THE Agricultural Development Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) programme, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has begun a four-year project to assist maize farmers in the country to make good profits from their produce.
The project seeks to introduce farmers’ access to modern technology and innovation that would lead to increased productivity.
In line with the project, five maize demonstration fields have been established in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions to introduce two new maize hybrids — Mamaba and Obaatanpa — and the associated improved planting technology to about 300 maize farmers.
Communities benefiting from the project include Bunuso, Dompoase, Bonte, Akropong and Apesika.
Currently, farmers engaged on the project in the five communities have ready markets in Akate Farms, one of the best-organised poultry farms in Ghana, which used to import about 60 per cent of its maize for the production of poultry feed.
As part of efforts to get farmers to appreciate the importance of the project to their businesses, the ADVANCE programme, in conjunction with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the Crops Research Institute, has organised a field day at Bunuso in the Asante Mampong Municipality for about 500 farmers within the project area.
Expected to last until 2013, the project uses a comprehensive value chain development approach to selecting commodities such as maize in Ghana to increase their competitiveness in both domestic and regional markets.
The expected outcome includes increased incomes, the emergence of a commercial agricultural class and improved services to the main chain actors, thus contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction.
The Deputy Chair of Party (Operations) of ADVANCE, Dr Emmanuel Dormon, expressed concern that most farmers did not see farming as a business and thus approached it anyhow.
Today, he said, Ghana imported maize to the value of about $100 million annually when there was every opportunity to cut the figure down drastically with the right approach.
Dr Dormon said this motivated the ADVANCE to come in to bridge the gap, adding that currently the programme was operating in nine regions of the country with the exception of the Western Region, where they were expected to open offices in March, 2011.
The Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Kofi Opoku-Manu, noted that there was no justification for farmers to be poor if the right methods of farming were adopted to produce on a large scale.
“If this is achieved, Ghana will be able to feed itself and export to generate the needed foreign exchange, “ he said.
The Mamponghene, Daasebre Osei Bonsu II, called for the project to be sustained way beyond 2013 because of its benefits.
Testifying to the quality maize produced by the farmers engaged on the project, the accountant of Akate Farms, Mr Francis Oppong, said the company imported maize because it realised that the local maize was not treated well.
“Today, through ADVANCE, we are getting quality maize from the farmers and our budget for foreign import has gone down, “ he said.