The University for Development Studies (UDS) has collaborated with the United Kingdom (UK) and Economic Commission of West African Studies (ECOWAS) to develop a project that will help establish a food systems and export network for peasant farmers to help boost agricultural business in the sub-region.
The six-month project, dubbed Ghana-ECOWAS Food Systems and Export Network (UKEFSEN), targeting smallholder farmers is to create market opportunities and also enable them to own 40% of the market for home-grown food crops.
The collaboration was unveilled at an event held at UDS International Conference Centre. It was organized by the Department of Climate Change and Food Security at UDS in collaboration with management of the University of York, UK, with the Institute for Disciplinary Research and Consultancy Services(IIRaCS) at UDS under the project title ‘Post Britain Exit (Brexit) Opportunities: UK-ECOWAS Food Systems Pathways to Resilient Supply Chains and Prosperity to Smallholder Farmers’, with funding from the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) through the University of York as a pump-priming grant aimed at developing a proposal for large-scale funding.
The event also brought together academicians and industry players from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), National Board for Small Scale Industry(NBSSI), Ghana Export and Promotion Authority (GEPA), farmer associations among others for practical orientation to find solutions to nagging problems that militate against development.
Prof. Gabriel Ayum Teye, Vice Chancellor of UDS, said the project stems from Britain’s exit from the European Union, the expected fallouts and what the West African sub-region, ECOWAS, stands to benefit from it.
According to him, the Brexit will definitely lead to a shift in trade agreements between the UK and nations outside Europe, saying: “Whether the effects will be positive or negative, it depends on how we are able to identify opportunities that come with Brexit and are able to take advantage of those opportunities. You cannot export products that are of different sizes. It cannot give you the needed revenue injected into the production,” he said.
He urged the participants to help come out with a proposal that will help win the needed funding to support research into UK-ECOWAS trade, especially in the food and agriculture sectors.
“On our part, as an institution of higher learning with an emphasis on research in finding practical solutions to problems, this will contribute immensely to our priority of contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by increasing our international engagement through strategic partnerships and trade,” he emphasised.
Dr. Mahamudu Akudugu, Director of IIRaCs and lead facilitator of the Network, said following the exit of UK from the European Union will create some opportunities for Africans and the ECOWAS region to take advantage and engage in better trade deals for their products to grow their economy.
“We decided to come out with this network to help support the smallholder farmers to produce for the UK and ECOWAS market. In reaching out to sign new deals, it means we also have to position ourselves to enable them understand that we are a force to reckon with and that we can supply the commodities needed on the market. This is a new opportunity that we have observed to take advantage of and create wealth and job opportunities,” he said.
Programmes Coordinator at the Peasant Farmers Association (PFA), Bismark Nortey, commended UDS and its collaborators for the support to boost agribusiness among smallholder farmers, adding that it will go a long way in motivating farmers to increase crop production so as to earn more revenue and also create job opportunities.