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Ghanaian women gain from roots and tubers

Potaghurt has created job opportunities for women's groups in Ghana (© IFAD/Fabiana Formica)
Potaghurt has created job opportunities for women's groups in Ghana
© IFAD/Fabiana Formica

Made from a blend of sweet potato and milk, which is pasteurised and then turned into a nutritious and filling type of yoghurt, potaghurt is a new product that has created job opportunities for women's groups in Ghana. "Some of us were sitting down doing nothing," says Madam Doris, a member of one group in Ghana's Upper East region. "In fact we didn't know that something good can come out of potatoes. So it has helped a lot of us to be able to have a trade. And that is bringing some income into our home."

With a special emphasis on women, IFAD's* Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme (RTIMP) is working to improve the food security and incomes of poor rural households in Ghana by enhancing production of roots and tubers through improved technologies and by developing skills in processing and marketing.

Building capacity

RTIMP has developed equipment designed for processing of products of roots and tubers (© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah)
RTIMP has developed equipment designed for processing of products of roots and tubers
© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah

"We have training programmes in quality management and processing systems," explains Veronica Ivy Dzreke, a capacity building and linkages officer with RTIMP. "We are building the capacity of these women so that they will be confident and will stand on their feet." To develop the entrepreneurial skills of rural women, 2,400 women have received training in business development, basic market research, marketing skills and how to maintain financial records as a way to assess profitability and attract financing.

Through a micro-enterprise fund - which involves a ten per cent contribution from the beneficiaries, 40 per cent from IFAD and 50 per cent from the Naara Rural Bank - 48 enterprises have received grants and loans in the form of equipment to set up processing businesses. Women involved in potaghurt production, for example, have received fridges and freezers. The grant size ranges from US$400 for individuals to US$12,000 for groups with sound business plans, and according to Kambilige Stanley, Naara Rural Bank project officer, almost 100 per cent of the groups have paid back the loans. "The repayments are on time and are up to date in terms of amount," he explains.

In addition, by providing a new market for sweet potato, the initiative is also promoting greater cultivation of the crop in Ghana. "If the farmers know that there is a market for the produce they will go into the production of sweet potato," Dzreke adds. "So if the demand for potaghurt goes up, there will be a market for the raw material and then farmers will go into production."

Adding value

GPCs provide hands-on training (© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah)
GPCs provide hands-on training
© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah

Fully funded by IFAD, demonstration and learning centres - Good Practice Centres (GPC) - have also been established in local communities to provide hands-on training on the installation and use of new processing equipment. Between 30-60 processors use each GPC to access the equipment and receive additional training from specialists in food handing, hygiene and packaging of products.

"Prior to RTIMP's intervention, most women processors were using rudimentary equipment which was inefficient," explains David Yankey. RTIMP has, therefore, developed equipment specifically designed for processing root and tuber products, including self-feeding stainless steel graters, fermentation bays, effluent management systems, roasting pans and smoke-free roasting kilns.

Until her processing facility was upgraded to a GPC, Janet Gyima Kesse, from the Ashanti region, produced three 80kg bags of processed cassava a week. Today she produces 35 bags per week. "Women are recording higher incomes because their trade volumes have shot up," Yankey explains. "People from Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso are now coming to purchase their products. This has led to increased and more regular flows of income, which has improved women's standards of living."

Improved production

Janet Gyima Kesse now produces 35 bags of processed cassava per week (© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah)
Janet Gyima Kesse now produces 35 bags of processed cassava per week
© IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah

RTIMP has also been working to enhance production of roots and tubers by improving women's access to improved varieties of cassava, sweet potato and yam. "Yam seed is very expensive, so we've equipped farmers with the skill and the knowledge in multiplying to produce their own seed," Angela Osei-Sarfoh from RTIMP explains. "Yam farmers can crop twice annually with the rapid multiplication technique, instead of just once. With this technique you also get more seed so farmers sell some of the seed to make more money to support their family."

Afia Achiaa has been growing yam for the past eight years. She says that farmers were initially sceptical about the new seed yam, until they participated in Farmer Field Fora (FFF), where researchers, extension officers and farmers come together to share knowledge and experiences and collectively decide on what to work on. Two years ago Achiaa earned only US$470, but after using improved planting material, she earned over US$3,500. With the profits, Achiaa has managed to send two of her children to high school and has started building a house. Farmers in over 85 districts are now engaged in the multiplication and distribution of seed yam.

* International Fund for Agricultural Development

Written by: Kofi Adu Domfeh

Date published: April 2012


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Very interesting and inspiring news. The article gave me id... (posted by: Maria Helen F Dayo)


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