The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) – the world’s largest humanitarian organisation – has over the years demonstrated its commitment to global food security by continiously working with organisations around the world which produce and distribute food in the regions where they are located. The goal remains the same; to deliver food assistance in emergencies and work with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
In Ghana, WFP aims to help the country attain efficient, equitable, resilient and inclusive food systems which contribute to the reduction of stunting and micronutrient deficiencies. According to the Programme Policy Officer in Ghana, Mr. Francis Essuman, the above objectives are mainly achieved through programme implementation, partnerships, providing technical support and capacity building to related organisations, as well as advocating at the national level.
In an interview ahead of this year’s 11th Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions, he noted that WFP does not work in a vacuum – but rather ensures it collaborates with other institutions and organisations which work in line with the vision and mission of WFP. Agrihouse Foundation, he noted, is one of such institutions; and that is why, annually, WFP deems it fit to support the Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions organised by the Foundation.
This year, WFP was among sponsors of the 3-days market linkage event held at Tamale, the Northern Region capital, in the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium on the theme ‘Working Together to Improve Market Channels for Agri-foods Beyond the Pandemic”.
“It’s an appropriate and relevant theme for the programme, considering effects of the pandemic in disrupting global supply chains – including agriculture sector,” Mr. Essuman said. “It is very important that in a bid to build back better, improved agriculture commodity distribution to promote markets for farmers and access to food is given a priority.”
Annually, the event brings together companies that are into fertiliser, seeds, Irrigation, machinery and equipment, Finance, Transportation, ICT, Processors, Packagers, Marketers, Government Institutions and Development Partners, among others.
The platform serves as a highly engaging training, capacity building and exhibitions time for all actors within the agric value chain – helping them add to their knowledge and skills through practical sessions including field demonstrations, commodity breakout sessions, farmer-buyer matchmaking dialogues, gender workshops, development corporate conversations, and showcasing successful agribusiness modules and exhibitions.
Stakeholders and participants are able to network with companies and among themselves within this period, which serves as an opportunity for them to strike new deals, build their customer and client database and, importantly, negotiate new contracts toward the harvest season.
“The Annual Pre-harvest Event has over the years served as a platform for networking and building sustainable relationships among actors in the agriculture space in Ghana,” said Mr. Francis Essuman, praising the initiative. He added: “This has resulted in increased access to markets, technology, better management practices and others to enhance productivity of farmers and general growth of the agriculture in Ghana, especially northern Ghana.”
WFP at 11th Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions
In a goodwill message read on her behalf at the opening ceremony, the Deputy Country Director of WFP, Ms. Ann Mukiibi-bunnya, therefore noted that WFP is greatly pleased to be part of sponsors for the event’s 11th edition. She said, like Agrihouse Foundation, WFP also works in Ghana to address existing gaps in the agric value chain; to reduce the triple burden of malnutrition – that is stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity.
“Activities in the food systems component help reduce post-harvest losses, improve linkages between smallholder farmers and markets, and enhance food safety in value chains. Support is also provided to strengthen national social protection programmes so as to enable Ghana achieve zero hunger by 2030,” she added.
Touching on how COVID-19 impacted the work of WFP in Ghana, and how it has fared, Ms. Mukiibi-bunnya said WFP worked with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ghana Commodity Exchange to develop a large-scale project titled ‘Ghana Smallholder Farmer E-commerce Access’. She revealed this project will be implemented soon to ensure a widespread adoption of e-commerce within Ghana’s agriculture, thus promoting access to markets and food distribution.
Highlighting some socio-economic success stories WFP has chalked up in Ghana over the years, she said a total of 22,000 smallholder farmers organised in 84 farmer-based organisations (FBOs) have been reached with good agriculture practices. “This includes teaching the farmers modern techniques for production and access to improved agricultural inputs. Some of the farmers have experienced productivity increases of between 25% and 75% – especially for maize and soybean – because of their adoption of improved agronomic techniques. The FBOs were linked to aggregators and industrial food processors supported by WFP, and a total of 14,145.38mt of Soybean and 30,725.03mt of maize was procured from SHFs,” she revealed.
Furthermore, over the past four years WFP has supported two industrial-level food processors, both financially and technically, to establish new food processing facilities for specialised nutritious foods. In line with this project, she revealed, the funding was used to provide them with new equipment which increased their production capacities; while technical support enabled them to set up food safety and quality management systems that meet international standards. “One of these processors is currently exporting extruded cereal-based products from their new production line to neighbouring Burkina Faso to meet critical humanitarian needs, while another is producing extruded cereal-based products for key national markets,” she added.
She also noted that WFP has nurtured retailers to sell nutritious foods and promote good nutrition at retail outlets. Through the capacity-strengthening initiative, retailers began to stock local nutritious foods in addition to the original provisions/groceries sold in their shops. “They are also supported to stock locally-produced fortified foods with the Obaasima seal, to sell to the bottom-20 percent of the population who – due to their geolocation – are unable to access nutritious foods for improved nutritional outcomes,” she said.
Furthermore, the retailers help to generate evidence that supports social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) strategies for positive behaviour adoption and healthy eating habits by capturing sales data on digital tablets. This information, she said, is used as a proxy to understand and monitor consumer preferences or choices, and improve the stocking of nutritious products at retail outlets.
WFP Facilitates Training & Capacity Building Sessions at Pre-Harvest
Beyond sponsoring the event, representatives of WFP also served as resource persons in a number of the training and capacity building sessions which took place at the 11th Pre-Harvest event. In their engagements with farmers and participants, they highlighted the vision and missions of WFP in Ghana; and how the organisation has over the years been working in the country. During the Commodity Breakout Sessions, they englightened the farmers on best farming practices in the areas of rice, maize and millet production.
Furthermore, Mr. Francis Essuman – the Programme Policy Officer in Ghana, was among key speakers for the Agri-Youth Interactive Discussions, which enlightened participants on the relevance of agri-food systems and the need to develop innovative technologies to grow and preserve agricultural produce. In this light, he touched on ways to improve post-harvest management systems by enhancing market linkages. He highlighted the importance of good nutrition practices, and WFP also got an opportunity to promote new products the organisation advocates for: like processed soybean and cereal blended products, Hermetic silos, Moisture Meter and Zerofly bags for grain-storage.
At the closing ceremony of the 3-day event, Mr. Francis Essuman praised Agrihouse Foundation for implementing another successful and impactful event that has allowed for deliberations, knowledge-sharing and networking among stakeholders in the agricultural sector. He said WFP will continue collaborating with Agrihouse Foundation to ensure that gains the Pre-Harvest has achieved will be sustained and intensified.
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 in Tamale, 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, an agri-youth forum, gender workshop, a development partner panel conversation, and practical field demonstrations exercises.
The event further highlighted and addressed the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified within the sector, the effects it has posed on marketing Agri-foods, while exploring existing market channels to address these challenges.
A key highlight of the 3-day event was the Field demonstrations, wherein 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 room, 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 fertiliser, 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 as well as 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-days 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 3200 Participants and 32 FBOs from different regions and districts – who represented over 300,000 farmers of rice, maize, soybeans, sorghum, millet, groundnut, vegetables, yam and 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.
A 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 the livelihoods of players along the value chain by boosting their confidence – i.e. created a stimulus platform for collaborating with other actors for business deals/increased stakeholder linkages.
It has given agro-processors a strong drive to access their raw materials locally, promoted 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 about 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.