Today we learned first-hand about the issues of doing business within emerging markets such as Ghana. Years of entrenched systems and culture make it challenging to move at the pace of business. Praxis Africa had some materials shipped from North Dakota via Fedex. We spent several hours trying to claim three small boxes from customs. Every step had its own non-descript paperwork and every location had multiple people involved in the process. They never did release the packages to us (and asked a healthy sum in “fees” along the way). It is a system that will need continued reform to make it more appealing for international companies to invest in Ghana.
We spent time today with John Dziwornu, National Secretary of the Association of Farmers and Fisherman. They have 3 MILLION farmers in their association. When asked about best means to reach farmers he stated that broadcast is the best, both radio and television. Mail routes are undeveloped or unreliable and digital reach is intermittent. Some farmers have access to a computer and can download and print materials or podcasts, but digital reach is inconsistent. The single most reliable route to the farmer in Ghana is broadcast. The more time I spend here the more parallels I see between Ghanaian agriculture and our own developing North American agriculture of the 1950’s.
At the FAGRO show there is much emphasis on products being “organic.” Truth is, many crops are raised without much use of crop protection products so most crops here could likely be qualify as organic. This poses an interesting opportunity and challenge at the same time. There is growing demand for organic products and Ghana has the opportunity to be a prime supplier in this niche. But Ghana is also suffering from yield plateaus and inconsistency in product so commonly found in organic production. The farmers are working to increase yield and profitability but steps that they could take to strengthen crop quality may also affect their niche marketability. Ghanaians have much to learn about organic standards and market opportunities, but remain dedicated to improving production. To quote Praxis Africa’s Tony Mensah-Abrampah, “We just need to know what standards to follow.”
Today was another outstanding day to learn about Ghanaian agriculture and business. We touched on trade and commerce, grower outreach and grower education. On Saturday we hope to spend some time learning more about production practices and challenges specific to Ghana. We continue to meet many interesting people passionate about the success of agriculture in Ghana – and that in itself is very encouraging.
Signing off from Day 2 in Accra, Ghana…