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African Connections Presents At Third Agricultural Commodities Value Chain Practitioners Forum

Sunyani: February, 2012: African Connections Ghana Limited (AC) was invited to deliver a paper at the 3rd Agricultural Commodities Value Chain Practitioners Forum (VCPF) held in Sunyani.

The presentation was made by the Managing Director of AC, Dr. Ayesha Hakeem on the topic ""Integrating Small Scale Farmers into the Supply Chain: The African Connections’ Approach”.

AC was chosen to present at the forum after a highly competitive "Call for Papers” by the VCPF inviting all actors, support services providers, financiers among others in the value chain to submit abstracts for presentation.

The forum was organized by the Northern Rural Growth Programme of the Ministry of food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Dr. Hakeem said AC was committed to strengthening the agricultural value chain system in by designing and implementing market-driven agricultural and aquaculture programmes that increase small holder profits and link them to markets.

According to her, AC’s programmes address the many challenges that confront small scale farmers and fishers in order to make them competitive, sustainable and profitable.

"AC’s initiatives boost local economic development and improve the profitability of farming to help small scale farmers and fisher to increase productivity, she said.

She added that AC builds farmer and fisher groups and associations in order to create "economies of scale” that allow smallholders to be integrated into existing supply chains.

"We integrate small scale farmers and fishers into existing value chains by linking them to input suppliers, produce buyers, processors and transporters and also identify and train all these actors in the value chain to enable them provide quality services to our small scale farmers”. She emphasized.

She noted that AC’s approach is to "teach small scale farmers and fishers how to apply best farming practices; produce to market specifications and standards; improve farmers and fishers post harvest handling skills and teach them record keeping to make them credit worthy”.

Dr. Hakeem noted that AC uses Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as vehicles to improve small scale farmer integration into value chains.

She mentioned the Ahafo Agribusiness Growth Initiative (AAGI), an initiative designed and implemented by AC in partnership with MoFA, Newmont and the Asutifi District as an example of a successful PPP.

"Under the initiative, AC trained over 5, 000 farmers, improved yields over 20% and facilitated access to microfinance using a non-cash input credit scheme. We also secured contracts from local buyers, processors and exporters for the purchase of chili pepper, soybean, maize, ginger and plantain for AAGI farmers with guaranteed minimum pricing for participating farmers, she explained.

Dr. Hakeem used the occasion to recommend AC’s approach for northern Ghana for irrigated vegetable production and aquaculture in areas such as the Torno Irrigation Dam, Vea Dam and Reservoir and the Volta Lake.

In a speech read on behalf of the Minister for Food and Agriculture, the Honourable Kwesi Ahwoi, indicated that the Ministry would continue to support initiatives that would promote and transform agriculture in the country.

Mr. Ahwoi also revealed that value-chain practitioners could compete effectively; be integrated in the market place; and thereby transform agriculture into a viable business opportunity.

The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, the Honourable Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, also called on agricultural investors to invest in the region to benefit from its economic potential in agriculture.

Mr. Nyamekye-Marfo explained that the region falls within the transitional Zone where all types of crops could be cultivated and therefore called on investors in agriculture to capitalize on the opportunities the region offers.

The Agricultural Commodities Value Chain Practitioners Forum (VCPF) began in 2009 with the aim of improving communication among actors of value chain, reduce price volatility and guarantee market destination for agricultural produce.

The third edition of the forum served as a platform for Value Chain Practicing Institutions, Actors, Supporters, Promoters and Regulators, to share knowledge, experiences, lessons learned, harmonize interventions in the agricultural value chain.

It was also to foster strategic alliances to build synergy in stimulating economic growth through upgrading Agricultural Commodity Value Chains in Ghana.