More than 100,000 farmers in Northern Ghana have benefited from an ongoing five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) facility in agricultural financing.
The project which is being facilitated by Feed the Future (FTF), the US global hunger and food security initiative, commenced in 2013 and is scheduled to end by 2018.
The project, known as USAID financing Ghanaian Agriculture project (USAID FinGAP), focuses mainly on three agricultural products, namely maize, soya and rice.
It also seeks to increase availability of appropriate and affordable farming technologies to improve the value chain.
So far, $117 million has been injected into the project which has benefited 111,171 smallholder farmers, including women’s groups engaged in the production of staple food crops linked to more than 1,708 small and medium-scale enterprises, comprising 36 per cent female-led agribusinesses.
As part of measures to assess the impact of the project, the USAID FinGAP held an agribusiness investment summit in Accra yesterday (Thursday).
The fourth annual summit attracted 400 stakeholders. They included beneficiary farmers, local and international investors, agro-input dealers, mechanised service providers and produce processors. The rest were representatives from development agencies, policy makers and officials from non-governmental organisations.
The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr George Oduro, said the programme was in line with the government’s commitment to food security in the country.
“The programme fits into the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs Initiative,” he said.
The minister, therefore, called for the extension of the project to address the challenges of post-harvest losses, processing and marketing of agricultural produce.
He commended the USAID for its intervention, saying: “The programme has impacted the lives of the farmers. It has also helped them to support their children’s education and other needs. I have also observed that through the initiative, the health status of residents in farming communities has improved.”
Mr Oduro, therefore, appealed to the private sector, especially financial institutions, to also extend support to the farmers to help improve on their wellbeing.
The Charge d’Affaire of the US Embassy, Ms Melinda Tabler–Stone, expressed satisfaction with the successes achieved by beneficiaries of the project.
She, however, urged the beneficiaries to endeavour to pay up loans they accessed under the project to enable others to also benefit.
The Chief of Party of the USAID-FinGAP, Mr Rick Dvorin, said one of the key constraints in developing commercial agriculture in Ghana was limited access to finance as financial institutions were reluctant to provide financing to the agricultural sector due to perceived and actual risks inherent in the sector.
One of the beneficiaries, a commercial farmer from Sandema in the Upper East Region, Mr Maxwell Akandem, said he had been able to expand his farming business through the loans he accessed from the Builsa Community Bank at a lower interest rate under the project.
“I had only 60 acres for cultivating rice and maize but with the support of the USAID facility, I have expanded my farms and I now have 400 acres of land which I am farming on a commercial scale,” said the farmer who said he had been accessing the financial support since 2014.
Source: Graphic Online