SELF-SUPPORTED GHANAIAN SUBSISTENT FARMERS CONSORTIUMS REMIX
The self-supported subsistent farmers consortium initiative is a strategy that seeks to bring subsistent famers together and support then to make maximum use of their potential.
This idea won a prize in the 2009 Africa Rural Connect Competition and therefore cannot compete in any subsequent ARC competitions.
The self-supported Ghanaian subsistence farmers consortiums initiative is a strategy that seeks to bring subsistence farmers together and support them to make maximum use of their potentials, opportunities and resources. Over 80% of Ghanaian Farmers are engaged in subsistence farming. Most of them faced with challenges such as lack of capital or labor, lack of access to ready market, unavailability of land and post harvest losses. There are, however, immense potentials and opportunities such as labor, market, land, useful indigenous technologies and farming inputs, within these rural communities, that can be harness for the benefit of these farmers. This approach is better than most contemporary approaches as it makes the farmers less dependent on foreign or external supports which are often not sustainable.
The main objectives of this initiative are
- Help famers to identify their available potentials and resources, improve upon them and make maximum use of them.
- Help farmers to develop already known or useful traditional farming techniques and strategies.
- Help farmers to identify available support and potentials within their locality and access them.
- Create a platform for farmers to share ideas and resources, discuss challenges and device strategies to solving them.
- Help the farmers to enter into symbiotic associations
- Help farmers to collaborate to create bigger and more profitable market opportunities.
- Link farmers with appropriate partners and support groups.
Several farming groups known as consortiums would be formed in the targeted areas. The leadership of each consortium; consisting of a chairman, an organizer, a secretary and a treasurer would be responsible for managing the affairs of each consortium.
Under this arrangement, subsistence farmers who hitherto were cultivating different kinds of crops in small quantities would now be encouraged to plant the same type of crop during a season. Thus different areas of the country would now be known to be growing particular kind of crops. Such areas would be linked with appropriate buying agencies.
All major traders as well as transport owners who want to do transaction with the farmers would be officially registered. Thus, through the consortium leadership, the farmers will do all transactions as a team but not as individuals.
It is expected that the leadership would also make arrangement to ensure that members share their skills and resources for the benefit of all.
Equipments and other resources donated to the consortiums or bought by them would be available for hiring to members at reduced cost.
It is expected that, through this arrangement, the various potentials and resources of members can be harness for the benefit of all. The farmers would have stronger bargaining power and advertisement. The improve market availability would reduce post harvest losses as fewer amounts of crops would be left to store.
The initiative is also expected to increase food production and improve the lives of subsistence farmers.
Strategies to support farming in Ghana has often employed methods that are expensive and requires external technical and financial support for sustainability. Such strategies also often target the few commercial farmers at the expense of the large poor subsistence farming population. Cognizance of the fact that large number of our farming community (about 80%) which form about 60% of our population are subsistence farmers, the need for a strategy that put their development and needs at the center cannot be overemphasized.
Ghana has vast fertile lands, however, each year many rural poor populations wonder about looking for lands to do farming. For example, many of the people who travel from the Northern parts of the country to the south to do farming end up penetrating into remote areas before they get lands to farm on. Such farmers usually get good harvest but how to transport these foodstuffs from those inaccessible areas to the market becomes a problem.
Generally, farmers in rural Ghana do not get the expected income from their farm produce due to the lack of ready market for their produce. The crops are usually produced at the villages and often have to be transported to the nearby towns to be sold. The transportation cost takes large chunk of their income while at the market they have little control over the pricings of the commodities. The farmers usually do not have individuals or organizations that regularly buy their produce; neither do the buyers also know, at a particular time, the farmers who have the commodity they want. The prices they get for their commodities, therefore, depend on the availability or otherwise of the same commodities on the market as well as the demand.
The lack of ready market has a lot of influence on post-harvest losses. If individuals and organizations are available to buy the crops, fewer produce would be left to store. Again, some of the produce do not go bad easily unless they are harvested; (e.g. plantain, banana and root and stem tubers) so that if the farmers know exactly when the buyers will come to buy the produce, they can delay the harvesting of those crops.
Access to capital or labor remains a major challenge. Many rural folks do have lands, however, the farms they make in a season can barely feed them and their families because they do not have the capital or the labor to cultivate large farms or buy farming inputs. Many of the farmers go for loans at high interest rates or they collect money from the buyers whom they are later forced to sell their commodities to at very low prices.
Funding will be required to develop and produce tools and guidelines for the implementation of the project. This initiative will make maximum use of available opportunities, potentials and resources available in Ghana, especially those in the communities themselves. Appropriate farming equipments would be procured and made available for hiring by member farmers. The funds that would accrue will be used to repair such equipments and procure new ones as and when needed.
Field officers would require motorbikes and accompanying fuel to reach out to farmers. Funds would be required to hold regular meetings at all levels.
A private organization would be required to initiate and facilitate the project. Implementation should be done in conjunction with the Ministry of Agric for sustainability and continuity. It would be expected that the Ministry of Agriculture would be able to ensure the continuity of the project even in the absence of a facilitating private organization.
The Ministry of Agriculture already has a policy to reach out to rural subsistent farmers and supports any initiative that is in line with the Government's poverty alleviation strategy. Already the Ministry and NGOs are providing subsidies, farming equipments and other farming inputs to farmers. What this project will do, with the support of the Ministry of Agric, is to provide a platform for discussion on how each of these organizations can help to realize the objectives in this proposal as well as the harmonization and proper targeting of these resources.
At each level (National, Regional and District), therefore, there would be a committee known as the interagency coordinating committee (ICC) that will help to steer the project. This committee will have the Ministry of Agric as the Chair organization, the main private organization of this project as the secretary. All other NGOs and organizations involved in agric as well as any service that would be needed by this project will be part of the committee.
This committee will act as a plat form for identifying the various support and resources that are available for the farmers as well as finding solutions to the various challenges facing them. (A similar committee that was initiated by the Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Programme has been responsible for many of the successes in that programme)
PLAN AND EXECUTION
This phase begins with the submission of a proposal about this idea to the Ministry of Agric. This would be followed by a baseline study to ascertain the available opportunities, potentials, resources as well as challenges in target communities. The findings would then be used to formulate guidelines, tools and protocols for the project.
This phase will begin with selection of districts (the project should begin on a pilot basis) and follow immediately by training/orientation of Ministry of agric field officers, partners and stakeholders using the guidelines and tools developed.
This will include the mobilization and training of farmers groups. Attempt would be made to convert whole villages to be centers for the cultivation of selected crops. With large amount of the same crop cultivated in an area, it would be easy to link the farmers with available buying agencies.
This will involve monitoring and supervision of the implementation process. The ICC would meet on a bi-monthly basis to discuss matters arising and find solutions to them. Farmers groups would hold monthly collaborative meetings. Field officers would visit farmers on the farm regularly to offer support.
The ICC would exercise and oversight responsibility on all the consortiums each of which, however, would be independent
REAL WORLD IMPACT
This programme is expected to improve the livelihood of about 60% of Ghana's population who are engaged in the various farming related activities. People in the rural areas will get jobs; the parents among would be able to take care of their children. Ghana as a whole would benefit from the increase in food production and the reduction in rural-urban migration.
When successful in Ghana, this project can be expanded to the whole of Africa where it is expected to have direct impact on about 70% of Africa's population. Many people can feed themselves; the income level of the farmers as well as that of those who transact with them will improve. This is also expected to help reduce crime and illegal migration as the youth would then have work to do. More food can be produced for export to reduce hunger in the world.
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