Ghana – The importance of weighing scales
One of the biggest challenges for smallholders is getting a fair price for their produce. In West Africa, too often buyers take advantage of farmers, demanding that bags are filled to the brim instead of paying per kg. Farmers in Ghana were recently surprised about their financial remuneration when they used a weighing scale for their sales for the first time.
Fati Mahama is a smallholder from the district of Ejura Sekyedumasi in Ghana’s Ashanti Region. She grows maize and cowpea on a small farm which is barely 2 hectares. In March this year, she was in for a surprise when she sold maize to the World Food Programme (WFP) through its Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative.
“I can’t believe that I sold only six heaped maxi bags (usually a 100kg bag) and made so much money,” she said after she realized that she had just increased her income by 50 percent. Fati is a member of the “Nso Nyame Ye Women’s Group”, one of 26 farmer organizations (FOs) which participate in P4P in Ghana.
When WFP contracted maize from the 16 Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) participating in P4P in Ashanti region for its food for assets programme, Fati and the other 41 members of her women’s group made more money than if they had sold on the market: Instead of GH¢540 (US$270), Fati made GH¢810 (US$420), whilst her group made a total GH¢36,000 (US$18,000) from the sale of 40 tons of maize.
Bush weight system
The reason why Fati and her fellow farmers earned so much more is because previously, they would have used the “bush weight” system: This means selling heaped bags of between 130kg and 150kg of maize for the value of a 100kg bag, which cheats farmers of a third to half of their produce per bag. However, thanks to the weighing scales introduced and provided by WFP, farmers can now weigh their produce and earn more money.
“The weighing scales have helped us to make more money,” Fati explained. “When I weighed my six heaped bags, I ended up with nine maxi bags (100 kg per bag) which I re-bagged into 18 mini bags (50kg) and sold to WFP for more money.”
Under P4P, WFP provided weighing scales, tarpaulins, sacks and stitching machines to 16 FOs in Ejura Sekyedumasi. Combining the expertise of different partners, P4P offered trainings for over 1,300 farmers in Ashanti and the Northern region in 2011 to improve their agricultural practices. A second phase of trainings has now begun for around 1,500 farmers. This support enabled Fati’s group to supply 514 tons of maize to WFP in 2012.
P4P in Ghana builds on significant investments made by the Government and other stakeholders such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which target smallholder or low-income farmers’ productivity and enhance market infrastructure. Efforts are also made to link FOs to the national school feeding programme and connect them to a warehouse receipt system which has been established by the Ghana Grains Council.
Since the start of P4P in Ghana, WFP has contracted a total of 2,186 tons of maize from farmers’ organisations. 1,672 tons of maize were successfully delivered by farmers’ organisations that are supported by partners, but do not receive any additional support from P4P in terms of capacity building. In May 2012, 514 tons were contracted from and delivered by the P4P farmers’ organisations in Ejura Sekyedumasi.