--This article was originally published pn the Graphic Online site by Kwame Asare Boadu
The Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a faith-based international development organisation based in Canada, has, in collaboration with its partners in Ghana, signed a partnership agreement with small and medium-scale cashew crop nursery operators in five regions to produce seedlings for farmers at a subsidised price of 50 per cent.
The agreement, being implemented through MEDA’s Farmers’ Economic Advancement Through Seedlings (FEATS) project in the five regions, namely, Volta, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East and Ahafo, seeks to advance tree crop farming in the country.
The FEATS project, which aims at improving the economic well-being of farmers in export-linked tree crops industries, plans to facilitate the development of viable and sustainable commercial supply chains and markets for high quality tree seedlings.
Funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the project has targeted to facilitate the distribution of 21 million quality cocoa, cashew, rubber and shea seedlings to 100,000 farmers and provide assistance for 35 small enterprises and their employees by the end of 2019.
This support for the SMEs will promote the greater participation of women in Ghana’s tree crop industry.
Speaking at the agreement signing ceremony at the MEDA FEATS Head Office in Accra last Friday, the Field Project Manager of FEATS, Mr Robert Austin, said the underlying philosophy of the project was to create business solutions to poverty, which would assist SMEs to operate nurseries as sustainable businesses.
He said FEATS had already linked various farmers’ co-operatives to the SME nursery operators to ensure that the quality seedlings produced had ready market.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment
A major component of the project, according to Mr Austin, was gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP).
He expressed delight in the fact that majority of nursery operators benefiting from the project were women, adding: “A cardinal focus of our project is the supply and distribution of seedlings and facilitating the establishment of 35 SME nursery operators in the selected operational areas.
Thirty of these operators are women-led.”
Matching grant agreements
Through its stakeholder outreach and engagement, the FEATS project has signed matching grant agreements (MGAs) with 23 of the SME tree crop nurseries as key stakeholders to produce quality seedlings for distribution to farmers through cost-share arrangements.
This is expected to lead to the establishment of upgraded standard nursery facilities, increase the production of quality tree crop seedlings and capacity building in nursery management, business management and gender equality.
It also provides male and female farmers with smart incentives under its seedling purchase discount scheme to boost access to seedlings from the partner SME nurseries.
The MGA, a mutually beneficial collaborative partnership with the stakeholder SME nurseries, outlines key targets, implementation timelines, responsibilities, activity budgets and reporting requirements.
The agreement also commits the partners, in principle, to working together towards achieving shared and complementary goals.
The Tree Crop and Environment Specialist on the MEDA FEATS project, Mr Ernest Adzim, noted that the current agreement was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed earlier between the partners.
“This is a significant step seeking to cement the common bonds necessary to guide collaboration in producing the quantity and quality tree crop seedlings for Ghanaian male and female farmers,” he said.
Mr Adzim advised stakeholders to keep activity and sales records and asset registers to help them access loans from banks and other financial institutions.
The first set of beneficiaries include 23 SME cashew and rubber nursery operators in the Ashanti, Bono East, Bono, Eastern and Western regions who are linked to identified farmer associations for the sale and distribution of quality seedlings.
The stakeholders present expressed their commitment to the MEDA FEATS project.
Ms Joyce Mensah, a nursery operator, who spoke on behalf of the SMEs, expressed their appreciation to the Canadian government for the “timely intervention”.
She said such support systems were critical to reducing poverty amåongå beneficiary communities, while at the same time providing a huge boost for Ghana’s tree-crop industry.
The Business Development Specialist on the project, Mr Charles Ofori Addo, took participants through the processes involved in procuring materials for the SMEs.
He explained that as a law-abiding organisation, MEDA would adhere strictly to the procurement laws of Ghana and, therefore, entreated all stakeholders to do due diligence when procuring items for their businesses.