Agriculture is recognized as one of the economic pillars in Ghana, engaging around 52% of the entire labour force, (Ghana at a glance | FAO in Ghana | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) as confirmed by the Word Bank which stated, “the agricultural sector contributes for one-fifth of the country’s GDP and is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the country’s poorest households”. (World Bank Document).
The pandemic has shaken small holder farmers in last-mile communities, particularly in areas of Ghana where digital services are not readily available. It is in these areas that the digital solutions offered by the AgUnity platform are most useful, directly impacting the economic welfare of Ghanian women and young farmers by supporting the sale of their products.
Home to 96,000 small holder farmers in farm-based organizations, cooperatives and groups, AgUnity partner, Beit Farms, has a mission to establish the largest agricultural hub in Ghana, serving small to medium sized enterprises across all of Africa. Beit Farms offer services varying from farm management to sourcing agricultural goods from smallholder farmers for both local and international markets (Beit Farms – Beit Farms).
Evans Larbi, the CEO of Beit Farms talked with AgUnity for this article. He said that his aspiration is to enhance the farmers' capacity to embrace new trends in the digital era. He believes that the deployment and innovation of technology will allow farmers to improve their income and livelihood.
In the interview, Evans mentioned that the majority of farmers in Ghana are women and it is critical to support and empower these farmers through training and capacity building.Furthermore, Evans identified the young people in Ghana as being in need of this type of crucial support if the Beit Farms vision is to come to fruition. Today, more and more young people in Ghana want to get involved in the agricultural sector, recognising the opportunity for work and training. As a young person himself, Evans seeks to empower his peers, encouraging unemployed youth to join him in the fields and receive valuable training.
Together, AgUnity and Beit Farms aim to deploy smartphones with the AgUnity App to smallholder farmers throughout the Beit Farms management system. 80% of the 250 smallholder cocoa farmers across four farmers' organizations or cooperatives in the Beit Farms ecosystem are women, who will be receiving the AgUnity v3 platform and phones as part of the move toward digital inclusion. This project is financially supported by the Australian High Commission in Accra, under the Direct Aid Program. The project will run in the Greater Accra region with pilot execution from January to June 2022.
AgUnity and Beit Farms will deploy affordable smartphones and one digital platform that will enable farmers to access credit, digital payments and transactions, larger value chain platforms, updated and real-time knowledge on modern farming practices and Agro inputs like fertilisers, among others. This digital solution stops farmers from being disadvantaged, allowing them to sell goods at the current market price and establishing trust and transparency between farmer and cooperative.
This project will be the foundation for a scale-up model to all 96,000 farmers together with cooperatives, farmers' organizations, and other value chains in Beit Farms’ ecosystem. It is significant to highlight in the future almost a hundred thousand smallholder farmers will be connected to customers as well as to each other.
Our baseline survey confirms several challenges faced by farmers and cooperatives that we plan to solve, such as unreliable record-keeping, limited access to financing and restricted market access. The baseline survey was conducted in the Greater Accra, a majority of participants in the project are female smallholder farmers, almost all the respondents (58 people) farm cacao and just two of the respondents are caretakers and sharecroppers.
More than half of the respondent's total monthly household income is less than GHS 800 and, in the past 12 months, they reported the shared experience where their income does not cover their expenses. Therefore, this project aims to improve smallholder farmers’ livelihood, productivity, and access to financing. The high interest in credit prohibits most respondents from obtaining credit, the survey revealing that while many are eager to save, current conditions are limiting them from doing so.
Nearly half of the respondents admit that their knowledge about financial matters is low compared with other adults in Ghana. Furthermore, most of the respondents declare that they need assistance in learning how to save or manage their finances.
As mentioned above, unreliable record keeping is one of the major issues facing cocoa farmers; with the baseline survey indicating 78% of respondents are not keeping any records at all and only 16% keeping monthly records at this time.
In the end of the interview, Evans shared his hopes for the adoption of the AgUnity platform to be the catalyst for long lasting transformation for farmers of Ghana, reiterating his vision for the agricultural sector to change the game for Ghanaians. Indeed, the collaboration between AgUnity and Beit Farms is leading the way by taking the next big step for the future of agriculture in Ghana.