Category Archives: AgriNews

Cocoa farmers who have never tasted chocolate in their lives

The unpalatable truth is an unfair distribution of profits in the global cocoa trade, of which West Africa has substantive market share. Thankfully, entrepreneurial disruptors and a new initiative in Ghana seek a sweeter ending for her farmers.

Before it reached the fashionable parlors of early modern Europe, where it was imbibed as an expensive accessory to gossip and gambling, chocolate had already enjoyed a long, intoxicating life.

The aphrodisiac beverage cacahuatl, favoured by ancient South American cultures such as the Mayans and the Aztecs, was brewed, with chillies, from the cacao bean, a local currency so valuable it quickly caught the avaricious attention of the Spanish Conquistadors.

The rest they say is history – and a narrative tainted with the bitterness of greed and exploitation. But there are signs at last that this story may be headed to a sweeter ending.

The World Cocoa Foundation has calculated that 4.5 million tons of cocoa beans are now consumed annually: as cocoa butter, widely used in cosmetics as well as chocolate products; cocoa powder, a staple in chocolate flavorings; and cocoa liquor, a paste of cocoa butter and solids essential in the production of solid chocolate.

The juice of the bean (sweatings) can also be found in soft drinks and alcoholic beverages such as brandy, with the bean husk burned into potash for soaps and fertilizers.

The humble cocoa bean is thus a versatile, repeatedly monetizable commodity: in a 2019 Allied Market Research report, the global cocoa products market was valued at $24.5 billion, and is expected to garner $30.2 billion by 2026.

But like many of the planet’s most coveted exports, such as tea and iron ore, the crop’s rich dividends are often not trickling down to the mouths that need them most.

The International Cocoa Organization reports that 60% of the world’s cocoa is produced by 2.5 million farming families in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (the populations of the two countries are 29 million and 25 million respectively).

But according to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index, this figure includes an estimated 2.1 million children working under illegal conditions, and at least 30,000 people entrapped in modern slavery.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as “mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and [that which] interferes with their schooling”, and modern slavery as “exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power”.

The unpalatable truth is that most of the chocolate that reaches our shelves handsomely rewards a giant multinational handful of liquid chocolate manufacturers and cocoa traders, but pays cocoa farmers in West Africa an average of less than $1 a day (Fairtrade Foundation report, 2019).

Professor Genevieve LeBaron, Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), and author of the Global Business of Forced Labour report of 2018, has identified “widespread labor exploitation” within the global cocoa supply chain.

“This is rooted in the industry’s business model and supply chain dynamics, which concentrate profits and value at the top of the chain and involves incredibly thin margins and low income for actors at the bottom,” she says. “I also found that ethical certification schemes covering the cocoa industry are failing to create worksites that are free from exploitation.”

LeBaron warns that stickers and symbols on cocoa products glibly advertising guarantees of ‘fair’ conditions for their producers are not what they purport to be. “Consumers need to be sceptical of ‘ethical’ and ‘fair trade’ marketing,” she says.

“Labour exploitation takes place even in ethically certified supply chains. There is a need for much stronger accountability over ethical and fair trade certification and auditing. A major overhaul of these programs is needed, especially in terms of how they create and distribute value and are ‘enforced’ – both of which are highly flawed and lacking.”

Until recently, the status quo in the market had remained undisrupted, favouring the industry superpowers who could source cheaply from multiple suppliers and buy in large amounts.

“Cocoa is unique in that West Africa contributes such a substantive proportion of market share,” she says. “And the confectionary industry is heavily reliant on sourcing from the region to secure supply and maintain profits.”

New investment in the West African cocoa industry may go some way to improving conditions on the ground. In November 2019, Ghana’s cocoa regulator, COCOBOD, finalized a $600 million loan at the Africa Investment Forum “to finance new warehouses, rehabilitate plantations and support the processing sector”, including $250 million from development finance institutions led by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“Proceeds of the facility will be used to finance key components of COCOBOD’s productivity enhancement programs – a set of interventions aimed at improving Ghana’s cocoa productivity per hectare and increasing overall cocoa production levels,” says Dr Jennifer Blanke, the AfDB’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

“The financing of new warehouses will provide more opportunity to store beans longer and create buffer stocks. This will also allow COCOBOD to have more influence on the volume of beans on the market, as well as the associated price.” She maintains there is a framework already in place for safeguarding farmers against exploitation.

“The bank applies integrated environmental and social safeguard systems into business practices with all clients with whom we work, including COCOBOD.” Blanke believes these investments in the cocoa production infrastructure will in turn have a positive effect on the lives of the industry’s vulnerable farming communities.

“The idea is that the bank-funded productivity enhancement programs will increase farmer incomes, as well as modernize farming methods,” she says. “This combination should serve as a disincentive to participating in the cocoa trade under illegal or unethical conditions.”

With a mission to make chocolate “100% slave free”, the entrepreneurial disruptor at the sharp end of the industry is Dutch chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely. The brand was founded in 2005 by investigative journalist Teun (Tony) van de Keuken, who set out on a (lonely) quest to create a chocolate bar from cocoa beans produced in West Africa by fairly-compensated farmers instead of slave labor.

Tony’s Chocolonely advocates five game-changing ‘sourcing principles’: traceable beans, a higher premium paid to farmers, investment in cooperatives and farmer training, a minimum five-year business relationship, and improved productivity (from 300kg to 800kg per hectare).

Paul Schoenmakers, the company’s Head of Impact, says that efforts to completely eradicate slavery from its supply chain are vigilant and ongoing. “In the past year, 6,624 cocoa partners supplied to us,” he says.

“We found 259 new cases of illegal child labour, which we are working to remediate. More than 25,000 people participated in our awareness-raising sessions. For the second year in a row, 100% of the 5,465 metric tons of cocoa beans Tony’s purchased through its partners were traceable.

Seventy one percent of people who buy chocolate in the Netherlands (where the brand is the market leader) now know about the issues. That’s important for us, because our roadmap starts with trading awareness.”

The company has pushed hard for two years for the Dutch parliament to enact legislation similar to the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act, and a bill has now passed which will require companies legally domiciled in the Netherlands to “conduct investigative research to determine whether child labor is occurring in their supply chains and establish a concrete course of action for rectifying it”.

Schoenmakers believes that any company, big or small, can and should apply the same due diligence. “The framework of our five sourcing principles fits very well to other commodity sectors too,” he says.

“Especially coffee and tea, but also cotton. What we are currently working on is making the framework easier for other companies to implement, and we are actively helping them to use that model.”

He says the company’s aim is for all its suppliers to become independent – even from Tony’s. “We used to be the only buyer from a particular cooperative in Ghana. But two years ago, we helped them successfully represent themselves in the international market, and they got access to seven other premium customers.

We’re a well-paying customer, so cooperatives like to work with us, but we want them to find other customers too. That also helps us grow.”

A fair premium for cocoa beans – last year, Tony’s paid a 20% premium on the farm gate price – can have a radical and long-lasting impact on the lives of local farmers.

“One of the most positive concrete changes is simply paying more money to the farmer. Fighting poverty is a very complicated thing to do, but if you don’t pay more for cocoa, all the other efforts will fail.”

Within a complex chain from producer to consumer that reaches far across the globe from the bean’s origin, are there ever opportunities for the farmers to try the final product (a chunky chocolate bar quirkily divided into unequal pieces, a metaphor for the unfair distribution of profits in the cocoa trade)?

“We take two cases full of chocolate every time we go there,” Schoenmakers says. “It’s ridiculous so many cocoa farmers have never tasted chocolate in their lives. It’s a luxury they will normally never taste.

More than four and a half billion dollars get sucked up by the big chocolate companies every year. Chocolate is a treat, a gift. It’s absolute madness that for a gift that no one really needs, so many people suffer.

By Alastair Hagger

Ghana’s latest attempt to improve the livelihoods of her farmers

Recently, the West African announced an increase of the guaranteed the cocoa price it pays to farmers by 28% per ton for the new growing season.

However, the latest increment in the cocoa price by Ghana means that farmers can afford to plant new cocoa and also employ skilled workers, as opposed to child labour.

“The increase in price for cocoa beans will boost the farmers’ morale and we commend Ghana’s leadership for this initiative,” Moses Djan Asiedu, of the World Cocoa Farmers Organization.

Read also World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) on increased Cocoa Price for the 2020/2021 season

Low income among cocoa farmers is a big concern because in Ghana, they depend on cocoa for 90% of their income. And due to unforeseeable calamities — such as weather patterns — sometimes they get poor harvests.

Ghana is the world’s second-largest exporter of cocoa, after Ivory Coast, and exports around 850,000 metric tons of cocoa each year.

Most of this is unprocessed, ready to be turned into chocolate and other products in Europe and the United States.

But in recent years, production has fallen by around 30%. Aging cocoa trees, poorly-managed plantations and drought have all played a role in the sector’s decline.

If production in Ghana continues to fall, it will have consequences not only domestically, but also for manufacturers internationally.

Read also World cocoa price hike benefits Ghanaian farmers

World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) on increased Cocoa Price for the 2020/2021 season

The leadership of The World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO), Ghana Chapter, would like to commend COCOBOD and for that matter the Government of Ghana on the producer price increment for the 2020/2021 season.

The new price of GH₵660 per bag of 64kg is indeed welcome news to all cocoa farmers as it will boost the morale of farmers and improve our earnings.

The WCFO has, since 2019, followed with keen interest the collaborative efforts of the government and for that matter, COCOBOD have put in at intervening in the pricing regime through the Living Income Differential (LID) proposed by the governments of Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire to ensure cocoa farmers earn improved incomes for improved livelihood.

We, the producers of cocoa are highly impressed by the high level of commitment and tenacity to confront the Cocoa Industry and all stakeholders to come to terms with this novelty approach. We also note with satisfaction that the promise to transfer all the gains of $400 in the Living Income Differential to farmers has been honored and this indeed is commendable.

The WCFO also notes with appreciation the cooperative stands of other stakeholders, particularly the Manufacturing sectors to ensure farmers secure some level of decent income and reduce the negative effect of price volatility. It is our hope that this would be sustained and improved upon so as to make cocoa production attractive to the youth as a business venture.

The World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) as an international umbrella body that is set up to serve as an advocacy platform for a common voice for all cocoa farmers applauds the government and pledge support to COCOBOD for policies that will improve cocoa farmers livelihood.

We also would like to call on COCOBOD to fast track the cocoa farmer pension scheme policy to ensure our aged farmers are able to leave a decent life in our old age.

Long leave cocoa farmers.

Yours Faithfully

Moses Djan Asiedu

(National Board Secretary)

A 46-year-old farmer from Akpafu Odomi in Oti Region receives Game Changers Women in Agriculture Award

A 46-year-old farmer from Akpafu Odomi in the Oti region, Ms. Janet Adade, has received the 2020 “Game Changers – Women in Agriculture” award.

Janet, the only Ghanaian, and six others from Togo, India, Benin and South Sudan have been celebrated as women who made the difference through their potentials for advancing rural development as well as their outstanding contributions to agriculture.

“With this award, we honour courageous rural women who have changed the traditional rules of their society and who, despite great resistance, show that women are essential for sustainable development and societal progress,” said Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and patroness of the award.

Ms. Adade has expressed gratitude to the BMZ and GIZ for the recognition and promised to make good use of the opportunity given her.

Read also Business models in vertical farming: IDTechEx

“My long-time desire to help rural and underprivileged women triggered my motivation to relocate from the city to the village. Growing up in a rural community, I witnessed many disadvantages and abuse that women go through.

“Many women lacked confidence, education, ability, and economic empowerment to fight for their rights. For the past ten years, I have dedicated myself to mobilising women in communities surrounding my village to fight for our common goals and welfare.”

She also said: “I am proud to say that I have been able to reach about 1000 women for various interventions in agricultural related activities.”

Ms. Adade’s work and advocacy have influenced the formation of women groups in processing and farming, training of several women in nutrition and rice parboiling has caused a change in how women involved in the processing have improved on the quality of their products.

Her mentorship of young farmers, both male and female have recorded improvements in outputs and marketing of their produce.

Her actions led to the formation of MADOWOFA; an all-female processing group that champions rice parboiling within Hohoe and other districts in the Oti Region.

Read also Innovative post-harvest treatment, digital agriculture can help tackle food loss and waste

The group also invests in packaging materials that have made their products attractive to urban and peri urban consumers.

Ms. Petra Bentkämper, President of the German Land Frauen Verband, described Ms. Adade as an extraordinary woman with a good-know-how about cultivation, refinement, and marketing of rice.

“She is also a very successful and exploiting the entire value chain in rice production. I have great respect for her commitment to regionalism on the marketing of refined rice using the parboiling process and her special skills as a networker.”

“Game Changers – Women in Agriculture” was initiated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) has been commissioned by BMZ with the implementation and coordination of the initiative.

Ms. Marjeta Jager, DG DEVCO and Jury-Member noted that “across the world, the role of women in agriculture is crucial. Yet, women are widely discriminated against when it comes to land rights, participation in policy-making, decision-making and access to finance and resources.

“However, there is also some good news. We see an increased number of women taking the lead in sustainable food production and the diversification of the agricultural value chains.”

Read also Rapidly Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa

She added the “Game Changers – Women in Agriculture” initiative by GIZ was an amazing way to celebrate the “remarkable women.”

The seven award winners will each receive sponsorship to further education and training measures worth EUR 1,500. The rest of the award winners are Krishna Radha, and Ramwati Adiwashi both from India, Euphrasie Dassoundo Assogba, Benin, Akech Manyuat Gong, South Sudan, and Juliette Pyalo Sebou, and Bariétou Agbere, both from Togo.

Congratulations to all award winners!

Business models in vertical farming: IDTechEx

The concept of vertical farming, the idea that crops can be grown much more efficiently indoors under controlled environmental conditions than conventional farmland would have been possible, has captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and investors alike, with dozens of start-ups around the world raising ever-increasing amounts of investor capital.

The recent IDTechEx report ‘Vertical Farming 2020-2030’ explores the technologies and market factors that shape this rapidly expanding industry.

The ongoing argument within the industry is about size – is it better to focus on building a large, highly automated plant factory to minimise production costs, or is a small, more flexible approach the best way to set up a vertical farm?

This question arises from some of the challenges facing the vertical farming industry. Setting up and running a vertical farm is not cheap, and many vertical farming companies have struggled to overcome spiraling labour and power costs, alongside unforeseen logistical complexities, and problems with maintaining an optimum growing environment.

But of course, same cannot be said about doing vertical farming for your home consumption – here one needs to keep is simple with no commercial intent or objective.

A potential solution to some of these problems is the construction of a very large vertical farm, which allows the power costs to be averaged over a large quantity of crops.

In addition, large vertical farms make it easier to justify the use of advanced automation systems that can help reduce labour costs, while the cost of automated systems is also spread over large quantities of crops.

Such economies of scale can help a vertical farm to begin to achieve price parity with a conventional farm, something that has long eluded smaller vertical farms, which are often forced to sell products in premium categories.

Large vertical farms producing large quantities of crops can also be more easily integrated into existing food supply chain structures, for example, next to the main distribution centre of the supermarket.

One company trying to use this scale-based approach is the Jones Food Company, a British vertical farm start-up that currently operates the largest vertical farm in Europe.

The company believes that the only way for vertical farming to be successful in the long term is to achieve price parity with conventional farming, which it hopes to achieve through automation and the operation of large scale facilities near distribution centres.

Read also Home gardening: How to make a simple drip irrigation home garden using plastics

The company draws its inspiration from car factories – it is far more cost-effective to produce cars in a large central plant than it would be to produce them in small premises near dealerships, and Jones Food Company believes that the same logic applies to vertical farming.

Crops grown in distribution centres are still able to reach consumers quickly, often within a day of harvesting, and the company does not believe that the hyper-local model promoted by certain competitors is worth the inefficiencies and costs of many small facilities located in city centres.

Several other vertical farmers are following this approach, with New Jersey’s start-up, AeroFarms, announcing in 2019 that it would invest US$42m to build a 150,000 sq. foot facility in Danville, Virginia, which the company claims will be the largest in the world.

Jeff Bezos-backed Plenty operates a 52,000sq foot facility in South San Francisco to maximise production efficiency to improve the economy of vertical farming.

Read also Farming in the Desert: Are Vertical Farms the Solution to Saving Water?

Not everyone, however, agrees with this large-scale approach. Large installations and automation are expensive, with large installations costing tens of millions of dollars.

While this approach may make sense for a car manufacturing plant or other high-margin products, for low-margin products such as fresh produce, it may take decades to repay this initial investment.

In addition, supply and demand for fresh produce are not always consistent, and pricing can often change, making it difficult to predict investment returns accurately, which can be very problematic for a vertical farm that has cost several million dollars to build.

Moreover, many of the processes required to grow crops can not yet be addressed through off-the-shelf automation solutions, creating difficult engineering challenges that can make scale-up very complicated.

Another problem for very large vertical farms is that the operational complexity can increase considerably for larger farms.

Plants are living organisms that can act in unpredictable ways, making it difficult to grow them in a way that resembles a factory production line.

Plants emit heat and water vapour as they grow, while also requiring supplies of carbon dioxide and oxygen, in addition to nutrients.

Keeping crop inputs consistent across the entire vertical farm and managing waste heat and water vapour can also be very difficult in a high density growing area.

Careful consideration of plant science, together with the planning of a logistic workflow to maximise efficiency, is needed to successfully operate a large-scale vertical farm.

Read also Check out how technology is aiding African farms to flourish

As a result of these challenges, some companies have instead chosen to focus on smaller vertical farming facilities, choosing to focus on flexibility instead of economies of scale.

For example, Freight Farms, which manufactures turnkey, modular vertical farms inside 40′ containers, believes that smaller vertical farms provide a more flexible and targeted business model than large, centralised facilities.

Small vertical farms can be tailored to certain markets with gaps, such as crops that can’t be imported, and transient falls in supply for high-demand crops and restaurants or food suppliers that need a specific ingredient. These are all markets in which large, warehouse-like, vertical farms are not easily accessible.

Rather than focusing on mass-produced, wholesale crops, where vertical farms will always struggle to compete on price with traditional farms and greenhouses, it may make more sense for vertical farm operators to focus on high-value crops with price premiums, perhaps on niche markets or on specialised applications.

Innovative post-harvest treatment, digital agriculture can help tackle food loss and waste

Innovative post-harvest treatment, digital agriculture and food systems and re-modelling market channels offer huge potential to tackle the challenges of food loss and waste, according to FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.

“Food loss and waste is a major challenge of our time,” he added, urging stronger partnerships, more public and private investment in training for smallholder farmers, technology and innovation to step up the fight against food loss and waste as “our planet is a small ship in the universe”

UNEP executive director Inger Andersen encouraged governments to make food loss and waste a part of national climate strategies.

“Only 11 countries have so far included food loss in their Nationally Determined Contributions. None of them included food waste. By including food loss and waste and sustainable diets in revised climate plans, policymakers can improve their mitigation and adaptation from food systems by as much as 25%,” said Andersen.

Calling food loss and waste ‘an ethical outrage’ given that so many people are hungry, António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, called on everyone to play their part in tackling these issue-from countries setting a reduction target and measuring their food loss and waste and policy action in this area to be included in the Paris Agreement to businesses taking a similar approach and individuals shopping carefully, storing food correctly, and using leftovers.

Read also Rejuvenate Gaia Global, Ashanti Regional MoFA to use Greenfert Fertiliser on Demo Farms

Solutions to stem food loss and waste include:

  • good data to know where in the value chain the major hot spots of food loss and waste are;
  • applying innovation – for example, e-commerce platforms for marketing or retractable mobile food processing systems;
  • government incentives to bolster private-sector food loss and waste action and collaboration across supply chains;
  • investments in training, technology and innovation, including for small-scale producers;
  • better food packaging and relaxing on regulations and standards on aesthetic requirements for fruit and vegetables;
  • behaviours that value and make the most of food at home;
  • redistributing safe surplus food to those in need through food banks;
  • facilitating farmer’s access to consumers and shorter value chains through farmers markets and rural-urban linkages; and
  • investing more to strengthen infrastructure and logistics, including sustainable cold chains and cooling technologies.

Read also Rapidly Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa

The new African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain based in Rwanda is helping farmers to market their produce quickly and efficiently-reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs.

Sesi and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss at Kansas State University are providing farmers in Ghana with an affordable moisture meter called GrainMate.

This measures the moisture content of maize and other grains, helping farmers ensure the grains are sufficiently dried and tackle the main cause of post-harvest loss in the grain – insufficient drying before storage, which creates conditions for fungal growth, contamination and insect infestation.

Read also Tanzanian government to establish Milk Collection Centers in rural areas

Rapidly Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa

It is a truism that the covid-19 pandemic has jostled governments, policymakers and agricultural value actors to reassess current agriculture and food systems.

Africa’s food system is constituted by numerous actors with varying interests and influences: foreign and local non-profits, small and growing businesses, corporations, research and academia, media, development finance institutions, and governments.

The past three decades has unfortunately not produced meaningful positive impact on a key population segment involved in food production in Africa.

Africa is estimated to have 33 million farms of less than 2 hectares, accounting for 80% of all farms.

Majority of these farm production tasks is done by small farm families dotted in rural farming communities on the continent with limited access to resources that could sustainably propel production and create rural economic opportunities.

Current food systems need a refocus and realignment. Our collective efforts should be redirected towards strengthening rural (production) food systems in order to end hunger; make available better nutrition; address climate variability; protect our environment and biodiversity resources, whiles removing restrictive international trade barriers.

We need to expand our collective efforts to deliver sustainable science-based technologies and comprehensive support systems for millions of rural food producers in Africa.

Additionally, we need to invest in initiatives led by entities in the Global South with domain expertise to ensure continuity, since proximity matters with agricultural initiatives to be sustained and expanded upon.

Agricultural Small and Medium Enterprises (agriSMEs) constitute a huge segment of the economic activities conducted along Africa’s agricultural value chain.

There is a need for an integrated approach to (re)building back agriSMEs to be resilient with adaptive financing and tailored integration into market systems to address rural food market challenges and drive the needed growth it urgently deserves.

Rejuvenate Gaia Global, Ashanti Regional MoFA to use Greenfert Fertiliser on Demo Farms

The Ashanti Regional Department of Food and Agriculture is collaborating with Rejuvenate Gaia Global, licensed importers of Greenfert organic fertiliser to embark on demonstration farms, using the company’s organic fertiliser to scale-up government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ) initiative.

The partnership is expected to positively impact farmers in all 27 districts across the region to improve food production and to deepen the success of the PFJ.

At a training programme in Kumasi, to appraise some district directors and their crop officers, agrochemical dealers and distributors on the benefit of using Greenfert organic granular fertiliser, the Ashanti Regional Director of Agriculture, Rev. John Manu, stressed the need for farmers to embrace the use of organic fertilisers in farming.

While he admitted that the purpose of the training programme was to promote the use of the Greenfert organic fertiliser among farmers in the districts, Rev. Manu explained that the quest for healthy living and sustainable food production has become a top agenda for government in food production.

Read also Tanzanian government to establish Milk Collection Centers in rural areas

“More and more people are becoming aware of their diet and the need to go organic. Ghanaians are vising the big malls every day to patronise organic products. And that sends a strong message to our farmers to adopt same farming methods in order to compete here,” he said.

At the start of the PFJ in the region in 2017, 20,000 farmers participated in the programme. The number as of August 2020, has exponentially increased to 218,000 farmers.

“About 50 percent of these are vegetable farmers who rely on organic products and that is why this partnership to use Greenfert is very important,” Rev. Manu noted.

He added, “Organic fertilisers are made of plants or animal waste and added minerals, which makes them safer to use in crop farming and safe for the environment and pets. In this vein, I would encourage all district directors of agriculture in the region, to help with the introduction of Greenfert organic granular fertilisers to farmers since we all know the benefits.”

Rev. Manu noted that Rejuvenate in the coming weeks would sponsor the various districts to use Greenfert on demonstration farms in order to promote and deepen awareness of the benefits of the fertiliser.

Organic fertilisers help to enhance soil health by nurturing soil microbes that help make soil nutrients available for plants. Organic fertilisers also have the ability to improve water retention and this helps to keep minerals in the soil.

Managing Director of Rejuvenate, Mr Randolph Obeng Frimpong, expressed appreciation to the Regional Department of Agriculture for the partnership and said over 10,000 metric tonnes of Greenfert is available for farmers in Ghana on annual basis.

He said the company, apart from the PFJ subsidised rate of GHc46, Rejuvenate is further offering its own discounts up to GHc35 on each product of Greenfert till the end of year.

“With the backing of MoFA and other stakeholders through the PFJ, Rejuvenate is set to establish vital footprints nationwide to strike partnerships with farmers on the need to embrace organic farming which is the best practice,” Mr. Obeng Frimpong emphasised.

Monday Motivation

Tanzanian government to establish Milk Collection Centers in rural areas

The Tanzanian government has revealed plans to institute several Milk Collection Centers (MCC) in rural areas to increase access to dairy products in the country.

This was disclosed last weekend by the Tanzania Dairy Board (TDB) which currently is working on the modalities for the centres.

This MCC initiative is aimed at increasing the country’s milk collection and increase milk processing factories, as well as other dairy products.

In Tanzania, there are at least 99 milk processing factories that produce 865,600 liters per day, however, milk has not been sufficient.

Due to the unavailability of milk from farmers, the industries only process 203,600 liters, estimated at 23.52 percent of their production capacity.

Registrar of the board, Noely Byamungu said the inability to supply sufficient milk to the factories is a result of the poor and unfriendly road infrastructures in the country.

“To address the setbacks, the board is looking forward to expanding available Milk Collection Centers (MCC) in all rural areas with a high number of dairy cattle farmers and milk production.

“Out of the number, at least 717 MCC have been established with special milk cooling tanks…with professional ability to safely preserve milk for a weeklong period, and at capacity to cool a total of 352,098 liters a day,” he explained.

According to Noely, there are at least 221 milk collection centers (MCC) initiated by the board in different areas countrywide.

He revealed that the MCC will provide a platform that ensures that farmers are presented with reliable markets for their produce.

The TDB, he added, will continue to work closely with stakeholders and milk processors to educate and motivate the farmers to form special groups and have a collective voice in the milk collection centers.

“Throughout the system, milk factories are straight coming to procure milk at the MCC, where the farmers are paid on weekly basis under a well-being established contract.

“By increasing availability of the MCC in all concerned areas, we will manage to stand a promising chance to overcome several challenges facing dairy farmers as well as milk processing plants,” Noely said.

Dynamic food systems needed to build strong economies – World Food Programme

Ms. Rukia Yacoub, representative and Country Director, World Food Programme (WFP) has reiterated the need for dynamic food systems to strengthen national economies to withstand unforeseen situations like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the celebration of the World Food Day in Accra on Friday, she stated that the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the weaknesses of national economies, rendering a lot of people hungry and desperate.

Ms. Yacoub said there was a need for dynamism in food systems to build a resilient economy and bring massive growth in communities which were largely involved in agricultural activities to help boost national economies since agriculture is the backbone of every economy.

Read also Africa has a growing food security problem: here is why it can’t be fixed without proper data

“We need to build dynamic food systems which contribute to community-based agricultural growth and strengthen national economies,” she said.

She added that the World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service frequently provided food to Covid-19 containment centres.

Ms. Yacoub stated that there was a joint effort from the WFP and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to transfer money to 75, 000 people who earned daily wages but now not able to do so due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Read also Building Resilient Food System On Systemic Vulnerabilities

She recommended all stakeholders, stressing the need to collaborate properly to improve the lives of over 80 per cent of people living in rural areas who solely relied on agriculture.

“This will help improve food systems, from production processes to the consumption stage to enhance development in national economies and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Two which aims to end hunger. This will facilitate the processes in achieving future goals,” she said.

Parliament approves US$20 million support rural livelihood

Ghana’s Parliament has approved US$20 million Financing Agreement between the Government of Ghana and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to finance the Emergency Support to Rural Livelihood and Food Systems (ESRF).

The ESRF was established as one of government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a primary goal to protect the livelihood, incomes, and resilience of target groups from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and from climate change.

The terms of the loan are: the total amount of US$20 million made up of a Loan Facility of US$10 million and Blend of US$10 million.

The interest rate on loan is zero percent while that on Blend is 1.3 percent, Service charge on Loan is 1.31 percent whereas that on Blend is 1.33 percent. The Moratorium on Loan is 10 years whilst Blend is 5 years.

The repayment period for the loan is 40 years whereas the Blend is 20years and the Grant Element of the Loan is 50.24 per cent whilst the Blend is 24.14 per cent, with a Weighted Grant Element of 37.19 percent.

Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, presenting the committee’s report, observed that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ravaging effect on global economies including Ghana had adversely impacted agriculture, particularly food security.

To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and avert the possibility of a food security crisis, there is the need to strengthen Ghana’s food systems and ensure a more inclusive, resilient and productive rural economy, he said.

The Chairman announced therefore that the Government of Ghana was seeking to access emergency funding support from IFAD to finance the implementation of the ESRF.

Dr Assibey-Yeboah explained that Component One of the project “which is to protect against hunger and build resilient livelihood was allocated US$17,636,000. This is to provide 37,250 beneficiaries with timely access to inputs (seeds, fertilizers, etc) to increase production, support 5,000 vulnerable beneficiaries with direct cash transfer and rations to overcome hunger and prevent nutritional gaps.”

He said component two of programme which dealt with safeguarding rural marketing linkages and food security was allocated US$1,679,000. This would provide stimulus to the agribusinesses to develop marketing linkages with 25,000 smallholders, ensuring that these smallholders had secured income and cash availability after harvest or production.

According to the Chairman, Component 3 of the programme which dealt with Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation, was allocated US$685,000. This would be undertaken through the Project Coordination Unit (PCU) and Zonal Coordination Unit (ZCU).

Dr Rashid Pelpuo, Member of Parliament for Wa Central, said life should go on despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic especially with commitment to agriculture and food security.

He, however, expressed concern that despite the country receiving US$1billion Rapid Credit Assistance from the IMF, the House approving US$100 million from the World Bank and GHS10 billion from the Bank of Ghana and now US$20 million, the House was yet to see any accountability report on the funds.

“Mr Speaker, I do not know what we are doing with these monies we are amassing and I have a feeling that we are not doing the right thing.

If we have taken all these monies yet we are not producing results or report as to how the money was spent,” Dr Pelpuo said. “I think that we should not indebt this country in the name of COVID,” he added.

UK Farmers concerned over low quality meat imports after Brexit

Alan West, a recently retired sheep farmer and agricultural lecturer based in South East England, is concerned about growing over Britain’s position on the standards of imported meat and the fate of the British farm industry.

Earlier this week, MPs rejected the latest attempt to require imported food to meet domestic legal standards from January 1, 2021.

In the parliament, they struck down a House of Lords (upper house of parliament) amendment to the Agriculture Bill to force trade deals to meet Britain’s animal welfare and food safety rules. According to West, the possibility of the British market being “swamped by cheap, poor quality foreign imports” could be devastating for farmers.

The Agriculture Bill is designed to prepare the British farming industry for the new situation when Britain no longer has to follow the laws and rules of the European Union (EU) next year, and returned to the House of Commons (lower house of parliament) this week following amendments made by the House of Lords.

But MPs voted to reject the amendment, which contained a change that would give MPs a veto over sections in trade deals relating to food imports. It would be required to comply with “relevant domestic standards”.

The British government said EU rules banning imports of chlorine-washed chicken and other products will be automatically written into British law once the post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31, according to the BBC.

In response to the amendment being rejected, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association, Phil Stocker said: “This amendment provided an opportunity to uphold and protect our animal welfare standards, some of the highest in the world.”

“With this being rejected by MPs, there is now the very real risk, despite government’s assurances, that the UK’s standards that our nation’s farmers are proud to work to, could be undermined by lower standard imports,” Stocker said.

A major discussion in the parliament has been securing a post-Brexit U.S. trade deal. Due to Britain’s position, campaigners have warned that it could be forced to accept lower standards to secure that future U.S. trade deal. West said his biggest concern is a deal with the United States, above any other country.

“The concerns are about things like the use of growth promoters, both in beef production and milk production in the U.S., the use of a range of agri-chemicals that have been banned here,” West told Xinhua.

“It would reduce livestock production to significantly lower welfare standards than would be permissible here … so they could effectively put cheap beef, cheap poultry into our markets, produce the standards that we are not allowed to produce here and undercut our producers,” said West.

A saturated meat market could be devastating for British farm businesses already struggling with the transition of Britain out of the EU. Now farmers and relevant associations are calling on the government to fully consider the consequences of free trade agreements that could jeopardize the future of Britain’s domestic meat industry.

“What I’d like the government to consider when negotiating free trade deals, really is to honour the commitments on the promises they’ve made to producers to maintain standards. And to consider those standards when negotiating any trade deals,” West said.

West and other farmers are calling on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, a commission representing farmers, retailers and consumers in Britain, to be made a permanent body.

“It needs power, with some teeth and the ability to scrutinize trade deals to ensure that anything we’re going to import into the UK for any agricultural product will comply with our standards of production,” West said.

CSIR-SARI introduces high yielding groundnut varieties to farmers

The Savanah Agriculture Research Institute of the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSRI-SARI), has introduced high yielding groundnut varieties to farmers in the Pusiga District of the Upper East Region.

The groundnut varieties, SARINUT 1 and SARINUT 2, developed by CSIR-SARI and its partners were released in 2019.

Dr Richard Oteng-Frimpong, a crop breeder at the CSIR-SARI, said this when he inspected some of the groundnut farms at Boabula in the Pusiga District. He said the new varieties would mitigate losses caused by evolving climate patterns, pests, and disease complexes.

He said, “These varieties are high yielding and tolerant to early and late leaf spot diseases, important diseases of groundnut that can cause up to 90% yield loss in some places. SARINUT 2 is particularly recommended for the Upper East Region because it matures within 90 days after sowing”.

“These varieties are being delivered through building partnerships and linkages among stakeholders and a robust framework to facilitate smallholder farmers’ access to high-quality seeds with a high commitment to gender equity as a guiding principle”, he added.

The crop breeder explained that the project went into partnership with farmers who expressed an interest in the new varieties, to help them multiply the seeds at the local level, to make the seeds of the new varieties readily available to farmers within their communities.

He said the average groundnut yield on farmers’ fields in the Upper East Region was below 0.5 tonnes per hectare which was far below the national average of about 1.3 tonnes per hectare.

He attributed the poor harvest to the use of low yielding varieties which were usually susceptible to groundnut diseases.

According to Dr Oteng-Frimpong, CSIR-SARI was implementing the Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) project with its partners, to adopt modern best practices to deliver a continuous stream of improved groundnut varieties for smallholders to achieve improved nutrition, greater yields, higher incomes and improved livelihoods.

He said the visit to the farms followed a training of trainers’ workshop on groundnut seed production organized by CSIR-SARI for Agricultural Extension Agents, field technicians of NGOs, Seed companies, and leaders of some FBOs in March 2020.

Read alsoAccess to land and farm inputs still remain barriers to rural smallholder women farmers in Ghana — Agrisolve Ghana

Dr Doris K. Puozaa, a Research Scientist working on Seed Science and Systems Development at CSIR-SARI, said the approach was expected to contribute to the vision of the institute of getting seeds of new improved varieties to farmers and also support the government’s efforts to increase crop production through programmes like the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

The Pusiga District Director of the Department of Agriculture, Mr Mohamudu Iddi who supervised the field day, commended the community groundnut seed growers for the good work done and urged other farmers to adopt the new technologies being introduced to them to increase groundnut production, which he said was on the decline in the district.

He thanked Dr Francis Kusi, the Upper East Regional Coordinator of the two projects for extending the project’s activities to farmers in Pusiga District.

Access to land and farm inputs still remain barriers to rural smallholder women farmers in Ghana — Agrisolve Ghana

The Executive director for Agrisolve Ghana, Elorm Goh, has identified lack of access to land, farm inputs, technical training, and market access as barriers to the progress of rural smallholder women farmers in the country.

She indicated that over 50% of farmers are women yet are marginalized by these barriers and has therefore called on the Government and other stakeholders to intervene and also address the issues of finance, and technology to enable agriculture to thrive.

Speaking at an event to mark this year’s International Day for Rural Women in Zinnido, a farming community in the Gushegu Municipality, Ms. Goh called on the government to partner traditional leaders to fashion out favourable land acquisition guidelines to enable women to have access to lands for agricultural purposes.

She added that “the woman smallholder farmer is the tool to changing the narrative of Agriculture and giving her the much-needed access to land, input, technical training and markets would break the barriers”.

Executive Director of Songtaba women group, Lamnatu Adam in an address said agriculture contributes about 38% to the Ghanaian economy and women contribute about 50% to 60% of the labor force within the agriculture sector yet women are challenged with several factors that deny them the opportunity to improve their livelihoods.

Rural women celebrating International Day for Rural Women

She called on the government and other stakeholders to strengthen women’s access to productive resources including land, modernized farm inputs, and financing.

“We also want the government to look at how we can have strategies on adaptive climate change initiatives and also gender-responsive budgeting to ensure women in agriculture benefit from all sources of revenue”.

The International Day for Rural Women is marked annually to celebrate women and girls who play a key role in rural areas enhancing agricultural development, building climate resilience, facing malnutrition, and food insecurity.

In the last two years, Agrisolve has assisted 168 women within the Gushegu Municipality financing, farm inputs, and series of training to enable them to improve their farm yields.

The NGO celebrated this year’s International Day for Rural Women on the theme “Her input for Prospect”

As part of the event, a breast concern education and a free breast cancer screening was organized for women of the Zinnido community.

Zimbabwean government approves $1.5bn to pay debt owed cotton farmers

The Zimbabwean government has said it has authorised the release of an additional $1.5 billion to settle outstanding payments to cotton farmers for the crops delivered this marketing season.

The fund is in addition to the $1.8 billion previously released by the government as part payment, to pay the farmers financed under the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, recently revealed this through its Minister, Dr. Anxious Masuka.

Read also Zimbabwe to launch $58m Belarus-funded Agriculture Equipment Facility

The government also restated its commitment to producing inputs worth US$82 million this season to support 400,000 households.

The minister said the government would continue to finance cotton production through “Cottco” – Zimbabwe’s leading cotton market.

Masuka said, “As you might be aware, the mobile money transactions were suspended by the Government in June and for a good reason; to stabilize the broader macro-economic environment

Read also Zimbabwe to boost Tomato Production, set to establish processing factory

“This disrupted payments to farmers… alternative payment systems you (cotton merchants) have devised include, but not limited to the purchase and the distribution of groceries, farm implements and household requirements.

“The acceptance of these payment schemes by farmers and spectators across the country has been varied.

“But now that normalcy has returned, I expect that Cottco will begin to use these platforms so that farmers will choose what to do with their own money.

“There is an outstanding balance of $1.5 billion that is due and I think perhaps in the next week or so those payments will begin to flow,” he added.

Read also Zimbabwe: Women spearhead Agriculture Development Programme

Masuka, however, warned farmers against abusing the inputs, urging Cottco to account for the inputs.

Tanzania: Firm donates fertilisers to farmers to boost crop production

Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture has been charged to ensure the efficient distribution of the free fertilisers donated to smallholder farmers by Yara Tanzania Company.

Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa instructed the ministry during the flag-off of the distribution to the farmers this week.

About 12,500 tons of NPK fertilizers were distributed to farmers, Yara Company’s Managing Director, Winston Odhiambo revealed.

The farmers would also receive free advice from YARA extension officers to enhance crop production.

According to Majaliwa, the Ministry of Agriculture should ensure that the fertilisers are distributed to the intended people.

He said it was expedient to have 80 percent of Tanzania engaged in the agricultural sector to improve their standard of living.

Read also Tanzania: Coffee farmers told to liaise with experts to boost production

He revealed that most smallholder farmers were not financially capacitated to procure agricultural inputs, hence the need for free fertilisers to enhance agricultural activities and earnings.

Majaliwa, however, warned that legal action would be taken on anyone who disrupts the process, stressing that the government was unwavering in its plan to make farmers have a better life.

On his part, the Minister of Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga, said the distribution of fertilisers was aimed at increasing productivity and ensuring food security in the country.

He also noted that the fertilisers have been approved by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and are suitable for use.

“At least 83,000 small-scale farmers in 25 regions of Mainland Tanzania are set to benefit from the programme. Dar es Salaam Region has been excluded since it has a small number of farmers,” he said.

NPP Yapei-Kusawgu Parliamentary Candidate, Abu Kamara, dies in car crash

Another sad news hit the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) as their Parliamentary Candidate for Yapei-Kusawgu constituency in the Savannah Region of Ghana, Abu Kamara, died in a car crash.

According to our sources he was returning to Tamale after a project inspection tour when the incident occurred.

Abu Kamara reportedly died on the spot at the Datoyili police barrier after crashing into an articulated truck around 10:39 pm on Friday 16th October, 2020.

The articulated truck

Read also Bank Manager caught in bed with someone’s wife, got shot severally in the head by gunmen [Video+Photos]

He died alongside an aide and one other passenger.

The PC’s car

Our heartfelt condolences go the family of the Mr. Kamara and Yapei-Kusawgu constituency.

Ghana: Chief of Kuyulibore appeals for construction of dams for farming activities

Ubore Nambu Jakobki IV, Chief of Kuyuli in the Tatale-Sangule district of the Northern Region has appealed to government to extend the ‘One Village, One Dam’ policy to Kuyuli and other communities in the district to enhance dry season farming.

“We in Kuyuli are currently benefiting from the Planting for Food and Jobs and free SHS, and however anxiously waiting for our share of the One Village One Dam, which will help to engage the youth in dry season vegetable production.”

The Chief made the appeal during the 2020 Yam festival celebration for the people of Kuyuli on the theme: Redefining our heritage to promote development through Agriculture.”

The festival is used to mark new yam and thank the ancestors for good harvest and review their performance in previous years.

It is also a homecoming festival that re-unites the people Kuyuli in all over the country and beyond.
Ubore Jakobki said the Kuyuli community organised the festival in an extra-ordinary manner, because there was peace in the community and ‘I want to use this opportunity to thank all the good people of Kuyuli traditional area for your patience and tolerance during the trying times, this shows how matured you are.’

He called on his people to appreciate farming as business and not punishment and appealed to government to facilitate the activities of farmers to make it more attractive.

He called for unity among various families in the Kuyuli community quoting Romans 13: 1 “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God”.

“I wish to again commend the NPP government for completing the GETFUND school block of Pentecost Primary school, which was started during the NDC administration and also providing furniture for both pupils and teachers. Like Oliver Twist, I wish to appeal for the extension of electricity and water to Kuyuli New Zongo, Wunyanbeidom and part of Nweendom communities. “

The Chief appealed to the district assembly to support technocrats to help plan the layout of human settlement in the community.

Ubore Jakobki appealed to all the political parties and the youth of Tatale – Sanguli to exercise restraint and not to use abusive language on your campaign platforms and see your political opponents as enemies.
“Let’s be agents of peace for election 2020 so that Ghana will be the winner.”

As part of this year’s celebration of the annual yam festival, there was a clean-up exercise in Tatale township, Free medical screening of which 156 people were screened and given medication at no cost, heritage tour to ancestral home and a night of musical concert sponsored by Victoria Distilleries LTD.

Ghana: BT cowpea to be commercialised in a year

Ghana will in about a year see the commercial release of pest-resistant Barceló’s Thurigensis (BT) cowpea seeds to the food value chain for mass cultivation by farmers.

The BT Cowpea, which would be the first genetically modified (GM) crop to be released in the country, would contribute to food security, improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by reducing the pod’s damage, promote grain quality and reduce seasonal crop loss.

The release of the BT cowpea follows an over seven-year laboratory research and field trials at different locations by scientists at the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute of the Council Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SARI).

Professor Walter Alhassan, a former Director-General of CSIR, who confirmed this to the Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of a media briefing in Accra, said the Scientist working on BT Cowpea had prepared a dossier on indicators, including; the toxicity, efficacy and profitability of the BT to the National Biosafety Authority for assessment.

He said once the Authority approved it, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture would take it up for assessment and field demonstrations before its release.

Prof Alhassan said biological technology was not new to humans, explaining that the insulin used in the field of medicine and the traditional brewing of ‘pito’, a local beverage, were all forms of biotechnology.

He reiterated the call for Government to devote resources to research and development to ensure good health, food security, and safety.

Read also GMO: Ghana working on GMO rice and cowpea – CSIR

Dr Derry Nboyine, a Researcher on the BT Cowpea Project, said pod borer infestation was a major constraint to cowpea production in the country, which resulted in between 30 to 80 percent of yield.

“In the absence of resistance genes in the cowpea germplasm, a new [biotechnological] innovation has identified a resistance gene from a bacteria species BT. This has been transferred into Songotra, a local cowpea variety to kill the pod borer and also reduce the harmful effect of many insecticides sprays the farmers are exposed to.”

He said working with farmers confined trials were conducted at SARI-CSIR, in Nyankpala, Tamale, Bawku and Damongo.

Dr Issoufou K. Abdourhamane, Project Manager Cowpea of the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), said the choice of cowpeas, was due to the important role it played in the nutritional needs of Ghanaians, especially those in the Northern Region.

Read Food for All Africa organizes “Feeding Caravan” to commemorate UN World Food day

He said cowpea was rich in nutraceuticals compounds such as dietary fibre, antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols.

Dr Abdourhamane said the crop was widely cultivated and that consumed cowpea was an important legume for the nutrition and health of people in many countries hence the need for Ghana to boost its production.

Dr. Ibrahim Dzido Kwasi Atokple, a retired SARI Scientist, said farmers did not need to regularly buy seeds to plant, but could re-use their seeds for more than two seasons.

He said it was healthy and safe to consume BT cowpea saying “CSIR-SARI is a public institution and will not endorse acts that will pose danger to the health of the public.

“The imported chicken, we enjoy are all fed with BT soybean grown in countries like Brazil and Argentina. Same with some vegetable oils we consume. Make no mistake we are already consuming biotechnology produce.”

BT Cowpea is among three other crops – cotton, rice and sweet potatoes, cleared for confined trials and evaluation.
Scientists sought to create a cowpea variety resistant to the pod borer or maruca, a species of moth that targets bean crops.

Read also Statement from Forster Boateng, AGRA Regional Head for West Africa in commemoration of World Food Day

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