The Rural Enterprise Project (REP) aims at alleviating poverty, slowing rural-urban drift, contributing to the creation of sustainable jobs. The project also aims at addressing the low level of technology and productivity, low income and un-competitiveness in production, processing and distribution in agriculture. REP aims at addressing this deficiency through transfer of technology, thereby improving the low level of technology and productivity, as well as aiding in improving the low income levels of beneficiaries.
The target beneficiaries are made up of 'entrepreneurial poor' individuals, defined as the rural poor who had some business potential and who, if supported through the project interventions, could promote self-employment and micro-enterprises. Disadvantaged women, unemployed and under-employed youth and graduate apprentices are also targeted under the program. This project support would be achieved through the following components; Business Development Services, Technology Promotion and Support to Apprentice Training, Improving access to Rural Financial Services and support the development of Micro-and Small Scale Enterprises Organizations and Partnership Building.
REP has been successfully implemented in two phases;
Phase one from 1995 to 2002 was supported by IFAD with USD 9.3 million
Phase two was implemented between 2003 and 2012 with co-financing support from IFAD (UA8.5 million) and the African Development Bank (UA 7.5 million)
To date the project has been implemented in 66 districts nationwide.
Improving livelihoods and increases in household income: The project has changed the lives of the women and the men in the beneficiary districts who essentially depend on agriculture for their livelihood. It has also had significant impact on income of poor farmers, young dropouts and women by positively increasing household income levels thereby improving their living conditions.
Evaluation from a field survey indicates that. of the 340 project clients who took part in the field survey, 280 mentioned that the project had improved their income levels. Clients' average income before enrolling on the REP was GHÈ»455.00 (USD255.62) a month. After receiving support from REP, clients' incomes have now increased to GHÈ»755.00 (USD 424.16).
Evidence from the field survey also indicates the project has contributed to food security at the household level. The majority (86%) of the clients indicated that the project had enhanced their access to healthy food through income generation. This has helped improve children's nutritional status, according to 62% of clients.
Isahaku Saluh, the proud "REP Trained" CEO of Down Blow Soap - Buipe
Isahaku Saluh could not continue his education past the secondary school due to financial difficulties. For five years he worked as a shop attendant. In 2008, Isahku took part in community-based skills training in soap making under REP. Since then, he operates a soap making business and has also received training in small business management, pomade and hair care products making.
"...I am now taking care of my uncle's children. One is now a teacher trainee whilst the remaining two are in senior secondary school. I hope Allah gives me the strength to sponsor two of them to the university. I have registered all them with National Health Insurance, so I do not have any problem when they are ill. I am building a house and can confidently say that most of the materials needed have already been purchased - the cement bags, iron rods and the roofing sheets. I have started rearing cattle and currently have eight animals. I currently have two apprentices."
Promoting skills transfer and technology development: The project also aided in Technology Promotion and Support to Apprentice Training through technical skills training and demonstrations.
A total of 21 Rural Technology Facilities were built across the country to promote rural technology transfer through the training of Master Craftsmen, Apprentices and industrial attachés from technical and tertiary institutions. A total of 4,393 master craftsmen and 17,538 apprentices were trained under the program. In total, 102,000 individuals were trained under the various community-based skills training modules. Most of the beneficiaries are currently operating their own viable businesses and have also engaged apprentices. Apart from those that have been installed by the project several others have used their graduate certificates to gain formal employment outside their districts.
Isaac Kojo Antwi, a physically challenged client of REP in Twifi Praso "Until REP came to my rescue, I was engaged in small-scale poultry farming. But the income was very scanty because all the birds I reared were actually paid for even before I started. Despite the 'peanuts' I was getting, I was forced to continue just to let people know I was not useless."
"REP trained me in leather works and gave me equipment support to establish my business. Today, my footwear and belts are sold even outside my district. I own a six acre oil palm farm at Paaso near Twifo Praso, and I am currently pursuing a distance education diploma course at the University of Cape Coast that will lead to the award of Diploma in Management and Commerce. Indeed REP has shown that the disabled can make it with the right support."
Creating employment: The community skills development model of the project has provided skills training for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the following businesses; processing of agricultural products such as fresh juice, palm oil processing, cultivation of mushroom, bee keeping, and fish farming etc. Under the project a total of 35,742 individuals were trained in different SME activities. The training has resulted in the establishment of a total of 24,052 new SMEs. The ripple effect of the trainings and the creation of SMEs has enabled employment generation for 54,683.
Ms. Zaliatu Ibrahim participated in a BAC training programme in soap making in 2007. Prior to this, she had been a seamstress. Zaliatu started soap production in 2007. Initially; she produced two boxes of bar soap a week. Currently, Zaliatu with her four part-time employees produces 260 bars of soap, 400 bottles of liquid soap and 360 boxes of various tablet soaps per month; she earns an average profit of $280.00 every month.
Zaliatu has been able to affect many lives positively in her family and the entire community. She has become a role model for women and youth in the Obogu community. All five apprentices in her dressmaking business are also trainees in the soap production. She has been able to finance her brother's education to the Senior High School while two siblings attend Junior High School. Zaliatu now keeps basic records of business transactions and is able to calculate her profit and loss.
Since Zaliatu started production, she has created 20 jobs including 10 people that she has trained and have now started producing soap. Additionally she has increased the income level of 15 people as retailers for her soap in the district.
Improving access to credit: 6,900 project clients who had registered business and had participated in the BAC were able to access credit facilities. 600 PFI experts were trained in basic management to support the rolling out of the credit to SMEs.
Improved quality of life for females: The project has enhanced the image of the AfDB as one of the most credible development partners in the MSE with a focus on women and vulnerable groups, 62% of the project beneficiaries have been women. The project has trained various womens groups in the production of pomade, powder, bleach and soap as well as grasscutter rearing. According to the women, they are also now able to contribute to the development in their respective communities.
Alhassan Mamuna of Gwollu in the Sissala West District "Before the project, many women including myself did not have any meaningful form of livelihood in the community. The major source of income of most women was the collection of firewood for sale. But since there was very little wood left in the community, we had to walk far into the wild to collect firewood. It was not only drudgery but we made very little from our efforts. Now with the project we have gained alternative livelihoods and stopped firewood collection for sale".
Women Groups in the Dorminase and Otuarter Clusters of communities in the Fanteakwa District
These womens groups were trained in the production of pomade, powder, bleach and soap as well as grasscutter rearing. In all, 72 women have been trained by the two institutions in the two clusters of communities. The training programmes were concluded with closing ceremonies attended by staff of the District Assembly, Chiefs from the various communities and the general public.
The beneficiaries have since formed groups, started production and are making profit over the short period after the establishment of their businesses. One of the groups started with just a capital of about GHÂ¢ 320and within three months of operation, their working capital has increased to GHÂ¢705.00.
One of the women, Salomey Tetteh said, "These skills trainings are life-saving interventions. No one in this community can look down upon me anymore because I am now highly respected. I can pay my children's school fees without having to wait for my husband to harvest some cassava or plantain from the farm to sell".
According to the women, they are also now able to contribute to the development in their respective communities. Plans are underway to purchase mechanised soap-making machines to increase their production levels.
Facilitating partnership for change; the implementation of the project has also facilitated the building of partnerships with several organizations both within and outside the Government agencies such as the district assemblies who co-implement the project. The project has developed partnership with MSE support institutions such as the National Board for Small Scale Industries, GRATIS Foundation and the ARB Apex Bank Ltd and several financial institutions. The project through awareness creation and interactions amongst various institutions has also created partnership and synergy among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) The Hunger Project-Ghana (THP) provided counterpart funding of between 20-30% for training activities. Other MSE support institutions included the Methodist Development and Relief Services (MDRS), CARE International Ghana, the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Program (RTIMP).
Challenges and Constraints
The second phase of REP commenced slowly mainly due to several factors including
Changes in the Executing Agency and supervisory Ministry
The relocation of the Project Unit
Slow recruitment of national experts and procurement challenges
Challenges in the institutional arrangement of the three coordinating government agencies
Low uptake of credit due to inadequate sensitization of the PFIs on project clients and the inability of some rural PFIs to meet the accreditation criteria set by the Bank of Ghana.
Overall, the project has shown that skills development can play a key role in upgrading the living standards of Ghanaians with the creation of sustainable jobs and businesses.
Upon the Government's request and noting the achievements of the earlier programs, a third phase of the program is currently being designed. The third phase is expected to be expanded into an additional 84 districts nationwide with the district-based micro and small enterprise (MSE) support system mainstreamed nationwide within public and private institutional systems to enhance Public Private Partnership.
Marie Laure Akin-Olugbade