Mr Kofi Annan – UN Envoy to Syria

The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), headed by Ghana’s International Diplomat and Statesman, Busumuru Kofi Annan, has earmarked an initial $4 million to support small-holding farmer groups in four African countries, out of which Ghana would get $900,000.

In line with the support, AGRA would this week launch the maiden Farmer Organization Support Centre (FOSCA) in Ghana to set the tone for small-holding farmers who belong to recognizable and thriving farmer groups to benefit from AGRA grants and technical support under the FOSCA initiative.

FOSCA Lead Coordinator, Fadel Ndiame said in an exclusive interview the FOSCA initiative would also be launched in three other AGRA-member countries; Mali, Tanzania and Mozambique, but Ghana was chosen for the maiden one because the conditions in Ghana were more conducive and promising, so lessons could be leant from Ghana to benefit the other countries.

He said AGRA had identified 80% of farmers in Ghana, for instance, were small-holding farmers, most of whom stood alone, lacked access to credit, got low farm yields due to poor practices, lacked easy access to ready markets, and were not able to meet market demands.

Mr. Ndiame said FOSCA was therefore designed to assist the small-holder farmers to have access to opportunities to improve their produce and income, adding that FOSCA would therefore seek, among other things, to link small-holder farmer groups with sources of finance, technical support, technology and best practices to improve yield and eventually meet market demand, and improve their standard of living.

The farmers would also benefit from one of AGRA’s main focuses; advocacy for government policies that would create the enabling environment for the entire agricultural sector to improve. They would also benefit from AGRA’s Value Chain Driven Intervention, where AGRA ensured that from the seed to the consumer, the farmer got the best support to optimize his or her benefits.

Mr. Ndiame explained that under the FOSCA scheme, farmers would be supplied with improved seeds and fertilizers, regular technical support and other inputs to improve on the quality and quantity of their produce at the lowest cost possible, but that would be done through identifiable farmer groups to ensure accountability.

He said the reason for choosing to work with farmer groups was to ensure that the farmers could leverage examples of best practices within the group, make it easy for them to have access to finance because banks were more comfortable working with groups, and also to ensure that AGRA was able to measure the success rate of the FOSCA initiative.

“We have targeted that by the close of the programme we would have supported 220,000 small-holder farmers across the four Africa countries and because of that each farmer group is in competition to grow its membership by between 25% and 50% by close of the programme to justify advancement of more support from FOSCA,” he said.

Mr. Ndiame said AGRA had already advanced grants to some NGO’s to build the capacities of the farmer groups in best practices that financial institutions required before providing farmers with credit.

“It is important to note that we are not here to meet needs but to support success stories of small-holder farmers and to leverage on that to help those farmers who were net buyers of food even though they produce food,” he said.

He gave an assurance that sustainable funding for the FOSCA programme was not a problem for AGRA, provided the farmer groups applied the available resources judiciously and showed results.

“There is lots of funding looking for opportunities like this to support and they are waiting to come onboard provided the farmers would make this initiative work – AGRA is willing to provide the necessary support but the farmer groups must ensure that their members adopt the best practices to improve,” he said.

FOSCA would be launched in Accra on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 and would be preceded by a workshop for the farmer groups, where a farmer group from Ethiopia, which has its own bag manufacturing factory, would be available to share its experiences with Ghanaian small-holding farmer groups.

Mr. Ndiame expressed the hope that the FOSCA initiative would make agriculture attractive to the youth, because it would portray agriculture as a lucrative business rather than just a way of life.

By Samuel Dowuona

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