The aged-old lack of prescribed storage facilities for foodstuff, resulting in post-harvest losses remains a barrier to the growth of the agriculture sector, a multi-country study in Ghana and Kenya has revealed.
The study, which sought to analyse market challenges of smallholder farmers and identify policies and innovations needed to improve market prospects, indicated that in Ghana 40 per cent of products that were not sold were either consumed or given out to neighbours.
Similarly, the study funded by the Open Society Foundation said the same percentage of food crops were either discarded or not harvested by farmers in Kenya.
Dr Julius Gatune, Project Technical Lead, at the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), shared the results during a two-day policy-learning webinar.
The policy learning event is one of the approaches used by ACET’s Pan-African Coalition for Transformation (PACT), a platform developed to support, learn, dialogue, and drive evidence-based policymaking.
Dr Gatune said the study showed that carting of foodstuff from the farm to market centres was also a challenge and resulted in post-harvest losses.
He explained that farmers experienced the ‘first-mile’ transport challenge and as result many tended to sell their produce at the farm gate.
“In Ghana approximately 88 per cent of smallholder farmers use farm-gate to market their produce, while 66 percent of farmers in Kenya expressed the same sentiment”, he noted.
Regarding access to information, Dr Gatune said the study indicated that farmers in the two countries relied on word of mouth, adding that new media had not made an impact on information dissemination.
The research, he said, recommended the need for technological, policy, business and social innovations to deal with the challenges in the agriculture sector.
He noted that the study called for the need to organise farmers and increase their networking capacity to equip them with the skill to use information communication technology to access online markets.
On policy intervention, he stated that the study suggested a rigorous training of extension services officers to support farmers and traders to use new technologies to gather information and communicate to improve the market.
Dr Gatune said the study urged the government of the two countries to provide grants to big farmers with links to supermarkets chain to establish out-grower modes, fund research in new technology to solve issues in marketing and create a common innovative platform for stakeholders.
Dr Edward Brown, Senior Director, Research, Policy and Programmes at ACET, said the study reviewed agricultural and food markets in general and potential market failures, identify challenges smallholder farmers face in accessing markets, including local, regional, national and international markets.
He said the study identified innovations being deployed to improve farmers’ access to markets and analyze the potential for scaling these innovations, including policies and actions needed by various stakeholders.
Dr George Owusu Essegbey, the Director of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of the Council of Science and Industrial Research, said as part of steps towards commercialising and upscaling its technologies had set up a centre within the institute.
At the headquarters, he said, a body had been established to explore a partnership with businesses to commercialise food processing techniques, building materials and innovations.