At Kofiase, a community in the Mampong Municipality of the Ashanti Region of Ghana, members of a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) are on their way to getting a bumper harvest due to an investment in improved oil palm seedlings.
For years, the over 4,000 residents of the community who are predominantly farmers, with about half of the population cultivating oil palm, have been contending with low yield because of poor quality seedlings.
Besides the lack of improved oil palm seedlings, the farmers had limited knowledge on good agronomic practices and financial literacy, and minimal relationship with licensed financial institutions to enable them to access formal financial services such as credit.
To address these challenges, Solidaridad in October 2019 started supporting the farmers as part of efforts to boost the production of oil palm in Ghana.
The initiative was under the second phase of the Sustainable West Africa Oil Palm Programme (SWAPP II), funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Ghana and the Swiss government through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Solidaridad introduced the farmers to improved varieties of oil palm seedlings and trained them in nursery management. The farmers also received training in best management practices covering pest and disease management, fertilizer application, circle weeding and pruning to help increase yields to optimum levels.
To financially empower the farmers, the organization also facilitated the formation of two Village Savings and Loan Association groups in December 2019 with 60 members to enhance their knowledge of financial literacy through good record keeping.
The power of collective effort
After a month of the intervention, the two groups raised GH¢9,450 (US$1,630) as savings. In January 2020, twenty-one farmers comprising 14 men and 7 women pooled their resources together to purchase 10,000 improved oil palm seeds and poly pots.
This, they did by accessing loans totalling GH¢5,900 (US$1,017) in addition to their collective savings of GH¢4,100 (US$707). The group’s aim was to increase their oil palm yield and improve their livelihoods.
Fifty-eight-year-old Joseph Owusu Ansah, Chairman of the VSLA at Kofiase, says, previously, the oil palm farmers in the community raised individual nurseries, but they realised that the output was inadequate to optimize yield.
After Solidaridad’s training, some farmers decided to establish a group nursery and apply the knowledge gained to generate more.
Three months later, more farmers joined the group effort after seeing the progress in the nursery.
“Through Solidaridad’s guidance and support, we now have 10,000 seedlings as a group, which has never happened in this community. We are hoping for a smooth transplanting soon and an improved yield subsequently,” says Joseph.
He says the VSLA group has been of great benefit to oil palm farmers in the community. He is confident that he can now raise the needed capital to purchase farm input and pay labourers.
VSLAs impacting lives, one beneficiary at a time. Besides the farmers in Kofiase, Solidaridad has offered training and other technical support to 17,290 oil palm farmers in 288 oil palm growing communities in Ghana.
“Our VSLA intervention seeks to build the culture of savings of farmers, processors and workers in the oil palm sector, and also mobilize capital for investing in their farming and processing operations. This way, farmers and processors can improve upon their practices, increase their incomes and enhance their livelihoods,” says Nicholas Issaka, Oil Palm Programme Manager.
He says an additional 12,000 smallholders will be trained in best management practices and financially empowered through the Village Savings and Loan Association scheme. These would be linked to financial institutions to enable the farmers to access credit and other financial services.
The Village Savings and Loan Association initiative under SWAPP II is part of the access to finance intervention for farmers and artisanal processors. Solidaridad, through the initiative, provides training in the formation and management of the associations and financial literacy, as well as linking the groups to financial institutions.
So far, 244 groups have been formed in SWAPP programme communities, with 100 more to come.