Ghanaian farmers learn about a new, standardized bag for selling their produce. Without using bags of a standard size, many farmers are cheated by middlemen who buy large bags of produce at the price of smaller ones. Through the Purchase for Progress project, farmers in Ghana are learning how to improve their agricultural production and earnings over the airwaves.
This is an adaptation of a blog post originally published by the World Food Programme on September 4, 2014.
An incentive for investment
Purchase for Progress (P4P), a pilot project of the World Food Programme (WFP), works to link small-scale farmers to formal markets, including, but not limited to WFP. However, meeting the quantity and quality requirements of formal markets like the WFP often proves challenging for smallholders, who may not have access to the necessary knowledge and skills to improve production.
In Ghana, we work with P4P to ensure that relevant and timely information about best agricultural practices is delivered to rural populations in the Ejura-Sekyeredumase District. This includes 16 farmers’ organizations supported by P4P. The market opportunity presented by WFP provides a significant incentive for farmers to utilize this information to improve agronomic practices, while the information provided through our radio programmes assists them to produce greater yields and higher quality crops. With further support from P4P and other partners, these farmers are able to improve their production of crops such as maize and cowpea, both for home consumption and sale to formal markets.
We collaborate with commercial radio stations Obouba and Akyeaa FM to improve the knowledge and skills of small-scale farmers in the sustainable production and post-harvest handling of high quality staple foods. We also designed a comprehensive programme to produce and broadcast participatory farm radio programmes, in collaboration with partners such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. This programme reaches a total audience of one million farmers, including those directly supported by P4P.
We also provide selected farmers’ organizations with a mobile phone and technical support to encourage the two-way flow of communication. This is crucial, as it allows us to foster interactivity between the radio station and rural, often isolated, farmers. Over the phone, farmers’ organizations also receive weather forecasts and market information on a weekly basis.
Reaching rural farmers
Through our work, we have found that radio is the preferred source of agricultural information for the large majority of smallholder farmers. Not only is it affordable and accessible to those without formal education, it can also be utilized in local languages. Most importantly, radio, particularly when coupled with other ICTs, such as mobile phones, can give voice to end users through participatory radio programmes. Thanks to this, radio is an effective tool helping farmers to make informed decisions and supporting the adoption of innovative agricultural practices.
As a result of our educational efforts, farmers now understand the importance of, and are willing to invest in, the accurate application of fertilizers. They also know how to plant in rows with the right spacing, and the best ways to manage their farms. We can also see that post-harvest handling practices have also improved, with many farmers testifying that they no longer store grain on the floor, but on raised platforms.
In Ghana, I have seen the results of our collaboration with P4P first-hand. Thanks to the skills learned through FRI radio programmes, many farmers in Ejura-Sekyeredumase have been able to increase yields through intensification and good agronomical practices, enabling them to sell to formal markets.
One such farmer, Iddrisu Ameen from the Nkosuo Farmers’ Association in Ejura, told me how much her production has improved since she began tuning in to FRI’s broadcasts. While she previously farmed 10 acres of maize without substantial yields, she got better results after reducing her farm size by half. Access to formal markets where farmers can be paid a fair price for their surplus quality crops is essential when a farmer like Iddrisu makes the decision to invest in her production.