Braving the pandemic: How this regal farmer thrived through COVID-19.

Nana Abena Frempomaa II, Queen mother of Bobene is one of the farmers whose hard work and contributions were awarded during the just ended farmers’ day celebrations in Ghana. Despite her success, the industrious queen mother was not spared from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, like many farmers, the pandemic has further exacerbated the already existing challenges she had to deal with as a farmer in rural Ghana 

Nana Abena Frempomaa receives her award for Best Framer (2nd runner up) and Best Female Farmer of her district.

In a conversation with her, she narrated with sadness how her farm’s productivity significantly dropped this year, attributing it to COVID-19 crisis and also to the erratic rainfall patterns. 

“It hasn’t really been a good year to me as a farmer and to other farmers as well. One, because of the Covid and also the rains stopped earlier than usual. And after the heavy season from January to June/July, the crops were okay. But the latter part of the season, that’s from August till now, was not favourable at all and this greatly affected our farm activities and yields”, she said.

The COVID 19 pandemic restricted farmer movement and access to input which adversely affected their productivity at the end of the season.

It is, however, refreshing to see rural farmers like Nana Abena Frempomaa II, put in extra work and resources despite this year’s challenges to rise above her peers and continue to contribute to the growth and sustenance of this nation.

In spite of the challenge posed by climate change and the pandemic, Ghanaian farmers across the country remained resilient while adapting to the new way of life.

She credits her success to her unique farm management style, good leadership skills and hands-on approach. She grows cashew, pepper, sugar apples (sweetsops), groundnuts, beans and cassava. In spite of the size and diversity of her farms, she always found time to provide direction to her farmhands and ensure that all COVID protocols were strictly followed on her farm.

“Some farmers leave their work for the labourers but for me, I work hand in hand with them. My constant presence on the farm means I also experience the day to day challenges and find progressive solutions that make the work move faster and ensure things are done properly. As a good leader, you should always be out there with the people and help them through their problems.”

“As a good leader, you should always be out there with the people and help them through their problems.”-Nana Abena Frempomaa II.

She is also optimistic about the coming year, hoping that it will be more progressive for herself and her people in the farming community of Bobene.

“Despite everything, we give thanks to God. If the rains had been heavy as expected the pandemic may have affected many people. God knows best, I am just hoping for the best for now. We have more years ahead of us and we can do well, by the grace of God.” 

She also expressed gratitude to the government of Ghana and acknowledged the efforts of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture while demanding for more to be done to support farmers.

“The Government and Ministry of Food and Agriculture were very instrumental in keeping us all afloat throughout this pandemic. Their efforts ensured that we had food to sustain us during this pandemic. Moving forward more should be done to provide every farmer with subsidised inputs and financial support” said  Nana Abena Frempomaa II.

Similar sentiments about the impact of COVID were shared by other farmers like  Khadija Benewaa, a farmer at Adansi Domeabra, a town many miles away from Bobene. Khadija also shared that the pandemic and poor rainfall created an artificial scarcity that increased the prices for farm items used extensively by farmers.

Khadija Benewaa, a farmer from Adansi Domeabra.

George Boateng, a cocoa farmer at Yonso also shared how the Covid-19 pandemic affected access to farm labour. 

“We rely heavily on farmhands, especially during the start of the season because we need to clear and prepare our lands. These farmhands mostly travel in from Burkina Faso and Togo. Due to Covid-19 most of these farmhands were unable to return for this season’s work. Borders have been closed, and this has affected our work on the farm greatly”, said George Boateng.

George Boateng, a cocoa farmer from Yonso.

George also added that farm produce were not making their way to the markets nor commanding higher prices to expand their profit margins due to the limited movement imposed by the pandemic.

Limited access to market, climate information and inputs are some of the existing challenges farmers deal with that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the years, Farmerline has responded to these by using technology and extension services to serve farmers with information, knowledge and quality and affordable inputs. So far over 40,000 rural smallholder farmers have benefited directly from our services this year.

Farmers receiving education and training from a Farmerline Extension Officer while observing COVID protocols.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that there is so much more to be done to help farmers overcome these challenges and earn better profits. In response to this Farmerline has stepped up its efforts to provide market access opportunities for farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast. This adds up to efforts we made in the early days of the pandemic where over 18,000 farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were sent vital information on Covid-19  through mobile voice messages in 7 local languages and French.

Farmerline disseminated vital farming information and Covid-19 prevention tips through mobile voice messages in various local Ghanaian languages and French.

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Farmerline Steps up Efforts to Increase Youth Engagement in the Cocoa Value Chain

Farmerline has launched a game which seeks to educate and incentivise Ghanaian youth into partaking in the cocoa value chain. The game introduces an added experience to Farmerline’s CocoaLink mobile application by bridging the divide between learning and having fun. At the same time, it reels in the attention of the younger generation into different aspects of the cocoa value chain, and the opportunities available to them. 

The game employs the format of the popular TV show, ‘Who Wants To Be Rich’. The goal of the game is to attain 1,000,000 points by answering 15 questions on cocoa and chocolate. As part of the launch, a quiz competition will run till the 30th of December with winners announced each week based on the total score on the leaderboard at the end of the week. Even though it is open to young people, cocoa and chocolate lovers, the quiz is limited to only players in Ghana. 

The Cocoalink app was created by Farmerline in partnership with Hershey and World Cocoa Foundation to train farmers, and encourage Ghanaian youth to be involved in the Cocoa value chain through interactive digital media contents on the mobile application. With over 5,000 app downloads, users have spent 92,000+ minutes learning best agricultural and business practices on the app, CocoaLink has established itself as a resourceful and timely tool for farmers and extension officers across the country. Together with partners like the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the application has been able to contribute to the adoption of Climate Smart agriculture practices through its Cocoa Zones feature.

5000 + Downloads

92,000+ mins spent learning

Download the CocoaLink App today and start learning!


WHO IS THE FARMER’S PARTNER FOR GROWTH?

According to Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, to every extension officer, there are about 2000 farmers who need to be served with information and resources. The disproportionate number of extension officers means that many farmers go about their farming activities with little guidance, support and insight into best practices that will increase their productivity and efficiency.

Abigail Kyiriw is one of such farmers who has worked hard and tirelessly with little supervision over the years. She started her farming career as an apprentice on her father’s farm at age 20. She grows cocoa, plantain, pawpaw on 8 acres of land and rears sheep and fowls in Atwea, a farming community in the Ashanti Region. Abigail, now 52 years, has built a successful career in agriculture, receiving awards for the best farmer in her district on a number of occasions. Together with her husband, who is also a farmer, they have raised and educated their 5 children through their farming business. Despite her industry, Abigail shares that working as a farmer comes with enormous challenges.

Farming is a very demanding trade and farmers need all the support we can get to be successful in this space. Markets change, practices get advanced and now the weather patterns are also changing. It’s October and rains are as heavy as they were in June

said Abigail.

Aside from the limited guidance that farmers receive,  farmers have to deal with the risk of buying fake inputs. According to research by the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and Monitor Deloitte in 2019, 30% of insecticides on the Ghanaian market are unapproved or smuggled. The seasonality of their crops also means farmers may not have enough money throughout the year to purchase quality inputs.

About six months ago, Abigail discovered a companion for farming business when Farmerline carried out a Farmer workshop in Atwea.

I had heard of the good works of Farmerline on the radio, so I was excited when they came to my community. I recognised immediately the role they will play to help me overcome pertinent challenges as a farmer so I did not hesitate to get the Farmerline card and sign up for their services.

Abigail Kyiriw and other farmers at a farmer workshop organised by Farmerline

Abigail now receives the guidance she had been lacking and weather forecasts on her mobile phone regularly. Aside from this, Abigail has been benefiting from Farmerline’s input credit program, under which she is provided with quality farm inputs that she can pay for on a later date.

“I get regular calls on weather forecasts and better ways to farm while I am on my farm. For me, these calls are not only informative but they really give me a lot of hope to do a good job as a farmer. I feel I have a companion who is always checking on me and giving guidance to succeed”, said Abigail Kyiriw.

Abigail is also the secretary of the Farmerline Farmer group in her community. She dedicates herself to organising group meetings, keeping records of the group and liaising with the Farmerline Zonal officer in her area.

“I have volunteered to help other farmers in my community benefit from the companionship and support I get from Farmerline. I want every farmer to become self-reliant and to be able to live decent lives.”

LAST MILE HEROES: Richard Brown; building relationships that create relevant solutions for smallholder farmers

The most robust solutions are often found when a bridge can be built between technical knowledge and experiential knowledge. Farmerline is an organisation that reinforces the need for such solutions in driving up productivity in the agriculture value chain. The company has been successful in its efforts because its team embodies this principle. Meet Richard Brown, one of the team members at Farmerline who combines his academic and practical know-how in his daily work with farmers.

Richard is a Zonal Manager at Farmerline. His work entails leading a team of smartphone-empowered field and community agents who bring Farmerline’s solutions to farmers in communities in the Asante Akim Central, North and South Districts. He has a degree in Agriculture, and field experience from time spent on his grandparents’ cocoa farm and prior job experience with Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Ministry. Richard’s knowledge and experience have made him cognizant of the need to build relationships with community heads and farmers in order to bring forth relevant solutions that will create lasting profit.

Read Richard’s interview, below:

  • How did you join Farmerline on its mission for farmers?

I joined Farmerline through a post a friend shared on his Facebook wall; I saw the position being advertised; the job description and I was fascinated about the mission of the Company and I decided to apply so I can impact in the lives of our rural Farmers.

I have always had an interest in Agriculture. My grandparents are Cocoa Farmers and I have had the opportunity of helping them on their farm activities. My education in agriculture and experiences in the field have enabled me to see the vast opportunities in the Agriculture value chain. There are numerous challenges rural farmers are facing that can be improved with access to the right resources and information. These challenges present avenues for innovative solutions like Farmerline. I am also very confident that these solutions coupled with the adoption of technology in farming can go a long way to improve the industry’s contribution to the growth of our economy.

Richard Brown interacting with farmers in the field
  • As a Zonal Manager, how do you lead your team to achieve set goals?

I lead a team of two Zonal Officers and 79 Community Agents in my operational areas. Our focus anytime we go into a new farming community is to understand the peculiar needs of the farmers and build a relationship based on trust with community heads and farmers. This is how we are able to successfully offer our solutions for improved farmer productivity. Farmers have vast knowledge in fieldwork even though some of their practices are flawed. So out in the field, we interact with them to exchange knowledge. They tell us how they go about their work and how they deal with challenges. We help farmers to see how new practices and technology can make their work and lives better. We provide all farmers with digital identity cards which enables them to access our mobile extension services and inputs on credit. We are basically extension officers whose work are enhanced by technology. 

A farmer sharing his farming experiences and challenges during a community workshop
  • How do you and your team stay motivated throughout the challenges on the field?

The impact we are making in the lives of Farmers is what keeps us motivated. It is always a proud moment when we see our technology and education on better agronomic practices increasing their yields and incomes. We are always elated when we deliver their input requests on time because we know that timely input delivery is very important to their productivity.
Farmerline’s regular training also provides us skills that help us to better engage, educate and identify farmers’ challenges. This also enhances our ability to offer relevant solutions to farmers.

  • In your experience, what are some of the opportunities that are available for young people in agriculture? 

More than ever, young people today, have the opportunity to transform the agriculture sector because of their exposure to technology. With technology, they can bridge the access gap and offer services to the industry across the value chain in the area of commercialization, sales and marketing of produce and processing of agricultural produce.

Learn more about Farmerline’s 399 services for smallholder farmers and its unique distribution model.



Boosting the ‘ground force’ with intentional field and leadership training

Field agents are the true connectors in most industries. They enable direct interactions that humanise brands and organisations allowing for stronger affiliations and a great feedback system. In the agriculture value chain, field agents are the sustainers and enablers of last mile transactions between farmers and other players. Their involvement in products and service distribution channels is a requirement to successfully manage a robust agriculture extension or distribution service in most developing regions. 

Systems and conditions in some developing regions make it challenging for agriculture service providers to easily distribute essential products and services to farmers who mostly live and work in remote communities. Connecting these communities to larger markets, therefore, involves huge investments. The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship describes such investments as ‘accounting for poor infrastructure, retaining and growing a large network of motivated agents’. Farmerline’s mission to directly impact farmers’ lives and businesses, drove it to develop a unique distribution model which relies on people and technology right from the beginning of its operations. Farmerline’s network of over 200 smartphone-empowered field agents travels far and near to deliver vital services and information to farmers’ doorsteps. In order to sustain and grow its distribution system, Farmerline has, over the years, heavily invested in the field agent network. Agents are equipped with essential resources for field work and are given world-class training in using the Mergdata Platform, sales, leadership and communication. The organisation has partnered with renowned experts in these areas to deliver hands-on training that improves agents’ fieldwork. 

The training modules are also focused on equipping agents to overcome challenges while in the field. Earning the trust of farmers is one of the major challenges. By learning better communication techniques, agents are able to listen and interact in a manner that earns them farmers’ trust and attention. Earning a farmer’s trust allows further interactions that build understanding, informs Farmerline’s solutions and enables farmers to easily adopt the solutions.

The trainings are also delivered to boost agents’ ability to execute their work efficiently and thrive in the field no matter the condition. Whether working in a team or as an individual, agents are given skills that help them to come up with solutions even in situations where they may not be fully equipped to handle. They have clear roles and expectations that enable them to also work efficiently as a team. They are therefore able to focus on the most important things while saving time and resources.

Fieldwork is tough and comes with a lot of unforeseeable challenges. Training field agents is vital to keep them confident and motivated about their work. Training improves their skills and their approach to work. It allows them to stay focused on the goal of transforming smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs and keeps them driven to achieve this goal one community at a time.

Investing in field agents has enabled Farmerline’s operations to make great impact. According to a recent 3rd party impact assessment conducted by Acumen Lean Data, 65% of the farmers reached are receiving quality and affordable inputs for the first time. 89% of them are satisfied with the service and would like to continue working with Farmerline. The field agent network has been able to reach some of the most vulnerable farmers as 54% of the beneficiary farmers live below the poverty line. Over the next three years, Farmerline plans to leverage it’s agent network and technology to connect over 126,000 farmers in Ghana to extension services.

Farmerline’s growing field agent network is made up of a hierarchy of passionate people who move products and services from national centres all the way to individual farmers in farming communities. They connect smallholder farmers to information services; weather forecast, market prices and good agricultural practices. They also deliver quality and affordable farm inputs directly to the farmers. These field agents are at the heart of Farmerline’s operations, deploying last mile digital tools that facilitate subsequent interactions and transactions with farmers.

Learn more about our distribution model and the people who drive its success.


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Farmer Education  |  Input Finance & Distribution  | Market Access
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