Stories tagged: Ghana Grains Partnership

Maize Partnership for Prosperity in Ghana

Effectively engaging smallholder farmers in profitable production, public-private partnerships with a value chain approach has proven a promising track. The Ghana Grains Partnership (GGP) is an innovative example of a scalable model for improving agricultural productivity and enhancing rural livelihoods. By offering vital inputs and facilitating a market for the crops, the partnership increases local food production, food security and smallholders’ income levels.

Agriculture remains a backbone of Ghanaian society; yet, agricultural sustainability remains low, largely due to depleted soils and low productivity. Although the absolute number of poor people has fallen as a result of consistent economic growth, one third of Ghanaians still live below the poverty line. Furthermore, the prevalence of poverty in the arid north is twice as high as in the south, and the great majority of growers are smallholders producing at subsistence level.

According to Dr. James Mantent Kombiok, “Soil depletion is an epidemic” in Northern Ghana. Kombiok, a crop scientist with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says poor soil fertility is the major problem: “Without fertilizer the soil will have no nutrients; without fertilizer no cereals can be produced here.”

Productivity challenge

Low agricultural productivity – and profitability – is the main challenge facing food production in large parts of Africa. Although output has increased in Ghana, this is mainly due to farmland expansion rather than improved productivity. Ghana’s Ministry for Food and Agriculture concedes that yields for most crops are typically 20–60% below levels achievable with the use of available technologies.

A major obstacle facing smallholders is the inadequate access to high-quality, yet affordable agricultural inputs – and application knowledge. Accessibility has to do with physical availability as well as financial means to procure the inputs.

Innovative model

In 2008, the global crop nutrition producer Yara and the local inputs provider Wienco initiated the GGP, a public-private partnership working to improve the efficiency of the maize value chain in Northern Ghana. Building on existing studies of commodity value chains, the partners explored the potential of a novel approach, catalyzing the establishment of a farmers’ association – Masara N’Arziki (‘Maize for Prosperity’ in Hausa). Entering 2013, more than 8,000 farmers had joined, having seen yield levels triple compared to the average.

Masara acts on behalf of its members, purchasing inputs and selling the crops, while the GGP provides seeds and fertilizers on affordable credit terms, as well as storage and transport facilities – helping to reduce losses and increase profits. Thus, the risk for the individual farmer is reduced, as is the threshold for investing in improved technologies. Luuc Smits, Masara General Manager explains that “All the partners involved, like the suppliers and the farmers themselves, are in this model equally. Everybody understands that the success of one is success for everyone.”

Through the partnership, Yara offers its agronomic advice by inviting smallholders to Crop Clinics, sharing its crop-specific knowledge. Experience with local conditions have been gained from field trials, and are shared through practical demonstrations and discussions. One on the smallholders having taken advantage of program, Mohammadu Nindow of Duyin village explains that inputs and advice have raised yields and increased income – and improved livelihood. He is also encouraged by environmental impacts: “We can see the root go down and get strong. Even with heavy rain it will not cause erosion, but tie the ground. It supports the environment of the land.”

Moving forward

Based on studies of Ghanaian maize value chains, it has been estimated that value may be added through efficiency gains, from improved seeds and fertilizer use and reduced losses. Consequently, warehouses constitute a main component of the GGP, reducing product losses and increasing incomes, also because farmers do not need to sell when market prices are at their lowest.

“The value chain is the key,” says Yara country manager Mehdi Saint-André. As is the intrinsic business approach: “The GGP is a viable business model, able to tackle the smallholders’ challenges.” Among the challenges facing the model, are – in addition to those created by nature – the lack of coordination between agricultural development projects in the region, lacking group cohesion, and the low level of literacy amongst smallholders. The latter is addressed through the development of education in practical and innovative ways, bringing knowledge to the farmgate; the first are met though partnerships and coordination.

“The Ghana Grains Partnership is a wonderful model for agricultural development,” states Emmanuel Asante Krobea. The Director of Crop Services with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture hails the GGP as the way to address the critical challenge of productivity, wanting the model to be scaled up.

Through the Grow Africa partnership platform, building on the experiences with the GGP, Yara has committed to explore the opportunities for a rice value chain in Ghana and in neighboring Burkina Faso.


The Ghana Grains Partnership

Smallholder farmers in Ghana typically face several challenges preventing them from producing better yields. Among the lack of access to credit, inputs, storage facilities and infrastructure, a big influence on them is the belief that increasing production only serves to make the local market crash and prices plummet.

Back in 2008, fertilizer company Yara initiated a partnership with local growers in Ghana to address these challenges from production to market.  Working with local government, donors, private sector, scientists and farming communities, they commenced on working to provide the apparatus for marketing, warehousing, logistics and input services that would help farmers to stabilise and optimise their production and market prices.

The Ghana Grains Partnership focuses on maize, of which low production is a major problem in Western Africa. The initiative set to offer a holistic approach to the challenges faced in the agricultural value chain. Yara Ghana, together with Ghanaian inputs trader Wienco, financed the initial inputs requirements and coordinated the supply of fertilizers. A revolving credit fund was established, helping to attract further private sector participation in rural agriculture.  Along with Yara and Wienco, the partnership involves a variety of both public and private institutions: the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), farmers’ associations, the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture, commercial banks, output buyers and traders.

Ensuring that the farmers could make the most of the partnership, training in accessing appropriate credit, suitable inputs, and profitable output value chains was also provided.

After a successful fast-track plan in 2008, a larger scale model, including the launch of the growers’ association Masara N’Arziki (“Maize for Prosperity”), is now being rolled out over Ghana’s three northern regions. The association offers a programme package including provision of fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, spraying equipment, and technical advisory and training services.

In order to explain the benefits of joining the association to farmers, a sensitization project was undertaken initially, following which about 2,200 farmers signed up and over 10,000 acres were cultivated. Through relevant training, extension and inputs distribution, average yields improved significantly by the end of the first year.