Mechanised agriculture is undoubtedly essential, and stakeholders within Ghana’s agric sector are beginning to appreciate and harness the added advantages technology and innovation bring the sector in efficiency and productivity.
Furthermore, mechanised agriculture ensures timeliness of operations and reduces health hazards due to manual labour drudgery; it supplements human power, saves time and – importantly, it is beginning to encourage many young people to take a second look at the agricultural sector for employment and career options.
In this light, the agricultural sector in Ghana is becoming more and more profitable, and YARA Ghana – a foremost stakeholder within the sector – is heavily committed to this growth and productivity in the areas of growing the knowledge of farmers, and supporting the value chain with innovations that can maximise the efforts of value chain actors.
At this year’s 11th Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions event, organised by Agrihouse Foundation in Tamale – the West African Regional Director of YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo in a keynote address reiterated the importance of value-chain partnerships, and called for more collaborations among stakeholders.
“We need to continue driving sustainable farming,” he said, “The world is changing and we need to ensure sustainability in our agricultural sector. It is critical. We need to find partners who think long-term sustainability and not just short-term opportunities to make business,” he stressed.
In an interview conducted ahead of the 3-day event, Mr. Addo-Yobo noted that because of such value chain partnerships YARA has become a key player in the agricultural value chain, specifically in the fertiliser space; providing farmers and other stakeholders with crop nutrition solutions which have over the years, helped farmers increase their yields and profitability.
“We are the pioneers of cocoa fertiliser,” the Director revealed in the interview, “Through extensive research work we did with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, we came out with the household cocoa fertiliser called Asaasewura. The product has seen significant growth among cocoa farmers who have used it; and I dare say that in periods when Ghana has been able to deliver one billion tonnes of cocoa production, statistics available show that Asaasewura has played a significant part in the production growth,” he asserted.
He said YARA has also helped to form and create the biggest value chain partnership that Ghana has ever seen; a value chain that has over the years grown to involve more than ten thousand farmers.
“Again, what’s most critical about this is the value chain partnerships – that is, from input to output to farmers; we have built this to ensure that there is knowledge transfer, improved productivity, and an improved business mindset around farming; so that when the farmers are no longer in that scheme, they are still able to organise themselves with business mindsets which give the necessary access to finance and markets,” he explained.
According to Mr. Addo-Yobo, YARA also thrives in the area of knowledge transfer. “We have been running hundreds of demonstration field projects year-on-year across the country, and we use them as an opportunity to train and educate farmers on best farming practices,” he elaborated. “We have seen that farmers who adopted those farming practices have been more profitable and improved their productivity.”
He said Yara’s commitment to high standards is not limited to their products alone; the company also ensures a high standard of Healthy and Safety for their staff, suppliers and customers along the production process. “Yara also has a strong Ethics and Compliance culture, underpinned by their commitment to keeping high standards in all they do,” he said.
He stressed, YARA will continue to collaborate with research bodies such as the Crop Research Institute of Ghana and others to undertake more scientific trials aimed at evolving cost-effective crop nutrition protocols and programmes for Ghanaian farmers, which will contribute significantly to improved yields and profits for the farmer.
YARA Introduces ‘FarmGo’ Weather App
In line with the above commitment, Mr. Addo-Yobo revealed YARA has invested in a FarmerWeather App known as FarmGo that has been designed to help farmers predict weather conditions accurately; which will also enable them to plan their farming activities and maximise their time to ensure more productivity.
He said, with the FarmWeather APP, farmers will get ahead of the weather by getting free forecasts. “It gives daily, weekly and hourly forecasts to enable farmers plan their farm activities anywhere they are,” he said. The App, he noted, can be downloaded and used on all smartphones at the comfort of the farmer.
“When we launched it this year, we were expecting to have about 2,500 downloads to end the year and then build up from there; today we have about 10,000 farmers who downloaded the app. We are very encouraged. This is our show of support to our farmers.”
Sustainable Soya bean Production Project
He said YARA has in this year also launched the ‘Sustainable Soya bean Production in Northern Ghana’ project, which underscores the importance of soya production in the Northern Region and how it influences food security and the region’s poultry sector.
“It is a four-year project being supported by NORAD, a Norwegian fund. We expect that in the four years we will reach at least 100,000 soya farmers. It is a value chain approach, so we are working with aggregators, processors and the poultry industry. Just as we have been able to build the Pre-Harvest project with Agrihouse, we want to build the project that will create sustainability after the four years,” he said.
The project will address the challenges farmers in the sector are often confronted with, including poor agronomic practices which have negatively affected yields. Mr. Addo-Yobo, therefore encouraged soya processors and farmers to take advantage of the project. Yara has showed itself as a strong partner of the annual Pre-Harvest Conference for the past eleven years.
This year, YARA led key Commodity Breakout sessions with rice, maize, yam, soya bean, sorghum, millet, cashew and vegetable farmers. Yara also led practical Training and Capacity Building sessions, while sharing success stories on modules and solutions which have worked. Participants also improved their knowledge of best crop nutrition solutions and farming practices, which will help them increase their yield and maximise high returns on investments.
11th Pre-Harvest Exhibitions and Conference activities
The 3-day leading market linkage event opened on Tuesday, October 19th, and ran until Thursday, October 21. This edition was on theme ‘Working Together to Improve Market Channels for Agri-foods Beyond the Pandemic’, and took place at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium at Tamale in the Northern Region.
The leading agribusiness market linkage conference and exhibitions event featured major training and capacity sessions: such as a commodity breakout session; farmer-buyer matchmaking dialogues; showcasing successful agribusiness modules; exhibitions; agri-youth forum; gender workshop; development partner panel conversation; and practical field demonstration exercises.
The event further highlighted and addressed the challenges which COVID-19 has intensified within the sector and the effects it has posed to marketing Agri-foods, while exploring existing market channels to address these challenges.
A key highlight of the 3-day event was the Field demonstrations, whereby farmers and actors got to practically learn, appreciate and adopt best practices in Farm Management. This took place at the Agrihouse Foundation AGRI-VILLAGE, a ten (10) acre land donated by the Bamvim Lana (Chief of Bamvim.
In the short- to long-term, the Agrihouse Foundation Agri-village is expected to house different type of farms: including Seeds and Livestock Farms, Demonstration Centres; Conference/Workshop halls; Restrooms; Exhibition stores for Agric Companies; Training and Recreational Centres; Storage space; Processing Centres, Production rooms; Laboratories and Research Centres.
Impacts of Pre-Harvest over the years
Pre-Harvest has created and continues to connect, through exhibitions and training sessions, companies that are into fertilisers, seeds, Irrigation, machinery and equipment, Finance, Transportation, ICT, Processors, Packagers, Marketers, Government Institutions, Development Partners, among others. Over 90% of companies and participants have been linked to markets through the Exhibitions.
Pre-Harvest has become a leading event on the Ghanaian agricultural calendar, and has served as a stimulating platform for training, and also creating increased stakeholder linkages, exhibitions and expanded opportunities. It operates from a facilitative dimension by presenting a highly engaging and coordinated platform that ensures smallholder farmers are connected to markets, finance, inputs, equipment and information.
These activities are geared toward capturing the marketing challenges faced by the actors, especially in the pandemic, and how other modernised marketing platforms can serve as a solution to maximise the output of actors along the value chain. Farmers, actors along the value chain and participants will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to observe Good Agricultural Practices.
This year’s 3-day event (2021, 11th edition) recorded 118 Exhibitors – including farmers, traders, commodity brokers, input companies, machinery and equipment providers, transporters, financial institutions, ICT, Innovations, Poultry and Livestock companies, packaging and processing companies, development practitioners and government agencies, among others. It made room for 3,200 Participants; 32 FBOs from different regions and districts who represented over 300,000 farmers of rice, maize, soya beans, sorghum, millet, groundnut, vegetables, yam and other tubers, etc. A total of 46 buyers negotiated and signed deals with farmers.
In 2020 (10th edition), the event recorded a total of 3,122 participants and 122 exhibitors including farmers, traders, commodity brokers, input companies, machinery and equipment providers, transporters, financial institutions, ICT, Innovations, Poultry and Livestock companies, packaging and processing companies, development practitioners and government agencies, among others.
Report on the 2019 event showed that about 70 business deals were made during the Exhibition. More than GH¢232,420,745 of agri products and equipment were sold and bought. The event has improved livelihoods for players along the value chain by boosting their confidence – i.e., created a stimulus platform for collaborating with other actors to establish business deals/increased stakeholders linkages.
It has given agro-processors a strong drive to access their raw materials locally, assisted agribusiness development, grown the local economy through the expansion of agribusiness opportunities, and has become a platform of growth for agribusiness entrepreneurs. The event will remain one of the leading events in the country where farmers, businesses, government and ideas meet to network, build capacity, learn and explore business opportunities, sign deals and close contracts.
In 2018, the event won the Agribusiness Event of the Year award for helping to promote business partnerships among value chain actors, especially farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, equipment dealers, financial institutions, telecom companies and policymakers. Over the years, through continuous improvement, it has accelerated the transformation of agribusiness in Northern Ghana alongside government’s initiatives.