Ghana: Women Rice Farmers Partner for New Opportunities

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Washington — An organization of 50 female rice farmers in Ghana recently received training, with U.S. help, to develop their businesses and increase crop production.

Members of the Nyohini Women's Group, made up of rice farmers, capitalized on Ghana's $547 million compact with the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to receive nine weeks of training in business and farming methods.

The compact's commercial training deals with several constraints that face smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. These include poor production, outdated postharvest techniques and limited business and management skills.

Before the training, Ayesha Otibo, Nyohini Women's Group chairwoman, did not produce the quality of rice required to compete in larger markets. Ayesha and her colleagues credit the guidance they received from Amsig Resources, the company that delivered the MCC-funded training, for helping them grow better rice, accurately track their profits and losses, and successfully negotiate better prices with suppliers and service providers.

WORKING WITH THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

Amsig Resources Chief Executive Officer Gina Odarteifio connected Otibo's group to an important new buyer, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). WFP is a reliable customer: Through its Purchase for Progress program, it buys 100-kilogram bags of rice from the women at prices higher than they would receive in local markets.

The women, many of whom are widows, credit the training and Odarteifio's assistance for their newfound income, which empowers them to pay their children's school fees and household electricity bills.

Amsig Resources has trained 82 farmer groups, comprising 4,681 farmers throughout Ghana's Afram basin and northern agricultural area. Of these, 16 were groups led by women, and nearly 52 percent of farmers trained were women who produce and process crops.

So far, 64,000 farmers, including Otibo, in 30 districts in Ghana have received MCC-funded training to sharpen their commercial skills. Such training deepens the capacity of farmer-based organizations such as Otibo's and that of their business partners, including processors and marketers who add value to agricultural crops.

As part of MCC's commitment to measure results, upcoming evaluations will gauge the effects of MCC's investments, including increases in household income. To date, 3,606 metric tons of rice have been sold to WFP at competitive prices, providing a fair and reliable income to the farmers.

EMBRACING THE ABC'S OF NEW OPPORTUNITY

Many farmer-based organizations will benefit from their relationship with Amsig Resources, as plans are under way to invest in an agribusiness center (ABC) in the town of Woreboggu-Kukuo near the city of Tamale. The Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which is responsible for implementing Ghana's MCC compact, is partnering with private investors to open new ABCs.

While MiDA is building and equipping 10 ABCs, the investors will bring working capital, market linkages and business and management experience.

The ABCs will serve as collection points for quality grains, giving farmers a way to treat, store and process their grain effectively and sell it to a structured market at a guaranteed minimum price. Each ABC facility will include a warehouse with a 1,000-metric-ton capacity, primary processing areas and space for stocking inputs such as seeds and fertilizers.

Before Ghana's partnership with MCC, most grain buyers could not benefit from such locations. This resulted in canceled contracts because buyers failed to meet both the quantity and quality requirements demanded by their clients, often international firms. Farmers had to absorb high losses after their harvests, since the lack of adequate processing facilities forced them to accept low prices for their produce, often selling to "drive-by" traders as the only option.

CREATING SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Now, through the agribusiness centers, private-sector investors will influence the quality and quantity of agricultural products. Farmers will command better prices because they can access higher-end markets. Each ABC will have an anchor private investor, like Amsig Resources, and shareholders, like smallholder farmer-based organizations such as Nyohini Women's Group.

Private investors will contribute land and working capital. The Millennium Development Authority will provide grants to the agribusiness centers, but private investors and farmer-based organizations will repay the total cost of MiDA's contribution into an "ABC reinvestment fund." This fund will be used to upgrade equipment and expand operations at each ABC.

The enthusiasm that Gina Odarteifio at Amsig Resources and Ayesha Otibo and the other members of the Nyohini Women's Group share is the result of the Ghana compact's working as it was designed. As Odarteifio proudly says, "Through its training, Amsig has helped to improve the quality of farmers' produce and opened the door for women who have few economic options in their lives."

This is how MCC's compact with Ghana is beginning to raise farmers' incomes through agribusiness development led by the private sector, generating new opportunities to reduce poverty and sustainably strengthen Ghana's economy.

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