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Farmers complain about the high cost of transport in Africa

ACCRA: A lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly access roads, has been identified by African farmers as one of the major obstacles hindering them from getting their crops to markets. They said that the high cost of transporting their produce to market made them reluctant to even consider increasing the size of their farming operations.

These were some of the most pressing issues raised by farmers attending the three-day African Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana.

President of the Ghana Federation of Agricultural Producers, King David Kwao Amoah, noted that the focal point of this forum has been small-scale farmers who produce close to 80 percent of the food consumed in Ghana. He said it was therefore imperative that small scale farmers should be present at such a forum where food and agricultural production feature so prominently on the agenda.

He said their presence is critical "... so that we can actually know what is going on and we can also monitor..." what is being decided. It is only through knowing about these developments will the farmers be able to take advantage of new circumstances.

Amoah emphasised that the high costs of transporting harvests from rural communities have been eroding profit margins accruing to core African farmers. This, he said is because traders or marketers come and complain about the high cost of things, but they buy harvests at low prices, then transport them to the cities where "they make high profits, and that is to the detriment of the small scale farmers".

He advised farmers, mostly small-scale entrepreneurs, to form co-operatives to add value to whatever they produce, "so that all that we do should not just go to the traders." He also counselled governments to ensure that they play their roles in facilitating processes and guaranteeing favourable prices for small-holder farmers. They need to create an "enabling environment, especially for credit and governments should come up with favourable policies for the small-scale farmers," he said.

The Cocoa Abrabopa Association (CAA) is a not-for-profit organisation with a membership of over 10,000 cocoa farmers who seek to improve their circumstances by using a special package of cocoa inputs approved by Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG). CAA spokesman Abdula Nii Commey, spokesman, also referred to the high transport costs facing farmers saying that in some villages, the farmers do have their own means of transport, but that the road networks are in a poor state of repair. He therefore urged governments to make an effort to improve these access roads.

Lydia Sasu, leader of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana and second vice president of the Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, (ROPPA), said

Africans will be able to feed themselves if they can all work together and collaborate in the production of a range of crops. She cited the example of Ghana where not only rice, but a number of other crops such as yam, cocoa, plantain and cassava are also widely enjoyed.

"If we continue to propagate all those crops and put more innovation into them as researchers have been showing us, we can produce more, eat more but not only one crop. We can also diversify; in Ghana we have many - maize and others," she said.

Sasu also insisted that the voices of rural women need to be heard at all levels. She noted that women are the ones who normally keep whatever it is that requires keeping. Women are able to nurture so that even if something has been destroyed, they are able to bring it back to life. There is therefore, a need to collaborate with rural women to enable them learn more about agricultural methods which they can improve on and reach a level where new techniques can be applied and play a role in the green revolution.

Sasu appealed to women to put their house in order by coming together and taking part whenever there is something to discuss about agriculture, "because it concerns us more than any other thing in the community, we need to be involved. It is only when we know what is going on that we can be part of it".

Article published courtesy of Reporting Development Network Africa (RDNA)

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