Background – The Call
Various speakers at the 8th Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibition that took place at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in Tamale, from October 3 to 5, 2018 have called on stakeholders in the agriculture value chain to support in the transformation of agriculture and agribusiness into a more inclusive, equitable, climate-smart sector, oriented towards the improvement of the lives of rural poor food-insecure people.
The event which was on the theme “Agri-business in Northern Ghana- The Future starts now”, brought together about 3,122 participants and 144 exhibitors who were mainly into machinery and equipment, processing and packaging, inputs, transport, research institutions and regulatory bodies .
It was three days of activity full of in-depth insights, actionable and practical tools of engagement models, methods and mechanisms that were presented to participants by an array of very knowledgeable and skilful speakers who are experts in their various fields of endeavour.
Other participants, who took part in the event which is arguably Ghana’s biggest agriculture interventional platform were major players in the various sectors of the agricultural value chain such as farmers, buyers, processors, financial institutions, policy makers and service providers.
The annual event aimed at linking smallholder farmers to markets, assisting farmers and agri-businesses to expand their businesses before and after harvesting, helping farmers adopt best practices and creating an effectual interactive avenue to enable businesses share innovative ideas and partner for progress was organised by Agrihouse Foundation in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), USAID ADVANCE, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Northern Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) and the Northern Development Authority (NDA).
The three day event was opened by the Minister of State in charge of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Gyeile Nurah who represented the Vice- President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
Other speakers at the opening ceremony were World Food Programme’s Country Director, Ms. Rukia Yacoub, Her Excellency, the Canadian High Commissioner, H.E. Heather Cameron, H.H. Ron Strikker, Netherlands Ambassador, Managing Director of Yara Ghana, Danquah Addo-Yobo, Managing Director of Ecobank, Mr. Dan Sackey, Madam Lucy Quainoo of Mel Consulting, Mr. Owusu Akoto, who represented the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Northern Regional Minister, Hon. Salifu Saeed.
Speeches’ Highlights from the Opening Ceremony
The Vice –President’s representative, Dr Gyeile in his opening remarks called on the private sector to take advantage of the government’s One District One Factory (1D1F) initiative to establish agro processing factories in rural areas of the country to add value to farm produce for export while, the WFP Country Director, Mrs Rukia Yacoub expressed WFP’s delight at using the Preharvest platform to support smallholder farmers improve on their productivity.
She hoped that the Programme’s plans will ultimately, help agro-processors produce for the West Africa sub-region and other markets, which will mean more markets for smallholder farmers’ produce, more income and better opportunities for them.
The Managing Director of YARA Ghana, a leading crop nutrition company, Mr. Addo Danquah Yobo on his part said YARA Ghana was keen on building the right partnership and support at all levels towards transforming Ghana’s agriculture sector while the Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, Mr. Daniel Sackey in his address disclosed that, Ecobank has invested an additional $16 million to support Ghana’s agriculture value chain for the benefit of actors including farmers.
Mr. Sackey encouraged entrepreneurs and farmers to leverage on digital solutions and technology to make their businesses more productive and efficient.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ms. Heather Cameron and the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Ron Strikker both pledged the support of their countries to Ghana’s agriculture sector to enable smallholder farmers to improve on their yields and increase their incomes.
The Director of External Relations and International Trade, Mel Consulting Limited, Ms. Lucy Quainoo stressed the commitment of her organisation to support smallholder farmers to enhance their livelihoods and help reduce rural poverty through their various financial services while Head of Business Tata/John Deere’s dealers in agriculture machinery , Mr. Aashish Rastogi expressed his company’s preparedness to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to provide tailor made solutions for the sector, especially smallholder farmers .
The Northern Regional Minister, Mr. Salifu Saeed on his part said his region was delighted to host such an initiative and that they are always open to programmes that put smiles on the faces of farmers and their families.
Training programs & panel discussions - Outcome
As part of the three day activities, a Commodity Breakout Session was held to deliberate on some of the key issues confronting actors in the rice, soya and maize value chain and the discussants called for price stability and fairness and adherence to quality standards.
Another session was held to promote the Custom and Contract Farming System, a concept which allows a farmer to outsource his weeding, harvesting, transportation and marketing to a Professional service provider. This Job-creation concept, when fully adopted by the youth or entrepreneurs, will help reduce post-harvest losses. About 600 farmers and actors participated in these sessions which were facilitated by from WFP’s Sustainable Food Coordinator - Mr. Nanga Kaye.
Mr. Kaye who also led a discussion on Sustainable Food Systems, supply chain, logistics, warehousing and storage challenged smallholder farmers to ensure that they have storage facilities to minimise post-harvest losses.
A Panel discussion on the government’s flagship programme “Planting for Food and Jobs, the progress so far”, indicated that, it has led to an increase in maize and rice production in the country and created about 745,000 jobs.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Development Authority (NDA), Dr. Abdul Majeed Haruon, a panellist, gave the assurance that his outfit would collaborate with farmers to make the Planting for Food and Jobs successful whiles Mr Addo Yobo of Yara Ghana called on government to shift attention on the program from percentage of subsidy and instead focus on the quality of inputs, timely availability of input and access.
Over one thousand five hundred (1500) of the Participants’ capacities and knowledge were built in other sessions, including Modern Agriculture Technologies, where Participants were encouraged to use existing technologies to improve their businesses.
The New Developments In Agribusiness Financing session also encouraged farmers to form associations and use that as the means to attract funds. At the Quality Seed Systems session, we learnt from a MOFA rep., Dr. Marfo that government has put in place measures to ensure that every seed is traceable, thus producers whose seeds are below standards, will eventually be out of business, whiles the Educational field demonstrations and Model farm tour, to a rice and maize farms at Chegu and Sang respectively, gave actors, insights on good agronomic practices to enhance their productivity.
Resource persons for these sessions included Ecobank, Injaro, Bank of Ghana, Dizengoff, Tata John Deere, Mel Consulting, Interplast, Yara, NASTAG, GAIP, OCP, Kosmos, IITA, USAID ADVANCE, CSIR and RMG.
There was also a session on Development Partners and their Programmes for Youth In Agribusiness that discussed how the youth can tap into the various programs and projects of Development partners in the country. The resource persons from AGRA, KOICA, Kosmos Innovation Centre and WFP all submitted that, they remain open to supporting brilliant initiatives from people that can boost agribusiness.
Exhibitions, Business Deals & Contracts
The 144 Companies that came to exhibit in all, were happy about the sustained patronage of the program throughout the period, majority recorded tremendous sales and were impressed about the quality of business deals struck and long term relationships built.
About 15 women, who are into processing of rice, soyabean, shea, millet, maize expressed their excitement for the long term business supply deals they signed at the event and knowledge they gained, to improve on the packaging and marketing of their products.
Visitors including expatriate acknowledged the quality of the organization of event, the patronage and variety of products that were on exhibition. “The event was very detailed, satisfactory and captured the core of agribusiness” – A visitor summarized.
Some of the smallholder farmers expressed their satisfaction at the event in totality, deals they signed with buyers, contacts to input dealers and service providers for the next season, the impact of the training programs, lessons learnt that will enable them, improve their businesses.
“The impact was so great and we look forward to future programs”, said an exhibitor and a farmer.
Others also called for consistency and urged organizers to sustain the program and introduce other initiatives that will make Ghana’s agribusiness one of the best in the sub-region and Africa as a whole. Some also called for the continuity of the event and more avenues for collaboration.
Agrihouse Final Remarks
The Executive Director of Agrihouse Foundation, Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa, expressed satisfaction about the way the event went and assured that, some of the concerns raised, will be considered to improve upon future events. She also expressed gratitude to all the Exhibitors, Resource persons, Panel discussants, Government officials, Development partners, the media, Chiefs and people of the 3 Northern Regions, value chain actors, all participants and sponsors including Yara Ghana, Ecobank, Mel Consulting, Kosmos Energy, RMG, Interplast, Dizengoff, Hatuom Trading, LK International and Tata John Deere, who supported technically and financially in making the event a success.
She also commended USAID ADVANCE for their technical support and congratulated WFP, their organizing partner and main funding body, for their commitment to seeing Agric transform in Ghana and beyond.