The need for sustainable growth and productivity within Ghana’s agricultural sector is imperative. Agri-Markets and channels need investments to expand, as value chain actors and stakeholders improve their capacities and skills through knowledge sharing and practical lessons.
The West African Regional Director of YARA, Mr. Danquah Addo-Yobo, shares in these sentiments and has, therefore, highlighted the need for more long-term value chain partnerships as the way forward, if the country’s agricultural sector is going to be sustainable, productive, robust and innovative.
In line with this point of view, YARA’s Regional Director singled out the annual Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions event, organized by Agrihouse Foundation, as one agric-focused platform thriving today because of its value chain partnerships which has, consequently, continued to contribute significantly to the country’s agricultural sector.
USAID ADVANCE initiated the leading market linkage event in October 2010 in Tamale, in the Northern Region. When the organization ended its work in the country in 2018, it handed over the project to Agrihouse Foundation — for continuum, with an expectation that the event would be scaled up for effectiveness, and for more Public and Private sector participation.
Mr. Addo-Yobo acknowledges that, in the care of Agrihouse Foundation, the event has seen further growth, sustainability and expansion. In the last three years, Agrihouse. together with partners like YARA, who have been sponsoring the event since 2010, have steadily grown the platform from a day’s event to a 3-day event.
The farmers, private, public and stakeholder participation has increased from two hundred to over three thousand participants, annually connecting farmers with ready markets and empowering them and other stakeholders through field demonstrations, forums and capacity building sessions.
“We need to continue driving sustainable farming,” Mr. Addo-Yobo emphasized in an interview, “The world is changing and we need to ensure sustainability in our agricultural sector. It is critical. We also need to find partners who think long-term sustainability and no just short-term opportunities to make business,” he stressed.
He said YARA is proud to be aligned with Pre-harvest, and will continue to be a long-term partner, to support the platform achieve more measurable impacts in the country’s agricultural sector.
Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions is, indeed, one of YARA’s success stories. Amongst Ghana’s foremost agri-based companies, YARA has been in Ghana for decades, established in 2007. The company has become a key player in the agricultural value chain, specifically, in the fertilizer space; providing farmers and other stakeholders with crop nutrition solutions that have over the years, helped farmers increase their yields and profitability. Knowledge sharing is important to YARA, and it reflects in the slogan of the company, “Knowledge Grows.”
“We are the pioneers of cocoa fertilizer,” Mr. Addo-Yobo revealed in a recent interview, as he listed YARA’s impacts on Ghana’s agricultural sector. “Through extensive research work we did with the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, we came out with the household cocoa fertilizer called Asaasewura. The product has seen significant growth among cocoa farmers who have used it and I dare say that, in periods that Ghana has been able deliver one billion tonnes of cocoa production, statistics available show that Asaasewura has played a significant part in the production growth,” he asserted.
He said YARA has also helped to form and create the biggest value chain partnership that Ghana has ever seen; a value chain that has, over the years, grown to involve more than ten thousand farmers.
“Again, what is most critical about this is the value chain partnerships — that is, from input to output to farmers — we have built this to ensure that there is knowledge transfer, improved productivity, and improved business mindset around farming; so that, when the farmers are no longer in that scheme, they are still able to organize themselves with business mindsets that gives that access to finance and market,” he explained.
According to Mr. Addo-Yobo, YARA has, over the years, also thrived in the area of knowledge transfer. “We have been running hundreds of demonstration fields, year on year, across the country and we use that as an opportunity to train and educate farmers on best farming practices,” he elaborated. “We have seen that farmers who have adopted those farming practices have been more profitable and (have) improved their productivity.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, he said, has undoubtedly intensified existing challenges in the agricultural space, including logistics challenges, access to market challenges, and challenges in food importation. These concerns and others make the theme chosen by the organizers for this year’s 3-days event very appropriate: “Working Together to Improve Market Channels for Agri-Foods beyond the Pandemic.”
The theme indicates that we need to first survive the pandemic, he noted. However, beyond the pandemic, we have to focus on key or significant lessons the pandemic has brought us. How can we build a more sustainable agricultural sector, having these lessons in mind, he queried rhetorically? “For example, are we going to continue driving the face-to-face access to markets or, are we going to explore online marketing? Are going to continue driving the individual markets or, how do we take value chain partnerships to the next level?” Such questions need to be answered if Ghana’s agricultural sector is going to make the most of lessons and opportunities the pandemic has introduced.
With such views and notions in mind, Mr. Addo-Yobo said this year, stakeholders should expect YARA to come in with a lot of knowledge sharing that will support the training and capacity-building sessions, teach farmers about best farming practices, and help them establish networks and partnerships. He said YARA would also be introducing two new fertilizers at the field demonstration exercises that will be happening at the event.
“This year, we have also launched a digital farming space, something we call farm weather; which allows farmers to closely predict weather conditions. We expect that, we will be able to showcase this more during the event,” he added.
Mr. Addo-Yobo noted that, at the end of the day YARA would like participants to go home with improved business relationships, and new markets for their crops and products. YARA further hopes that financial institutions will have a strong presence at the event and take the opportunity to educate value chain actors on available financial facilities to help them create large-scale projects, even as they learn how to sustain such projects beyond the pandemic.
The 3-days leading market linkage event is scheduled to open on Tuesday, October 19th, and run until Thursday, October 21. The edition, which is on the theme “Working Together to Improve Market Channels for Agri-foods Beyond the Pandemic,” will take place at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium, in Tamale in the Northern region.
According to the organisers, the leading agribusiness market linkage conference and exhibitions event will feature major training and capacity session, such as, commodity breakout session, farmer-buyer matchmaking dialogues, showcasing successful agribusiness modules, exhibitions, agri-youth forum, gender workshop, development partner panel conversation, and practical field demonstrations exercises. Furthermore, the event will also highlight and address the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified within the sector, the effects it has posed to marketing agri-foods, while exploring existing market channels to address these challenges.
A key highlight of the 3-day event will be the Field demonstrations where farmers and actors get to practically learn, appreciate and adopt best practices in Farm Management. This will take place at the Agrihouse Foundation AGRI-VILLAGE, a Ten (10) acre land, donated by the Bamvim Lana (Chief of Bamvim). It is expected that, companies leading various Training sessions, will setup mini-demonstration fields for a more engaging practical session. In the short to long term, the Agrihouse Foundation Agri-village is expected to house different types of farms (including seeds and livestock farms), Demonstration Centres, Conference / Workshop halls, Restrooms, Exhibition stores for Agric Companies, Training and Recreational Centres, Storage space, Processing Centres, Production room, Laboratories and Research Centres.
IMPACTS OF PRE-HARVEST OVER THE YEARS
The annual Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions event has created and continues to connect, through exhibitions and training sessions, companies that are into fertilizers, seeds, Irrigation, machinery and equipment, Finance, Transportation, ICT, Processors, Packagers, Marketers, Government Institutions, Development Partners, among others. Over 90% of companies and participants have been linked to markets through the Exhibitions.
The event has become a leading event on the Ghanaian agricultural calendar and has served as a stimulating platform for training, and for creating increased stakeholder linkages, exhibitions and expanded opportunities. It operates from a facilitative dimension by presenting a highly engaging and coordinated platform that ensures that smallholder farmers are connected to markets, finance, inputs, equipment, and information.
These activities are geared towards identifying and resolving production and marketing challenges faced by the actors, especially in this pandemic era, and how other modernized marketing platforms can serve as a solution to maximize the output of the actors along the value chain. Farmers, actors along the value chain, and participants will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to observe Good Agricultural Practices.
In 2020, (10th edition) the event recorded a total of 3,122 participants and 122 exhibitors, including farmers, traders, commodity brokers, input companies, machinery and equipment providers, transporters, financial institutions, ICT, Innovations, Poultry and Livestock companies, packaging and processing companies, development practitioners and government agencies, among others.
Report on the 2019 event showed that about 70 business deals were made during the Exhibition. More than GHc232, 420, 745 of agri products and equipment were sold and bought. The event has improved the livelihoods of the players along the value chain by boosting their confidence – created a stimulus platform for collaborating with other actors for business deals and increased stakeholders linkages.
This foremost agri-business event in Ghana has given agro-processors a strong drive to access their raw materials locally, stimulated agribusiness development, grown the local economy through the expansion of agribusiness opportunities, and has become a platform of growth for agribusiness entrepreneurs. Built on the solid foundation of several years of consistency, the event will remain one of the leading events in the country where farmers, businesses, government and ideas meet to network, build capacity, learn and explore business opportunities, sign deals and close contracts.
In 2018, the event won the Agribusiness event of the Year, for helping to promote business partnerships among value chain actors, especially farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, equipment dealers, financial institutions, telecom companies and policy makers. Over the years, through continuous improvement, it has accelerated the transformation of agribusiness in Northern Ghana, alongside Government’s initiatives.