A day’s training on Agri-Business Management has taken place in Bongo, capital of the Bongo District in the Upper East Region for members of Farmer-Based Organisations (FBOs), Agric Extension Agents, Food Processors, Agro In-put dealers and Agriculture-based Non-Governmental Organisations among other stakeholders.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and its partner, the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI) organised the training with funding and other forms of support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Scientific Cooperation Research Project and the North Carolina A&T University.
The participants who were selected from across the district were taken through topics such as benefits of cooperatives, direct marketing strategies, contract farming and value-added business planning.
A Senior Research Scientist with SARI, Mr. Issah Sugri in a presentation disclosed that, the training formed part of the Rhizobium Inoculum Technology Project objective which seeks to increase yields and incomes of smallholder soya bean producers in order to propel the Ghanaian Soya bean Value Chain for Accelerated Poverty Reduction. He added that, by using the rhizobia inoculation technology and other integrated strategies in a broader framework, farmers stood a better chance of harvesting more produce than the use of old-fashioned traditional methods because the technology had been tested and approved by his outfit.
According to Mr. Sugri, Rhizobia inoculants can lead to establishment of large rhizobia population and also improve nodulation and nitrogen fixation even under adverse soil conditions.
He revealed that the project estimates to train over 2000 soya bean farmers from selected communities across the district on best soya bean production practices and value addition options so as to increase household incomes, utilization and nutrition among the population. Meanwhile the Bongo District’s Department of Agriculture and ADRO-Bongo will team up for the implementation in the beneficiary communities.
Among other objectives of the project, the implementers will distribute soya bean seeds, inoculum (a bio-fertilizer) and fertilizers (the regular ones) to the farmers and also, conduct participatory evaluation of the growth, yield and biological nitrogen fixation responses of different soya bean varieties to rhizobium inoculation and fertilizer types.
Additionally, the Project will enhance the capacity of farmers, FBOs, local institutions and the Department of Agriculture to deliver information as well as access and use technical information on production, processing and marketing activities for increased income to actors. Meanwhile, two farmer learning centres on improved technologies in soya bean production will be established in two communities within the district to allow for knowledge transfer to a majority of farmers.
Professor Osei-Agyemang Yeboah from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who was the main facilitator at the training noted that, in the modern world farmers had no choice than to come together under cooperatives so that they could have a strong bargaining power to set prices and also do bulk sales.
Professor Yeboah observed that by operating individually, many farmers were simply unable to expand their operations to the scale necessary to become involved in processing but by pooling resources as in cooperative ventures, even small producers can reach the necessary size and output levels to vertically integrate and enter the processing arena.
He said cooperatives allow for the poor rural farmer to obtain products and services otherwise unavailable, help to reduce costs and at the time, improve incomes and funding opportunities for member farmers.
According to the Professor, the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions have been designated by the USAID and the USDA as food insecurity zones and this explained why majority of interventions by these organisations were prevalent in these parts of Ghana. He blamed low soil fertility, climate change and erratic cum inadequate rainfall patterns as working against efforts aimed at making these areas food-sufficient.
Professor Yeboah also observed that commercial agriculture was gradually being taken over by industries and that for the average farmer to be successful, such farmers have to come together to produce in bulk and sell in bulk so that they can gain access to good market points and be able to negotiate for higher prices for their products.
He opined that the government can be of tremendous help to farmers if it promulgates tailored and purposeful agric policies and see to their strict implementation. He therefore commended the NPP government’s Planting for Food and Jobs Programme saying more funding should be voted for its sustenance and expansion.
The Professor encouraged farmers to cultivate their crops using bio-fertilizers like inoculants in order to reduce possible chemical contamination of farm produce. He also urged Ghanaians to consume more organic foods as these had a good potential of prolonging the life of humans.
Source: Peter Atogewe Wedam (ISD)