by Jacqueline Gunn- KF13, CRAN Ghana
Food forms the backbone of any growing society. Food sustains people. Many thousands of individuals create a living through food production, distribution and on a large scale, exportation. People communicate and build communities through food- joining together to prepare a meal before sitting down to enjoy it whilst talking and connecting.
This is especially so in Ghana- one of the most popular national dishes, fufu, actually requires two people to prepare it- one person turning the dough in a wooden bowl whilst the other pounds it repeatedly with a huge pestle. This dish and many others are then sold at local markets, which are bustling and vibrant places which often seem to me to be the heart and soul of the community.
Ghana relies heavily on agriculture. Whilst the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire faced food shortages during the global food crisis, the Ghanaian government declared that agriculture would be the key to Ghana’s economic success and act as a “springboard for overall economic development’. Since 1988, the first Friday in December is set aside to celebrate National Farmer’s Day – to honour the nation’s hardworking farmers, especially those who have made significant contributions to improve the country’s agriculture sector and improve food production. I thought I would take this opportunity to share some of the things I have learned about this sector since being in Ghana.
Agriculture accounts for 33.6% of the composition of Gross Domestic Product in Ghana, with 56% of the total workforce earning a living through agriculture and farming. Indeed, a considerable proportion of borrowers through Kiva make their trade in food production. Some of the primary products include cocoa, rice, cassava, peanuts, corn, shea nuts, banana and timber.
The sector is not without its limitations however, with many factors combining together and placing challenges on the industry.
- Transportation routes through Ghana are poorly maintained, making markets inaccessible before the food is rotten.
- Preservation of foods is difficult in rural areas, meaning that farmers either have to sell only in the immediate vicinity, or risk losing income through rotten foodstuffs.
- There is an over-dependence on small scale farming, with a large proportion of the farmers producing food solely for their family. To really grow the sector, more individuals should be encouraged to move from sustenance farming to farming as a business.
- To move towards this business model, there needs to be better access to credit, training and technology to maximize the skills of the farmers of Ghana.
- More recently, the production of biofuels is becoming an issue in Ghana. With corporations acquiring land for the purpose of cultivating food crops (soy beans, corn, cassava) to produce biofuels and ethanol for exportation to developed countries. In the process, smallhold farmers are at risk of losing their land, costs of goods increase and the land can be damaged due to lack of crop rotations. At present there is no biofuel production regulation in Ghana.
These limitations provide challenges and put pressures on the industry, however it is not all bad news. The government has publically recognised the importance of farming and agriculture as Ghana’s greatest strength and key to industrial growth. Investments have been made in the sector for example in rehabilitating warehouses and dryers for food storage. Modern technology is also having a positive impact on the industry- as I type, there is a pilot scheme being tested to send text messages of market rates of goods at differing locations to rural farmers in Ghana, so that they can obtain the best prices for their products.
There is also a huge amount of pride in this industry. From the moment you take a step into Ghana, you are presented with a huge array of foodstuffs, fresh and produced locally. Take the Kiva borrower Rebecca Mensah for example- when I visited her and interviewed her for her journal update, she declared that she had the best kenke (a local corn dish) in town- and I don’t dispute it. Ghanaian people take a lot of time and effort in producing everything they eat- one dish can take hours of production, and their patience and care over their food is something that I have never seen before.
So, in order to celebrate National Farmers Day, I invite you to watch this video and join us for lunch at Christian Rural Aid Network in Ghana. The star of the show is Ab, CRAN’s Kiva Co-ordinator who has a sincere love for kenke.'
To lend to an agricultural entrepreneur on Kiva, click here.