Rice farmers are to get mechanization services support from an AGRA funded project being implement by six consortium partners to boost yield across the country. Training programmes have been rolled out to link private sector mechanization service providers with farmers so they can work together.
“We also have a mechanization component which we were talking about to be able to identify mechanization service providers and link them directly to rice and cassava farmers to be able to have a more efficient value chain in the districts,” Nana Ama Oppong-Duah, Policy Advisor at the John A. Kufuor Foundation which is one of the consortium partners, explained.
“The good thing about this is that we are partnering with private sector actors like TATA, John Deere, Troto Tractor, and of course some of the government bodies to be able to bring this service to farmers,” she added.
Madam Oppong – Duah was speaking to the media at a learning event on the Ghana Rice Project in Accra. The event saw the unveiling of findings from research carried out in about 140 districts to identify gaps in the production of local rice following the implementation of the “Public Private Partnership for Competitive and Inclusive Rice Value Chain Development: Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) Rice Chapter Project.”
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is funding the project to improve the rice value chain, so Ghana is less dependent on imported rice. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the John A. Kufuor Foundation, Intervale Ghana, Hopeline Institute, Sparkx Farms and Volta City Farms are the consortium partners implementing it.
“We are training the service providers and mapping them based on the physical location of farmers. We are training service providers who are located in areas where farmers are. We started with the farmer database. And so, farmers are aligned to service providers in clusters,” Madam Oppong-Duah explained.
“We are working with Ghana Rice Inter-professional Body (GRIB) because they are private sector mainly. That is a sustainability measure. So, we are facilitating the process for the private sector actors to meet. This meeting is bringing partners together so we can learn,” she added.
The policy advisor also noted the need for effective coordination in the rice sector to ensure availability of inputs and markets for farmers. “One of the things is coordination. How do we coordinate? Some farmers don’t even know input dealers are nearby. If there is rice at the district, how do we move to the miller? When we bring them together, the synergy comes to play,” she observed.
She also noted the need for farmers to have access to improved seeds and funding. “We advocated for government to put together a fund for the rice sector. 20 million. And the disbursement for that has taken place,” Madam Oppong Duah explained.
President of GRIB Nana Agyei Ayeh identified difficulties with land preparation and funding as some of the key challenges militating against efforts to boost local rice production in the country.
“GRIB is advocating for land development first. That is the foundation. If you are able to develop the land, that is where everything will be dictated,” Nana Ayeh observed.
“Rice is a special crop. Before you start rice, develop the land. When I say development of land, it is different from let’s say doing cassava. With rice, you need to go in there, clear the land, go deep and remove stumps for proper mechanization like combine harvesters and rooters and also power turners to work on the land. Without that, you cannot do so much,” he explained.
On the high cost of loans, he said “money is very expensive in Ghana. We are looking at the government to do something on the interest rate. “As it stands now, with the 25 percent interest rate, it is very difficult. We are competing with people who are getting 5%. In Thailand for instance their interest rate is so low. So how can you be a rice farmer here and compete with a farmer from Thailand?” he quizzed.