers to markets and logistics.
By providing farmers with pricing information and logistics options to sell to the buyers of their choice, AgroCenta will improve the financial outcomes of small farmers and provide them with additional revenues that can be reinvested into their own farms as labor, hired machinery, or acreage. Section 8.5 is addressed by helping small farmers, including women farmers, to realize fair-market prices for their crops.
This is will direct improve the financial outcomes of smallholder farmers. Section 8.6 is addressed through AgroCenta’s training and initiatives and INTYON’s participation in the project. INTYON provides entrepreneurial training to Northern Ghanaian youth and combined with AgroCenta’s agricultural training offerings will produce a generation of farmers with entrepreneurial training and agricultural best practices.
The cumulative result of this project should be a higher number of farmers with better training better integrated into Ghana’s national agricultural value chain, higher agricultural output, and a healthier and stronger agricultural market in Ghana. AgroCenta and INTYON’s project will also contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 4, and 5.
AgroCenta and INTYON’s desired outcomes for the project include: Improved conditions in the agricultural market in Ghana; Better financial outcomes for rural smallholder farmers; More employment opportunities for rural youth; Increased agricultural production; Proliferation of more productive and sustainable farming practices; Increased economic participation by rural populations; and higher tax revenues.
Conservatively, AgroCenta and INTYON plan to recruit 100,000 farmers to AgroCenta’s platform by 2018. AgroCenta will track the total number of farmers and farmer’s organizations registered. The recruitment process will include data collection on crops being produced (including non-staples), historic sale prices, and demographics.
AgroCenta will track sales brokered through its platform and communicate them with INTYON and the general public. Thus AgroCenta will be able to track the number of people they help, as well as the degree to which they have helped them by comparing historic sales data, to sale prices realized through the platform, to the market prices. Thereby, AgroCenta will be able to assess its impact on the livelihoods of farmers, but also on the market as a whole.
AgroCenta and INTYON will communicate regularly the regional AgroCenta agents (village chiefs) regarding the progress of the project. Through the course of the project, AgroCenta will collaboratively work with INTYON to provide farming and agricultural training to current farmers as well as rural youth. AgroCenta and INTYON will track the number of training and their attendance.
Over the duration of the project, AgroCenta and INTYON expect that individual farmer’s offerings will increase in number as well as volume, as well as that the number of new or young farmers increases. In many instances this information simply does not exist and will be collected for the first time through the recruitment surveys.
Project Rationale and Strategy
AgroCenta and INTYON have a shared goal in seeking to improve employment opportunities for very rural youth and farmers. INTYON’s program areas of economic empowerment and entrepreneurship training are ideally matched to AgroCenta’s knowledge transfer and farming best practices training offerings.
Combining business and entrepreneurial training with farming best practices, INTYON and AgroCenta have the potential to improve the economic outcomes for Ghana’s rural farmers and youth. INTYON and AgroCenta have prioritized Northern Ghana because of the area’s large rural populations, most of whom are engaged in Agriculture as a primary commercial or subsistence activity.
Improving the economic outcomes for small rural farmers would have a bottom-up effect. Improving the livelihoods of small rural farmers will in turn increase their participation in Ghana’s agricultural economy and increase overall agricultural production in Ghana.
AgroCenta and INTYON believe that a combination of AgriTech and familiarity with the African cultural context are the key to the success of the project. The rural population of Ghana that AgroCenta and INTYON hope to recruit are located in the Northern Region of Ghana.
This area is not as economically developed as the Southern Region. As a result many communities are far removed good roads or larger markets, making them difficult to reach. As the project proceeds, the partners will identify rural communities and approach the community or village chiefs to act as an agent or intermediary for the project.
The benefit of this approach is that a chief or village elder is the social center of even the most remote communities. Thus, recruiting and technologically empowering the village chiefs will facilitate communicating AgroCenta and INTYON’s project to the most rural and remote communities in Ghana.
AgroCenta and INTYON will work to provide information, training, and technological support to the chiefs, who in turn will communicate with and organize farmers within their communities.
Using the chiefs as a point of contact, AgroCenta and INTYON will be able to use a culturally adapted network approach to farmer recruitment.
In the process of recruitment, AgroCenta and INTYON will also be collecting primary data on these rural and dispersed communities. This information will include number of farmers, households, economic baseline information, and basic demographics.
For much of the targeted region these data are unreliable or simply do not exist and will be of particular interest to NGOs, government agencies, and international AID organizations such as DANIDA or USAID, creating another potential avenue for monetization.
This baseline economic information will also assist AgroCenta in with its logistics, training, and agricultural input offerings, further leveraging AgriTech towards the improvement of Ghana’s agricultural sector.