In line with the theme for this year’s 12th Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions, ‘Connecting the Unconnected: the Farmer, the Buyer and the Market’, Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, has charged farmers and all other agric stakeholders in the country to continue working together by staying connected.
She said when value chain actors work together, they bridge existing gaps within the agricultural sector, adding: “We will certainly witness the rich and immense growth and productivity we want to see within the value chain”. Ms. Akosa noted in her brief remarks during the closing ceremony of the 3-day market linkage event, which brought together over three thousand stakeholders operating across the agricultural value chain.
“To ensure that we continue working together, there are four key areas we must focus on: one, we must continue working to deepen financing for farmers, processors, inputs, equipment, machinery, and allied industries to power our economy. Two, we must continue working to develop resilient market activities, where food will be affordable and more accessible. Three, we must continue working to grow knowledge, to produce good food, provide good food, and market good food to strengthen our communities. Four, we must continue working to create and sustain markets for our agri-food producers and manufacturers. I believe when we all galvanise our efforts toward these goals, we will restructure our agricultural sector for the better. The only way we can grow is when we explore the potentials of the sector together,” she said.
This year’s event took place from Tuesday, October 25 to Thursday, October 27 at the Aliu Mamaha Sports Stadium in Tamale while the practical training and demonstration sessions, took place at the Agrihouse Agri-Village Training, Apprenticeship and Demonstration Centre, in Bamvim. The vibrant and colourful opening ceremony was marked by traditional music and cultural dances from the north. It was graced by dignitaries and notable personalities, including the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Yaw Frimpong Addo; Northern Regional Minister, Hon. Shani Alhassan Shaibu; and West Africa Regional Director for Yara, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo. The rest are Inclusive and Business Module Expert (GIZ MOAP), Mr. Reuben Binpori; Director for Economic Growth (USAID-Ghana), Mr. Paul Pleva; and the 2021 National Best Farmer, Alhaji Mashud Mohammed.
Remarks by invited guests
In her welcome address, Executive Director of Agrihouse noted that the theme for this year’s event ‘Connecting the Unconnected: the Farmer, the Buyer and the Market’ was aimed at empowering value chain actors and agribusinesses to build new agricultural market linkages while strengthening existing ones. The theme aimed to create market for agricultural related SMEs and equip farmers and actors with modern and best agricultural practices that would help them increase their levels of productivity.
Touching on some impacts of Pre-harvest over the years, she said in the past twelve years, the event has generated an estimated US$5 billion of businesses for stakeholders. “Right here on these grounds, industrial agro-processors have purchased over 14,000 metric tonnes of soybean and 31,000 metric tonnes of maize from farmers. Farmers have been trained by expert facilitators on how to negotiate deals, expected market demands, pricing and markets accessibility,” she added.
This year’s event saw participation from value chain actors, including farmer groups across districts in the Northern Region, some of them being women farmers and farmers with physical disability. Exhibitors and service providers were made up of aggregators, agric foods processors, input dealers, machinery and transport services providers, ICT, branding and communications experts, extension services providers, among others. “I am happy to report that from machinery dealers to transport providers, from agric processors, input dealers to ICT, branding and telecommunications service provider, Pre-harvest continues to connect the value chain. Although we continue to chalk incredible successes through this project, we have a long way to go in connecting the unconnected aspects of the industry from small-scale farmers to farmers with physical disabilities, input dealers, seed dealers, manufacturers and processors, equipment and machinery companies, among others,” she noted in her welcome address.
The executive director used the opportunity to express profound gratitude to Yara Ghana for being lead sponsor of the event since 2017 after it was handed over to Agrihouse by the USAID ADVANCE Project, when it was exiting the country. “Your constant support and long-term partnership is the reason Pre-harvest is still active and live today,” she noted. She thanked GIZ MOAP and Demeter Ghana Limited for coming on board as sponsors this year as well as Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Northern Regional Coordinating Council (NRCC) for being collaborative partners over the years.
For his part, the Northern Regional Minister, Hon. Shani Alhassan Shaibu, said the 3-day leading market linkage event has not failed to continue growing and making tangible socio-economic impacts under the care of Agrihouse. “I want to commend Agrihouse Foundation for holding down the fort, and sustaining this impactful interventional event that annually gathers our farmer groups and agri-businesses to connect, network, mount exhibitions, share information and build capacity as agricultural stakeholders in Northern Region in particular and Ghana as a whole,” he said.
Touching on the theme, he described it as timely, and therefore, called on all stakeholders to continue investing in the growth of the sector. “The way forward is to continue working to improve the state of our market channels. In doing so, we tackle and halt challenges including post-harvest losses, poor pricing for our farmers, mechanisation and transportation challenges, and concerns that come with dealing with middlemen.” “Improving market channels will encourage our youths to have a change of mind about the agriculture and see it as a viable space to also invest in. I commend Agrihouse for this focus, and I am convinced the activities lined up as part of the 3-day event will unfold the practical aspects of the theme,” he added.
For his part, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Yaw Frimpong Addo, noted that Ghana’s agricultural sector is beginning to experience exciting times as government is committed to transforming the agricultural sector with technology and innovation, adding: “The trust of the President’s vision is to ensure a paradigm shift of agriculture from a way of life to a serious business and central activity. In other words, agriculture in any form should no longer be constrained or limited by socio-economic, cultural and other factors,” he stressed.
While praising Pre-harvest for its successes, he extended even more praise to Agrihouse Foundation for continuing to contribute to the Ghanaian systems of agriculture by eliminating cultural barriers such as gender biases, insecurity and seasonal farming. “You have set the agenda to reap the full potential of agriculture by transforming and giving meaning and practical expression to Agriculture. This is what we, at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have set out to do since 2017. It has been about tackling the fundamentals as taking bold and strategic decisions through the introduction of new policy initiatives strategies under Planting for Food and Jobs – our flagship programme,” he said.
The West Africa Regional Director for Yara International, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, said that Ghana is not exempted from the ongoing global food insecurity; and that is why there is a need to have a well-connected local value chain to ensure the availability and flow of food. He said Pre-harvest has over the past last twelve years been working toward this goal, and has grown to become a valuable event that brings together value chain partners. “We continue to see this event as creating opportunities for businesses and, indeed, testimonies over the year attest to this,” he said.
Touching on ways to continue strengthening the platform, Mr. Addo-Yobo said long-term sustainability is the way to go. “This can be created when the value chain is supported and connected. This has been and will continue to be one of the key drivers for such an event. In spite of the good progress made in some areas, it is still worth noting that there is still more work to be done to connect the unconnected,” he noted.
On the part of Yara, he said the organisation has recently committed US$20million to provide 18,000mt of fertilisers to farmers for free in a programme called Grow Ghana. “The Yara Grow Ghana initiative is a market systems approach which today supports 170 retailers and distributors, and is targetting to reach about 100,000 farmers, helping to produce 500,000mt of cereals in Ghana. Fertilisers are accessible in a package,” he explained.
Representing GIZ-MOAP, the Inclusion Business Models (IBM) Expert, Mr. Reuben Binpori, said the team at European Union Ghana Agricultural Programme (EUGAP) was proud to be associated with Pre-harvest for the second time. He said the European Union funds activities for and in support of productive investments for agricultural developments through the EUGAP. “Through our 3 inter-connected components, we aim to increase agricultural income and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in rural communities in Ghana’s north–west,” he said.
According to him, since 2017, the capacities of over 70,000 farmers, agro–inputs dealers and agro-processors have been built to enhance improvements in the sector. “I am happy to announce that we have scaled up exciting innovations with our private sector partners to promote an inclusive agribusiness development,” he revealed.
To this end, MOAP–NW facilitates certifications and markets linkages as well as promotes integrated business models. It also supports the public sector to build an enabling framework for value chain developments and an effective quality inspection system, he noted, while praising Agrihouse for sustaining the growth of Pre-harvest over the years.
Key sessions at 12th Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference
Exhibitions: this year’s exhibitions hosted 154 agribusinesses including farmer groups, input and seed dealers, agric marketing experts, financial institutions, brand specialists, policy makers and influencers, transporters, equipment and machinery companies, marketers, processing and packaging companies, development partners, donor agencies, corporate institutions, aggregators, buyers, civil society, key government ministries and agencies, industry and business leaders.
Farmer to buyer matchmaking: the session was a big highlight of the event as it has been over the years. Farmer groups promoted and negotiated for pricing with buyers, and signed contracts for produce supply. Last year, 53 contracts, valued at US$189,000, were signed. Some of the farmer groups who participated in this session this year included; Gushegu OB Network, Tamale OB Network, Beinmoni Outgrower Business (OB) NETWORK, Jirapa OB Network, Sissala Area OB Network, Nawuni OB Network, etc. The session connected buyers and aggregators to farmers who produce rice, maize, millet, sorghum, soyabeans, groundnut, yam and tubers, among others.
Training & capacity-building sessions: In sizable groups that enable easy interaction and flow of information, the farmers were taken through topics that increased their knowledge and skills as farmers. Organisations that led this year’s sessions included ADB, YARA, GIZ and Ecobank, with topics such as preparing for expected demands, expected production, and price expectations. The session educated participants on market demands for commodities, the need to farm with a market or financial consumer in mind, and identifying market before production. Facilitators walked participants through the entire agric value chain and how they could essentially improve each point along the chain. The purpose of these topics was to empower them to influence production and positively influence their price expectations in the market.
Farmer-to-farmer apprenticeship programme: The 10-acre agri-village played host to the series of technical training and demonstration sessions that were held for the FBO leaders, farm associations, and outgrowers of rice, soybean, sorghum, maize and vegetables. Yara Ghana, CWoerman Ghana Limited, Agripower, Demeter, Lamb Father Engineering and SAYeTECH were companies that participated in the sessions this year. The apprenticeship training module provided experienced field representatives the opportunity to run practical and demonstrative training sessions. Through this module, the capacities and knowledge of both local and commercial farmers were strengthened and develop to practically enable them to embrace and manage machines, equipment and agri farm inputs and produce.