Ghana’s Tourism; Still an unpolished diamond

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  • On the Asiwa-Anyaso road in the Bosome Freho District of the Ashanti Region

Throughout my childhood and adult years, I have always carried special pride in my heart for Ghana, the country of my birth. And that special pride is fueled by wonderful memories of wandering on the streets with my school friends, playing with my siblings at home and going to church with my parents, taking visits to Accra Zoo and other interesting sites in Ghana, as well as receiving gifts from relatives at Christmas and having fun at family outdoor parties in the golden sunshine.

But my time at Farmerline, which involves working with farmers and other actors in the agriculture space, exposes me to different adventures.

Each time I hit the road for work, I’m taken on a journey of an amazing country filled with beautiful nature, amazing people, and inspiring art and culture. My interactions with small-holder farmers spread across the country allows me the opportunity to see what influence people in hidden parts of the motherland can have on your humanity.

So in all my trips and experiences, one question keeps popping up; why is such a beautiful country like Ghana still poor?

I have read about African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa who have turned their raw natural habitats and wildlife resources into money generating ventures.

What is Ghana getting wrong? What needs to be done to get Ghana on the same pedestal to also chalk such successes?

And the word that comes to mind for me is ECOTOURISM!

In a decade (1983 – 1993), the percentage of visitors to Kenya rose by 45%, and 80% of the tourism market was drawn by wildlife which generates one-third of the country’s foreign earnings.

What is Ghana missing?

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  • At Betenase in the Sefwi Akontombra District of the Western Region

Ghana is endowed with many geographic features which can be harnessed for ecotourism. There are however a few ecotourism sites being patronised such as the Kakum Forest, Mole National Park, Wli Water Falls, Butterfly Sanctuary, etc. Nonetheless, in most of the villages and towns I have visited, I see numerous potential tourist attraction sites worth unearthing. The glorious vegetation with rare tree species, communities engulfed by magnificent mountainscapes and hills covered by clouds, streams flowing through the forests, extraordinary carved rocks and roads arrayed with bamboo trees and beautiful cocoa farms that will whip up a desire to become a farmer. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people”.

The rich cultural traditions of Ghanaians and undeniable hospitality shown to all people are worth noting and will spearhead Ghana’s ecotourism into another pedestal.

Ecotourism in Ghana’s remote areas will improve the livelihoods of indigenes; provide employment for many especially the youth whiles increasing the country’s foreign exchange.

Zimmerman once said “resources are not; they become”. Beautiful sceneries in Sefwi Wiawso (Western Region), Fiaso (Brong-Ahafo Region), Tsarley Kope (Volta Region), Jagluu (Upper West Region), Tebeso, Nyakumaso, Wioso all in the Ashanti Region and many others are still waiting for their time to shine!

Let us see with new eyes the many potentials lying within this naturally wealthy country!

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  • With Farmerline’s Farmer Services team in Adansi North

As illegal mining wins, agriculture suffers.

A story of how “galamsey” threatens the livelihoods of thousands of smallholder farmers whose land it destroys.

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Every morning before the sun rises in Agyareago, a farming community in the Asante Akyem District in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, young miners trek in single file, carrying pick axes, head pans, hammers and shovels.

They walk towards the eastern bank of the Enunu and Oweri rivers where they make a living from cutting trees, digging into the ground, overturning rocks and pushing the rubble into the river, further clogging a stagnant water body with mud.

They cut and burn wood to fuel their makeshift camps. They use mercury and cyanide to separate gold from the rocks, and then flush the toxins into the soil and two rivers.

This has become a worrying trend.

A once promising agricultural area is on the brink of collapse.

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Until its current state, Agyareago was known predominantly for its cultivation of cocoa and plantain, as well as filled with well-tended farmsteads of maize, cocoyam and cassava.

Now the village that is about a mile away from Odumasi and two miles away from Konongo has turned to a ghostly scene of wasted fields, trees ripped up by their roots and left to rot, gaping holes in the soil, plantations cut and burned.

In a visibly disturbed appearance and tone, Nana Akwasi Nti, Chief Farmer of Agyareago, cries out that the boom in illegal mining is fiercely driving away young farmers.

“Community farm lands are gradually reducing with a shift of mind to galamsey,” he says. “Today, one can count very few palm, plantain and cocoa plantations. There is also a low record of vegetable cultivation here. The current site they are using for their galamsey activities has a very rich soil type that is good and was previously the main site for the cultivation of okro, beans, garden eggs, pepper and oil palm. But these crops had to be cleared for the operation of galamsey.”

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Another outcry of the people in the area is how illegal mining has created population imbalances between the old and young in the farming area. “Farming has been left at the mercy of the older population between 45 and 80 years with a few between the ages of 30 and 45,” Nana Akwasi Nti confesses. “Some of the aged farmers, because they are unable to do most of the farming activities, have their farms managed by caretakers who usually are not as productive as they would have been. This has led to low yield and poor income.”

Despite new laws that are supposed to ensure illegal mining is stopped, nothing of note has happened.

“We have done all we can; we have complained to authorities without much help,” Akwasi says.

In a desperate clamour and appeal, Akwasi urged all concerned parties to help curb the threat that ‘galamsey’ possess before the country’s farm lands are totally taken over.

“Government, chiefs and key agricultural stakeholders need to start taking serious measures to stop this,” he counseled.

“If not, illegal mining will destroy the country’s agricultural sector in the next few years.”

Article by Farmerline’s Farmer Services Team

*Galamsey- a local term in Ghana for illegal small scale mining activity or mechanism to extract gold and other mineral resources, usually involving digging small working (pits, tunnels and sluices) by hand.

Becoming A Dad: The Journey to First-Time Fatherhood and Paternity Leave

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Joy was in the air.

The hospital’s doorway was littered with excitement and happiness.

The meaning of life was right here with me, and nothing could produce this excitement I had in my heart.

It is the moment most men look forward to. And for my wife and I, it represented more: we welcomed our first child and an additional bundle of bliss.

I was grateful for the relief drawn on my wife’s face and happy at the prospect of having someone in our home to love and cater for.

But that joyous moment was preceded by a long nine months of waiting, and about 36 hours of discomfort before delivery. This made me uncomfortable since I had not experienced that before.

I had never seen my wife go through such unexplainable pain before. She could not sleep. She was restless and nervous. Her palms were cold. And for the first time, I saw my wife on the edge.

Eventually, she delivered at exactly 9:45am. It was a sigh of relief. I was intensely proud of her for no distinct reason. I could only shout Thanks Be To God!

Like any newbie to parenthood, I thought for a moment our troubles were almost over after we welcomed our son – even though I had heard from friends on what the man’s duties are after delivery, I cared less about that. All I cared about at that point was, “We can confidently smile again because our 36-hour ordeal was over.”

Well, that was obviously the thoughts of a newbie indeed.

The main activities began when I had to run errands with my mother-in-law to make sure everything my wife needed were provided for – meds, food, other child stuff. A car was available so as usual, I thought the whole process will be easy. I mean I can just drive around town and make the purchases; after all, it is Takoradi where you can virtually drive around the city in 10 minutes if you really know the easy routes to use.

As you can imagine, that was not the case – it was far from easy.

After combing the town to buy foodstuff, running to the hospital 3-4 times in about 4 hours, and bringing my wife home that same day she delivered (after doctors indicated she was fit to be discharged), I had no energy and bones left in me. I was simply a bunch of tissues stuck together.

My mother-in-law was tired and wearied. My wife was worn-out. Everybody was so exhausted that night, but we had to still put it all together. We needed to welcome the new member with happy, smiley faces and with confidence and energy as if nothing had happened prior to that moment.

Day two (well, day one after delivery) came and a visibly jaded me had to wake up and begin another set of errands. At this point, I was already coming to terms with what friends had told me earlier, “The child becomes the new boss of the house after birth… all others needs come second …etc.”.

I made that realisation in less than 24 hours.

With the help of our friend (Kate) who happened to be in town on the day of delivery, I went to town to get other baby stuff from mini-marts and pharmacy shops in and around Market Circle (Takoradi’s major market centre). But it was a Sunday, which meant we couldn’t just go to a specific place and get all we needed. We had to check around many shops to get almost all what we had on our list. While at that, my mother-in-law also pitched in to prep the baby for his first bath at home as well as get breakfast prepared for Abigail so she could adequately breastfeed our baby. My mother-in law, who was tired from the previous day’s activity, had taken ill but still dedicated herself to our new home duties. Her grandson needed her.

Having returned from a long buying spree, breakfast was set, mother had eaten and child had been breastfed. Grandma was resting. But with the slightest noise that came with our entry, the child woke up, and all attention was drawn to him again. Experiences went on and on.

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  • Emmanuel Addai (Co-Founder and CTO, Farmerline)

Days three, four, and the rest were no different from the previous days.

My wife and I, joined by our families, marked the first month of our child with a very simple christening ceremony in Accra. The 45-minutes ceremony took place in church and was well attended by friends and colleagues from work and church as well. Finally, the little boy got a name; Samuel. I then took the opportunity after the naming ceremony to return to Kumasi and take care of business whiles my wife was still in her family home.

That week in Kumasi was not easy for me, at all. The absence of little Sammy’s cry and little worries really made me unstable. I had to call almost every hour or two to be certain that they were alright. Of course, you should know that was the exuberance of a new father. But most importantly, I felt very odd devoting my attention to work (which was good anyway) when I could have been having a nice time with little Sammy.

I have taken the time to scribble these down just so you can understand how it feels to be a first-timer dad, and how businesses, especially startups can support their human assets to give off their best in such situations.

Farmerline’s Board of Directors have been having conversations on annual leave, with paternity and maternity leave dominating discussions. We have been wondering if it is fair to only allow staff, who work so hard and are very dedicated to the mission of the company, to enjoy the 5-days paternity leave as prescribed in the latest amendments to the constitution. Prior to these proposals, there had never been any provision in the law on paid or unpaid paternity leave. Well, we figured it is only wise that the company advanced male staff a hand in their time of need. In view of that, the board has taken the opportunity to study my experiences, as well as those of Amos – our Director of Customer Service and the first father in our fold, so as to come to some practicable decisions on the implementation of an enhanced paternity leave for our male staff.

These learning on paternity leave has become even more important because there has been a divided opinion on the role fathers play in the lives of children in Ghana, and probably elsewhere. For those of us in Ghana, fathers have almost always been blamed for almost all problems that befall kids, especially in their early stages. At least, in our lifetime, we have seen children celebrate their mothers in a special way and shower gifts on them during mother’s day, but at best only buy a piece of bathroom towel or a set of handkerchiefs for their fathers during father’s day celebrations. That alone should tell us something might have gone wrong in our upbringing.

I was sad when I read a comment someone made on Joy News (as reported by GhanaWeb) to the news that a five-day paternity leave was being proposed – “It will be good news for all fathers, but I think it is not necessary. What do fathers do?” Is it not ironic that we require the highest standards for dads and yet do not want to provide them with adequate avenues to execute what we expect of them?

No one should point to the US when it comes to issue of paternity leave, because the US even looks to Finland for best practices. Paternity leave is offered for a maximum of 9 weeks in Finland.

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  • Emmanuel has played a pivotal role in Farmerline achieving the global, high-level status it has now.

We, as a growing company, believe that with the appropriate structures in place for annual, maternity and paternity leave, staff members would be adequately rested and well-motivated to face challenges ahead. Appropriate paternity leave will not only offer the father the chance to bond with his kid(s), but also strengthen the entire family bond as well as redefine the relevance of fathers in their homes. They may never look back with sadness and regret for working so hard for the company, for themselves and on behalf of their families.

I believe this is just a kick starter of an all-important conversation; one which many young business owners would not want to grant much attention to, since the general unproven belief and irony is that, the more staff work the more company gains. And so any attempt at giving ‘too many free’ resting periods is frowned upon. But it is equally essential and highly important that a father takes fair responsibility in the upbringing of the child and organizations need to support this in all the possible ways.

(We promise to share our outcomes and resolutions in due course so that young businesses would learn from them.)

Smallholder farming in Ghana: A story of challenges and opportunities.

At a time when people in his age group were roaming streets in the city in search of white-collar jobs, Douglas Adjei was thinking of how he could produce enough food from his farm in Gyinase, a suburb of Kumasi.

Although his vegetable farm is taking shape now, Douglas has set a higher target for himself: to be able to produce enough food from his farm to feed Ghanaians and export the extra.

In this interview with Farmerline’s Lily Akorfa Keledorme, Douglas speaks on his life as a smallholder farmer, the challenges (weather, pests, market prices) and opportunities (improved yield, more income, sustainability) he faces every day.

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  • Douglas Adjei on his vegetable farm with his three employees.

What are the most difficult things about being a farmer?

The first challenge for me as a farmer is the lack of labour. On my farm, I need about 10 farm hands but I only have three (3) even though they are well paid (GHC 300.00/month). Unfortunately, all my workers are from Burkina Faso. The problem is that the Ghanaian youth is not interested in working on farms because it is tedious (since we still practice traditional farming methods). They rather prefer having white collar jobs or jobs that yield quick money.

Another is irrigation. We currently fetch water from our wells and then use watering cans to water the crops. Because of the vast land we work on, sprinklers will make our work less stressful and increase productivity. But I have not been able to buy a sprinkler yet because it costs GHC 1000 and I will need 5-10 of those for my farm. This affects production especially during the dry season when market for vegetables is high.

Though we experience many other challenges like lack of financial support, marketing has been one of our paramount problems. Prices of vegetables fluctuate often and are mostly priced low. This is because vegetables cannot be stored for long so they have to be sold off at low prices to prevent post-harvest losses and this consequently affects the revenue we generate at the end of the season.

Hearing these challenges, was farming your first choice of profession?

Yes, I actually studied Agriculture in school and wanted to further my education so that I would practice agriculture professionally. I was still a student at the O’level when my father passed on, which sort of thwarted my plans. I had wanted to complete the university (or a good tertiary institution) before venturing into agriculture. But due to certain circumstances, I started farming after my O’level.

So growing up, farming was your biggest dream?

Yes, and I wanted to be very successful at it. I have always wanted to expand my farming business. I have even started a piggery (about 3 months ago) to enlarge my scope.

Having enlarged your scope now, do you envision a future where your children are involved in your farm?

I have 4 children. The oldest is 18 years; in SHS 3 and she wants to be a nurse. Looking at how farming is difficult in Ghana, I would not really want them to be (peasant) farmers but maybe extension officers. I will only agree if the farming is professional like how it is done in Indonesia where it is not labour intensive and traditional methods are not used in the farming.

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  • Farmerline’s Lily Akorfa in a selfie moment with Douglas.

Coming back to your farm, how have you managed diseases and pests?

I use pesticides and other chemicals to control pests and diseases on my farm after I have read the labels on the containers. Dziengoff and other NGO’s also organise workshops to give us training on such technologies.

How often do you receive agronomic tips?

I get that from Farmerline and it is very useful. Initially, we had no idea about some agronomic practices and we did not use the appropriate methods then. Now we have knowledge on post-harvest methods/tips such as harvesting with sharp knives and keeping produce in cool places which have a big impact on the freshness of the end product. Another important thing I have learnt is when and how spraying should be done. I apply all the things I get from Farmerline’s agronomic tips.

In a period where climate change is dominant, what has been your experiences with the weather?

We can’t tell weather patterns on our own like our forefathers used to. This is why Farmerline’s weather updates has been very good and relevant to the work I do. It helps me with planning and it determines my activities for the day. The accuracy is about 70 %.

How do you envisage that market price information will help you?

Though I have not yet subscribed to a market price service yet, I foresee it will give me a general outlook of prices of goods on the market. Since I send my produce to Accra, it will be significant to my business.

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  • Farmerline’s Lily Akorfa in a hearty conversation with Douglas.

Part III – Agriculture is the future for Ghana. But…

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In developing countries like Ghana, where agriculture is often linked with poor farming practices, low productivity, low income, gender imbalances, lack of training and financial risks, the sector has become unappealing to a new generation of farmers.

Young people are continuously being drawn away from agriculture mainly because of its old-age, non- profitable ways and lack of interest among the elders to change existing practices to make farming lucrative.

For genuine change to happen, a new approach must be taken: one that involves the youth to be active in agriculture through ICT.

For David Asare Asiamah, Founder and CEO of AgroMindset, the youth can prove to be great catalyst in Ghana’s agriculture, but much of that can mostly be achieved through ICT.

“If agriculture in Ghana is to be transformed to achieve food security, to drive economic growth and improve living standards, the country must take advantage of youth in ICT to boost the entire value chain.” David says. “It will also help bridge the gap between the present and the past and make young people the catalyst for the change in their peers.”

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  • David Asare Asiamah (Founder and CEO, AgroMindset)

Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko, CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited, also acknowledges David’s point that engaging young people in agriculture through the application of ICT is critical to Ghana’s economic development and will help reduce unemployment, hunger, poverty, and the uncertainty currently being experienced in the agricultural sector.

“Young people have the highest capacity for using ICTs, whether it’s to communicate or develop new apps to improve agricultural productivity or access markets. Ghana’s youth must therefore play a critical role in the transformation of smallholder agriculture,” he says.

ICTs – in particular mobile devices – have opened up unprecedented opportunities for agricultural and rural development. And Emmanuel believes the development of ICT can offer a bright future for millions of women and men who derive their livelihood from farming and other forms of rural employment. “Farmers, even in the remotest locations, can easily and readily access vital information on weather, market prices, pests and diseases as well as input prices,” Emmanuel adds.

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  • Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko (CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited)

But for Emmanuel, much of this can be achieved when government and key stakeholders invest time and resources in the education of young professionals in all aspects of agriculture including, climate smart agriculture, considering the full value chain.

“Young professionals should be positioned to undertake research and to build upon earlier research and experience, thus filling critical gaps and helping to respond to real needs in the sector.”

To ensure the future viability of the agricultural sector to tackle rural poverty and generate employment opportunities, David says it is crucial to equip the farmers of tomorrow with the right tools.

“Efforts to increase youth participation and boost economic development in the agricultural sector can mainly be achieved when an integrated approach to ICTs and capacity development is put in place,” he says.

Part II: Transforming Agriculture to Improve Ghana’s Economy

The role of agriculture in accelerating the economic progress and development of any country cannot be overstated.

However, in Ghana, the agricultural sector has suffered some neglect down the years.

Not a lot has been done to transform the sector from its present state to one which produces more yield and high income for farmers and the country as a whole.

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In Part IIof our three-part series ahead of Farmers Day on Friday (November 4), Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko (CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited) and David Asare Asiamah (Founder and CEO, AgroMindset) look at ways to transform Ghana’s current economy into a high agricultural production one.

Infrastructure development

For David, infrastructure development in the agricultural sector is a key element needed to change the economic fortunes of Ghana. “An enabling environment for agricultural transformation requires good roads and railway. Together with transport, communication network, power connections and water supply are also important.” he acknowledges. “But those are not the only things required: health, education and other socio-economic facilities must also be provided in these farming communities.” On the issue of storage facilities, David admits that it is crucial, particularly in villages, to lessen post-harvest losses. “Key stakeholders must facilitate planning and construction of storage facilities in rural areas to farmers don’t see their produce rot,” he adds.1170708_10151859505428383_2100884329_n

  • Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko (CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited)

Improvement of Research and Extension Services

The role of extension officers in the transformation of the agricultural sector cannot be overlooked, according to Emmanuel. “The role of the extension officer is very important,” he admits. “Officers should educate farmers on storage, processing, irrigation, land management, farm mechanization and erosion control, among others. When this is done, it will enable farmers increase their farm production at reasonable costs and be able to market their farm produce to a wider community.”

Emmanuel also acknowledges that investing in research and extension facilities should be a top priority. “We need to provide adequate funding to enable research and extension services function well in providing required services.”

Investment and Finance

Another critical tool for the growth of the agriculture sector, for David, is access to finance. “The shift from subsistence to commercial agricultural production requires funds. Therefore governments and all major agriculture stakeholders need to improve access to credits for farmers investing in agricultural activities by establishing agricultural banks and strengthening micro-finance institutions,” David says.

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  • David Asare Asiamah (Founder and CEO, AgroMindset)

Input Supply and Environmental Protection

Emmanuel asserts that stakeholders need to make available farm machinery and implements such draught ploughs, power tillers and tractors to enhance improvement in cultivation, especially in rural areas. “There should be timely supply of appropriate farm inputs to farmers to ensure that they improve productivity and increase their income. But this is dependent on key stakeholders reviewing prices for these implements and machinery so that it is affordable to farmers at all levels.”

Access to Markets and fair prices

Emmanuel contends that farmers need to be able to get their produce to markets and receive equitable price treatment for any sort of transformation to happen. “Many farmers only have the produce but don’t have the means to market their produce themselves,” he says. “They have to rely on middlemen who show up and give them both the price and the buyer. They have no information and no alternative market. We have to close that information gap between the farmers and the market.”

In the final part of Farmerline’s three-part series, we look at how the youth can transform agriculture through ICT.

 

 

Part I: Why Ghana’s agricultural growth has slowed down

In part I of a three-part series, we look at the many challenges that confront Ghana’s agriculture sector.

Ghana is faced with a harsh reality: a decline in agricultural productivity continues to threaten the economic development of the country.

Inadequate finances, climate change, poor pricing and marketing incentives, inadequate agricultural extension agents, pest and diseases and a lack of access to fertilizers are all contributing to the declining fortunes of the sector.

David Asare Asiamah (Founder and CEO, AgroMindset) and Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko (CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited) explain some of the challenges that have stalled the growth of agricultural productivity in Ghana.

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  • David Asare Asiamah (Founder and CEO, AgroMindset)

Poor Financial Support

For Emmanuel, the lack of financial support systems to enable farmers grow, expand and maintain their yield is problematic. “Although there are several micro-finance groups operating in the country today, not many smallholder farmers have access to these groups and not many farmers even know how these groups operate and how such groups can help them in the long run.”

Lack of access to fertilizers

“Farming on the same piece of land for years leads to land degradation, which makes these lands lose most of their soil nutrients and become unproductive or barren”, he says. “Farmers therefore depend on fertilizers to enable them grow crops and improve their yields. But these fertilizers are expensive so some form of assistance, like giving farming aids, will go a long way to helping our smallholder farmers.”

Poor Transportation and Storage Facilities

“Most of the farm produce just go to waste in our remote areas because farmers find it difficult transporting their farm produce to the market to sell.” David insists. “The roads don’t exist and most remote areas find themselves cut off from the rest of the country. And because there are no proper storage facilities in these areas, a lot of the produce just rot away.”

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  • Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko (CEO, Babaoo Foods Limited)

Lack of Information

David makes the case that a lack of information is one of the major problems facing most smallholder farmers in Ghana. “Most farmers in remote areas have no access to information at all (some don’t even have radio sets),” he says. “Even those in sub-urban areas have limited access to information and lack what it takes to process the information they receive. In cases where there is some access to information like crop rotation, the use of fertilizer, etc. farmers are unable to understand due to illiteracy.”

Poor Markets

“One of the major impediments is smallholder farmers’ lack of access to markets to sell their farm produce,” Emmanuel says. “Most local markets are thin, and trading in distant urban markets is not lucrative enough (owing to high transportation and transaction costs).”

 

All of these have conspired to stifle the growth of the country’s backbone and reduced the appetite of the youth for Agriculture.

For David and Emmanuel, these challenges are self-inflicted and can be resolved.

In Part II, we look at measures that can be taken to return the agricultural sector to its pride of place in the economy.