Healthy and quality fruits and vegetables through new ways of doing business. That is the goal of the new HortiFresh programme in West-Africa, led by the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation. It facilitates public-private partnerships that work on factors holding back the professionalisation and commercialisation of the fruits and vegetable sector in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
The general dish in Ghana still contains little to no vegetables and fruits, apart from tomatoes and onions and some occasional pieces of fruit. But consumption levels are growing as a result of economic growth and demand for healthy, nutritious food. The national production has problems to meet this demand, due to low agronomic knowledge and skills, food safety issues and financial arrangements not meeting farmer’s needs. Next to it, the market does not reward quality. At the same time, the fruit and vegetable sectors in Ghana and Ivory Coast show a strong growth potential and opportunities for private investments.
To improve food and nutrition security (SDG Zero Hunger) as well as the business climate and employment opportunities, the HortiFresh programme was established. The Dutch Embassy funds the four-year programme.
For quality, good business climate and inclusiveness
‘One, HortiFresh aims to raise the quality of fruits and vegetables produced in Ghana and Ivory Coast and stimulate innovation,’ states Irene Koomen, programme coordinator at the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation. This includes communicating the quality of these products to consumers, to gain their trust.
‘Two, the programme aims to improve the business climate for SMEs and international companies active in the fruits and vegetable sector of West Africa. We for example can facilitate the dialogue between chain partners. Three, HortiFresh aims to create opportunities for women and youth to engage in the horticulture sector. We also consider sustainability, focussing mostly on increasing the long-term economic viability and the environmental impact of the activities and enhancing the resilience of the sector to various kind of shocks be it financial or climate related.’ By 2021, 15,000 farmers are to be reached, increasing their productivity by 20 percent.
Building upon GhanaVeg
HortiFresh builds upon the results of GhanaVeg (2013-2017) that focused on the high-end domestic and export markets of vegetables, having a strong private sector development focus. The biggest successes of GhanaVeg have been achieved in the domestic market. The number of quality wholesalers and retailers has increased sharply for example, and their number of outlets and sales volumes have increased exponentially. A case in point is GhanaVeg partner Eden Tree Ltd. that grew more than tenfold in turnover over a period of five years. Also, the overall quality vegetable retail market in Accra grew substantially. Next, a business platform was established that now attracts attendance from over 300 parties involved in the vegetable sector.
Farmer’s story from GhanaVeg
Because of GhanaVeg, cocoa farmer Kwame Yroko from the western part of the Brong Ahafo region was introduced to Touton, one of the bigger exporters of cocoa, to start production of cabbages. Kwame highlights what GhanaVeg has meant for his business: ‘I was engaged in a training organized by Touton and the company helped me with a loan agreement that included inputs like seeds and fertilizer. I started with an acre of cabbages; implementing all recommended production protocols, receiving training from Touton’s dedicated field agent.’ The main ‘trick’ proved to be growing in the lean season using the right variety, which ensured a high market demand at the time of harvest. ‘I sold my cabbages to the market women in Kumasi (Abinchi market) and made a profit of about 4,000 US dollar.’
Kwame has now decided to venture into vegetable farming as his primary business. The perennial cocoa remains the family business for the future. ‘The advantage of growing cabbages is that you can harvest them every three months. Instead of having one harvest per year I have four now.’ As a result of his increased income, Kwame was able to build his own house with proper roofing. Also, the children’s school fees are now less of a burden. ‘My plan for the future is to establish a good production planning with my buyers, so that I can further expand my volume of production.’
Calls for proposals
The new HortiFresh programme facilitates activities by issuing calls for proposals, with 50-50 contribution of the project and the private parties. ‘The advantage of this public-private approach is that it shows whether there is a market interest and thus continued existence.’ These initiatives can be considered ‘mini-projects’, all contributing to the overall goal. The first call is already launched.