IFAD projects in Ghana: Improving livelihoods

Women fixing the squeezer to drain water
from the grated cassava at the Milenovisi Gari Processing factory

by Philomena  Dovi Kuzoe

Eastern Region, Ghana- A team from the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD in Rome was in Ghana for a four day working visit to attend the Country Programme Evaluation round table and the start-up workshop for the new Country Strategic Opportunities Programmes.  The team, together with the CPM and Officials from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture made a field visit to IFAD’s project sites in the Eastern region of Ghana This is to enable them have first-hand information on projects.. In all, the team visited four project sites. First, the team met with the Fanteakwa District Chief Executive, the Coordinating Director of Micro and Small Scale Enterprises and other project staff and clients. They discussed the implementation and activities of the Rural Enterprises Project as well as the district assembly’s effort to maintain and sustain the project.  The District Offices operate the Business Advisory Centers initiated by the Rural Enterprises Project and these centers have become a model for national MSE policy in the country.

From Fanteakwa, the team moved to a local soap-making factory at Otuater.   A small group made up of only 17 women and one man, the group has become the leading soap supplier in the district and beyond. At the factory the women were seen busily cutting, branding and packaging their soap.   The Rural Enterprise Project, REP spotted this group during an exhibition and trade fair.  According to the group, being in touch with REP has transformed their operations; they now make good sales, have created market linkages and also learnt new technologies and skills.  They also support their husbands and are able to send their children to school. The District Chief Executive Officer promised the women a car to enable  them transport their products to the market especially on market-days when the soap is in high demand.

The IOE team and officials of the South Akim Rural Bank
The team moved from this point to Nankese, a cocoa farming community where the 2009 best rural bank, the South Akyim Rural Bank is headquartered. The bank was ranked the 20th on the Ghana Club 100 list in 2010.  It enrolled as a participating Financial Institution of REP II in 2006 to deliver financial services to target micro and small enterprises in the district. According to the officials of the bank the establishment of the Business Advisory Centers, (BAC) has been very beneficial and the bank has collaborated effectively with the center to support project clients to establish their businesses. However it was noted that despite the bank’s large clientele, only three people applied for a matching grant which is provided by REP.  Rural banks in the country lend to the rural clients but usually not for agricultural activities and 73 per cent of staff of these banks perceived agricultural lending to be riskier than other lending types.   But at the South Akyim Rural Bank, 70 per cent of its clients are agro-processors making it agriculture-friendly.

The last point of call was the Milenovisi gari processing factory at Korkormu. The facility at the centre has been upgraded to a Good Practices Center. The group is also a good example of the value chain concept with 106 actors including farmers, traders, transporters and fabricators. We couldn’t have concluded the trip without visiting a gari processing factory.

Gari is one form of processed cassava and is eaten all over the country making it a marketable commodity. It is vital to reducing post-harvest food losses and increases food availability in Ghana. Gari, if stored properly can last for a year without going bad. Through REP//RTIMP the gari processing center has recorded tremendous success.

It was an exciting field trip seeing how much small scale business are improving the lives of the rural poor and contributing to the development of the country through project implementation. As we journeyed back to Accra, I was wondering whether these laudable projects could be sustained and maintained in view of the weak marketing opportunities.