Date Posted: July 21st, 2014
For many years, the system for bagging and pricing agricultural products in Ghana has been problematic for farmers, especially for maize.
Many crops are sold using crude measures such as baskets and sacks. Food crops have traditionally been sold by the bag, not by weight. In Ghana, middlemen forced farmers to use the size 5 bag, commonly known as the Mokola Woman. These bags can hold more than 150 kilograms, depending on the crop.
In collaboration with several partners, Farm Radio International helped partner radio stations Obuoba FM and Akyeaa FM introduce a program to improve the production and marketing of good quality maize across the Ashanti Region of central Ghana.
The radio program, named AKUAFO MO (Thank you to farmers), is broadcast every Thursday from 8-9 p.m. The program uses new ICTs to develop interactive and farmer-centred ways of communicating. Farmers can share local knowledge through the ICTs, and are better able to manage their businesses. This has led to positive changes in maize and cowpea production.
Ofori Kumah Christian is the host of the Akyeaa FM program, which targets seven districts and municipalities. His listeners were particularly concerned about the bagging system, and the program focused on getting it changed. He says: “We had discussions with Nananom [chiefs and elders], police, MPs, District Chief Executives … and the general public and farmers. Their views were recorded and played back on air as a mini-documentary with [a] phone-in segment.”
The radio station continued to highlight the problem, and regularly invited the DCE, Chief and elders to discuss the bagging of maize. As a result of these public discussions, the system for weighing and measuring crops has changed. A bylaw was passed to require the use of the size 4 bag, which holds between 80 and 100 kilograms, depending on the crop.
Sarpong Opoku is a farmer in Ejura, a town 100 kilometres north of the Ashanti region’s capital, Kumasi. He explains: “We like the fact that it’s now law in all the seven districts that no one should use the old sack ‘Makola Woman’ to bag maize again, either in the market, village or in the bush. We highly appreciate the program and call for more of such radio programs.”
Farmer Kofi Acheampong agrees. When he was asked how the program had affected his financial status, the farmer smiled and said, “We are now better off … We earn higher as compared to some time ago.”
Akyeaa FM has carried out regular visits to villages, towns and market centres to monitor the effectiveness of the new bagging system.
Even the porters at the local markets are happy. Kofi Kumah says, “I appreciate the program. We used to carry 150 kilograms … of maize at our back and this was not helping our health in any way.”
Addo Eric is a police commander in Ejisu, a town 20 kilometres east of Kumasi. He says, “My colleagues in the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions and I will ensure the buyers [and] farmers … do the right thing.”