THE Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC) is advocating an agricultural cooperative system that will help target smallholder farmers appropriately with interventions aimed at improving productivity in the sector.
It said that cooperatives were one of the best channels through which smallholder farmers could be mobilised to collectively overcome the major challenges associated with production and post-harvest loss (PHL) and any change in the quality or quantity of the produce after harvest that decreased its value.
The Coordinator of the GTLC, Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, in an interview on September 6, 2018, indicated that the huge gap between the number of agricultural extension agents / officers (AEO) in the country and the number of smallholder farmers needing their services made it difficult for the farmers to access such services.
Statistics from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) show a ratio of one AEO to about 1,500 farmers.
Mr Akalbila said unless the farmers were well organised into groups, coupled with a department of cooperatives to consistently work with them in a manner that can reach small and larger groups at once, they could not overcome the challenges with production.
Gravity of PHL
More than half of the food crops produced in Ghana do not make it to the final consumer due to PHL. Experts say significant volumes of food, especially grains, are lost after harvest and that is a threat to food security.
Causes of PHL range from technical issues such as harvesting methods, handling procedures, drying techniques and moisture levels, lack of good storage facilities, filth or contamination, pests attacks to governance related.
Mr Akalbila said PHL was also caused by the absence of mechanisms such as warehouse receipts systems and mismanagement.
“The challenge of PHL leads to loss in market opportunity and nutritional value, posing serious health hazards, especially if linked to the consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated grains. It has a big burden on our smallholder farmers and that is why poverty is endemic among them,” he stated.
Relief from NAFCO
It was expected that farmers would no longer experience PHL when the National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) was set up.
However, the smallholder farmers are not feeling its presence because NAFCO is only able to take about one per cent of what farmers produce, according to the GTLC.
“Largely, that aspect of NAFCO has not reduced PHL. Warehouse facilities are few although they have tried to add some to it. It needs funds to overcome challenges with storage,” he explained.
The GTLC, under the auspices of the Netherlands Development Organisation’s (SNV) Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP), is embarking on advocacy activities aimed at informing and influencing policy on sustainable nutrition for all, with emphasis on PHL and gender and nutrition sensitive value chains.
The Communication and Advocacy Advisor, SNV / V4CP, Mrs Consolata Dassah, said the goal of the advocacy strategy was to increase food and nutrition security and incomes of smallholder farmers, especially women.
“The V4CP’s is to contribute to this goal by generating knowledge and building the capacity of communities to influence national and local authorities to create an enabling environment for improved service delivery in nutrition security,” she said.
The GTLC is engaging with the district assemblies and others on the need to recognise the burden of PHL and take steps to manage it effectively.