I recently travelled to Ghana to participate in the Organic Leadership Course in the scope of our Organic Markets for Development activities where we are aiming to create opportunities for smallholder farmers by inclusion in domestic and international organic markets.
Organic Leadership Course
A total of 21 participants completed an eight-month course where they looked at the challenges smallholder farmers face when accessing both local and global markets.
The Organic Leadership Course (OLC) encourages participants to explore their ideas and visions for organic and facilitates exchange between participants from a variety of backgrounds. Dedicated trainers encourage peer discussions on the fundamentals of the organic sector, communication, project management, advocacy and sector development.
On completing the first residential session all participants put their dream project to paper and presented it in the second residential session. This time round we had the added benefit of being able to jump-start the top three with a grant of 3000 Euro. This was made possible by funding provided by AgroEco, Louis Bolk Institute and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
All participants had great ideas on how they can influence their community positively, but in the end, Francesca Doe, Dr. Francis Appiah, and Esther Agyekum surpassed all our expectations and were each awarded a grant.
Let me briefly summarize what I learned about the work of the three grant winners:
Meet Esther Agyekum, Senior Organic Agriculture Officer at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana
On a personal level, Esther became interested in organic produce because she strives to live a healthier life. Consuming organic vegetables and the corresponding health benefits is a topic that has come up many times in her quest for good health and well-being. However, finding organic produce was a bigger challenge, since the market for organic produce is not well developed.
So, her plan is to facilitate and promote organic agriculture in the current Ghanaian agriculture production system. The main objective here is to facilitate the sale of organic vegetables in local markets, promote organic sector development and also improve extension services for smallholder farmers. The grant will allow her to pilot the project in the eastern region of Ghana, with the mission of establishing a demonstration farm, where extension officers from the Department of Agriculture and local farmers can learn more about organic farming practices and then apply them in their work. All lessons will be documented and afterward shared with other farmers in the district and across the country.
Meet Dr. Francis Appiah, a professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi
Francis was inspired to find out more about organic agriculture when he saw, first-hand, the side effects of pesticides and herbicides on farmers. He witnessed many conventional farmers mixing and applying these types of chemicals wrongly onto the crops, due to low formal education and illiteracy. This type of persistent abuse has affected Ghanaian farmers’ health by resulting in headaches, skin irritations, impotence, and even blindness. Read more
His ambition is now to integrate organic agriculture practices into food and farming throughout Ghana by training farmers on organic principles and methods. He plans to open an AgriSupport Center to develop training modules and teach agriculture graduates about organic. The center will provide online and face to face courses on issues related to organic farming and sustainable agricultural practices. It is Francis’s wish to train 40 University graduates, plus 40 farmers on sustainable agriculture practices annually.
Meet Francesca Doe, Managing Director of Green Acres Farms in the Volta Region
While living in the UK, Francesca regularly consumed a lot of healthy food, particularly organic as she felt this was better for her health and well-being. However, when she moved back to Ghana she realized that not a lot of organic food was grown in Ghana. Now she wants to change this.
She strives to connect people to organic agriculture by raising awareness of organic agricultural practices, health benefits for farmers and consumers. On her demonstration farm, she plans to provide practical training and show young individuals how to embrace organic agriculture more entrepreneurially. At the same time, she plans to demonstrate how organic agriculture can improve the livelihoods of farmers and assist them in accessing local markets where they can earn a fair price.
Shaping an Organic Future
Altogether, I cannot wait to see how their plans take shape! Hopefully, they will inspire others to take a leap of faith, but also spark the interest of companies and governments to give grants to people with sustainable, innovative ideas. Especially when it comes to building capacity on a local level, where skills and knowledge can be replicated in communities.
We will keep you updated on the progress Esther, Francis and Francesca make in realizing their ideas.
Organic Markets for Development (OM4D) aims to create opportunities for smallholder farmers by inclusion into domestic and international organic markets. At the same time, it facilitates the adaptation to existing and new local and global challenges such as inequity, climate change, scarcity and depletion of natural resources. It uses the opportunity of increasing demand for organic products as an engine for development to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
IFOAM – Organics International, together with the support of its partner organization Agro Eco – Louis Bolk Institute and numerous local partners, will implement activities in four West African countries: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, and São Tomé and Principe.
In the previous blog posts, you’ll find posts exploring extraordinary innovations, organic policies, scientific research and expert opinions on organic. Check them out!