Mr Yusif Aidoo-Mensah, one time National Oil Palm Best Farmer, has urged the government through the Ministry of Agriculture to supply fertilizers to farmers as a measure to increase yields and earn good returns on investment.
He said the palm tree and oil industry when given the requisite attention by the government could generate lots of foreign income, create more jobs for the youths and ensure economically vibrant societies to speed up Ghana’s quest to develop beyond aid.
Mr Aidoo-Mensah, told the Ghana News Agency at the close of a five-day workshop organized by Solidaridad West Africa for executives of seven farmer-based organizations drawn from Adum Banso, Ewusedjoe, Ahantaman, Adum Trebuom, Supomu Dunkwa, Samahu and Begoso on advocacy skills to better demand attention and answers from duty bearers.
The advocacy training would also build the lobbying and advocacy capacity of executives of farmer based organizations to be able to engage with relevant stakeholders to create an enabling environment to improve their business operations, leadership skills of executives to effectively lead their farmer groups.
The former Best Oil Palm Farmer also expressed concern about the pricing of the commodity, which he said also demoralised a lot of farmers in the oil palm business.
Giving an account of how good environment practices, farm management practices and other extension support from Solidaridad had helped, he said he was able to derive one tonne from only four bunches of the fruits as compared to some farmers who had to produce one tonne from more than fifty bunches and called for proper extension services through the Ministry to educate farmers on how to increase yields.
Meanwhile, the demand for palm oil in West Africa was largely outstripping local supply, with Ghana importing over 200,000 tons of CPO at an annual cost of 170 million USD.
The oil palm-tree is native to West Africa and the region has a very large potential for increasing its production.
Ebusuapanyin Ekow Ansah, the National Chairman of the Independent Oil Palm Outgrowers Association, who agreed with the narration, said palm trees distributed during the Presidential Special Initiative under Ex President Kufour were all crying for survival, “We indeed need help from central government”.
He said farmers in that sector needed hybrid seedlings for planting, financial assistance from the banks and good extension support services to bring many farmers from their current poverty state.
Ms Janet Alamisi Dabire, Communication Specialist at Solidaridad, said in the country, only 330,000 hectares were under oil palm cultivation, with over 70% owned by smallholders farmers with average yields of only three to five tons of Fresh Fruit Bunches a year.
Solidaridad’s SWAPP programme has shown that smallholder yields could reach 18-20 tons of fresh fruits yearly if best management practices were adopted.
There was enormous potential to transform the lives of millions of smallholders, increase local CPO production and reduce the import gap, if farmers could be reached at scale with required training and the needed enabling environment to produce profitably and sustainably.
"There are a lot of factors affecting the profitability of the smallholder businesses. These include land tenure security, road accessibility to farms and extension support, just to mention a few".
She stressed that the oil Palm tree and industry was a poverty-alleviation area and had a huge potential to change the lives of millions of smallholder farmers when given the needed push, adding, “private sector is indeed the engine of growth but “appropriate engine oil” in the form of enabling business environment was needed to get the “engine” running…hence the training to equip the farmers to lobby these stakeholders for the required enabling environment for business growth”.
On the project, she said it was a follow up on SWAPP one implemented between 2012 and 2016 by Solidaridad West Africa (SWA), with funding from the Netherlands Government and the Swiss Economic Co-operation, established the business case for developing the West African oil palm production and processing sector along the lines of medium and small scale enterprises (SMEs).
She said the second phase-SWAPP II aimed at scaling up the gains in sustainable intensification of oil palm production and processing in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
According to her, SMEs would be supported to operate farm support services, upgrade existing mills or invest in new mills, improve the skills of women and youth through technical, vocational and entrepreneurship training to sustain the needed skills at the farm and mill levels.
It would also enhance enabling business environment whiles multi-stakeholder platforms would be established and strengthened to actively engage government on sector policies and the adoption of sustainability standards to mitigate environmental impact of project activities.