WHY GOVERNMENT’S 1 DISTRICT 1 WAREHOUSE MIGHT NOT ADDRESS PHL FOR SMALL SCALE FARMERS PLANTING FOR FOOD AND JOBS
On the campaign trail, prior to the 2016 general election, the then flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo promised to boost agricultural production in the country.
This led to the launching of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ) by President Akufo-Addo in April 2017 at Goaso in the newly created Ahafo Region.
The program was modeled after the highly successful ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ of Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampog in the 1970s.
The aim of the PFJ was simple; “to increase agricultural productivity and ensure sustainable supply of food at a cheaper cost while creating jobs for the youth”.
PFJ was premised on 5 keys pillars: provision of improved certified seeds, the supply of subsidized fertilizers, the provision of dedicated agricultural extension services, e –marketing strategy and the use of e-agriculture.
The program began with an initial nationwide target of 200 thousand farmers.
According to the government, an estimated 750 thousand direct and indirect jobs were to be created for the youth interested in business along the entire agricultural value chain.
After the launch of PFJ in 2017, 29 thousand-plus farmers signed up for the flagship program.
In 2018 after the close of the planting season there was a sharp increase in the number of farmers who signed up for the program, the Upper West Region alone recorded over 117 thousand farmers cultivating a total of 52 thousand acres.
This year, the Upper West Regional Department of Agriculture has said it is looking forward to register about 200 thousand farmers.
The combined effect of the supply of improved seeds, subsidized fertilizers and the increase in agricultural extension services to farmers had increased the yields of many farmers.
However, the outcome in itself posed a serious problem for farmers.
Most farmers did not have enough or appropriate storage facilities to store the excess food produce they harvested.
The lack or inadequate storage facilities resulted in a lot of food going waste in many communities across the country; particularly in Northern Ghana thus another idea was born; One-District-One-Warehouse, (1D1W).
The 1D1W has a primary aim of reducing Post-Harvest Loss among farmers. In the Upper West Region for example, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has teamed up with the Ministry for Special Development Initiative to build seven (7) warehouses for the start.
According to the Deputy Regional Director of Agriculture who doubles as the Regional Crops Officer, Huudu Abu, MOFA is leading the development of four (4) ultra-modern metric-tonne capacity warehouses at Bussie (DBI), Han (Jirapa), Bulenga (Wa East) and Charikpong (Nadowli-Kaleo) while the Ministry for Special Development Initiative is funding the remaining three in Tumu (Sissala East), Lambussie (Lambussie) and Funsi (Wa East) Districts.
Warehouses under the 1D1W would be equipped with laboratories to run simple test on produce taken to the warehouse. It would also contain offices, rest areas and parking spaces.
The warehouses, according to Mr. Abu, are at various stages of completion.
Eventually, it is expected that the remaining districts and municipalities would also be hosting warehouses of the own.
Despite the building of these warehouses, some stakeholders in agriculture have expressed their reservations about the practicability of the warehouses in regions like the Upper West.
CONCERNS OF STAKEHOLDERS IN AGRICULTURE:
According to a Policy Advisor with the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coaltion (GTLC), Emmanuel Wullingdool, the idea of the warehouses is one which is ‘welcoming and laudable’.
He however, believes that the warehouses might not necessarily solve the problem of PHL among farmers in the Upper West Region; particularly small scale farmers.
The Upper West Region remains predominantly a farming region. Most of the farmers however engage in small scale farming.
According to Mr. Wullingdool, most farmers in the region cultivate between half an acre of land to just about 2.5 acres.
This means that what they harvest is to primarily feed themselves and sell the few remaining bags to pays school fees and renew their health insurance.
He explained that “what they sell off is sold between a period of three months, they do not really hold unto the produce to themselves for long” therefore, the idea of keeping excess bags of food produce at the various warehouses would not be appealing for small scale farmers.
WHY WAREHOUSES WOULD BE UNATTRACTIVE SMALL SCALE FARMERS
The idea of cost to the small scale farmer is another reason why the GTLC believes that small scale farmers would be disadvantaged with regard to the warehouses.
He was of the view that a farmer might expend about 20 Ghana Cedis to transport a bag or two, or food produce from a village to the warehouse and then spend a comparable amount to transport it again from the warehouse to a market to sell it.
A total amount of 40 Ghana-Cedis plus additional warehouse charges might therefore discourage small scale farmers from accessing the 1D1W.
Again, cultural beliefs play a huge role here. According to Mr. Wullingdool, community members (farmers) hold the idea that keeping their harvested produce at home is a morale booster and their source of pride.
He explained that farmers still like to show off the number of bags they harvested in their homes and also assert to their fellow farmers that they possess superior farming prowess.
Still on cultural beliefs, Mr. Wullingdool said some farmers share the belief that their produce must not be mixed with the produce of other farmers at one place.
This again means that per their beliefs, some of these farmers would choose not to store their produce at the new ultra-modern 1000 metric tonne capacity being built by government.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR AGRICULTURE?
The Policy Advisor of GTLC opined that the worldview of the farmers has implication on food security and nutrition in Ghana.
This is because food produce that is improperly stored in the various homes of small scale farmers would be susceptible to PHL; the loss in quality and quantity.
Mr. Wullingdool expressed the fear that although government is spending millions of Ghana Cedis on boosting food production through the PFJ, issues of PHL would mean the country would continue to contend with food insecurity and malnutrition.
This is why Mr. Wullingdool proposes the use of PICS sacks.
THE ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION
The Purdue Improved Crops Storage (PICS) bags are a simple relatively low-cost method of reducing post-harvest loss.
A PICS bag or sack consists of two layers of polyethylene while the third is a layer woven from polypropylene.
When each layer is tied and closed separately, it creates a hermetically sealed environment for storing grains.
The lack of oxygen in the bags makes it impossible for insect-pests to exist.
In Ghana, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Purdue University specifically the International Programs in Agriculture division are collaborating under the PICS Projects.
The PICS Project has gone through 3 phases and is currently on the PICS 3 Project phase.
COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE OF PICS
Mr. Alex Bokuma is an Agribusiness Consultant who doubles as a representative for the PICS 3 Project.
He explained that a PICS bags which could be sold for between 10 and 15 Ghana-Cedis is a cheaper option than the warehouses because small scale farmers can reuse the bags for between 4 and 5 years.
Again for the small scale farmer in the community, the PICS bag is a more convenient way of storing grains in the home.
Mr Bokuma further explained that the PICS bags are a “chemical free way of storing crops” thereby reducing the risk of chemical contamination.
He said farmers who still rely on traditional sacks have to use chemicals to prevent pest infestation from time to time but the PICS bags once sealed properly do not need any chemical.
He again mentioned that farmers are free to open the bags, fetch some of the grains to use at home and then reseal properly with no damage being caused to the produce.
Government’s 1 District 1 Warehouse project is a laudable attempt to reduce PHL.
As it stands now, the project seems to favor aggregators rather than small scale farmers.
This poses a real challenge because the issue of PHL is rife among small scale farmers therefore the need to adopt more convenient, cost efficient means of addressing the problem among poor small scale farmers in the rural area.
The idea of government building warehouses is a very good idea for aggregators rather than small scale farmers.
By Mark Smith