International Dispatch

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World Food Day & International Credit Union Day

Today is World Food Day but it is also the day we celebrate the International Day of Credit Unions.  In Northern Ghana CCA is working on a unique project that brings these two worlds together, the Food Security through
(FOSTERING) project which is delivered on behalf of CDF.

This project  provides farmers with access to training and improved farm technologies. The initiative will also provide them with access to funds through credit unions, giving them the option to store their harvests for later marketing. This will allow some smallholder farmers to move toward commercial farming and contribute to job creation and further development of the private sector.

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Volume 8 Number 11, October 16, 2014

Today is World Food Day and the theme this year is family farmers, feeding the world, caring for the earth. We bring you a story from Northern Ghana about how joining a co-op will help farmer Sebewie Kwame Donkor and his family recover from a beetle infestation that threatened their future.   

Co-ops bring hope to farmers at the tipping point

Giving up old practices is hard to do, especially when there is so much at stake. In a rural town called Kalande, in the East Gonja District of northern Ghana, farmer Sebewie Kwame Donkor recently turned a corner, thanks in part to the arm twisting of his brother Lawal. As head of the farmer co-operative in nearby Salaga, Lawal has seen the dramatic improvements that newly introduced farming methods are having on the health and nutrition of farm families in that region. Each time he visits his brother's home he urges Kwame to add nutritious soya beans to his regular crops. It's a new idea for farmers who for generations have relied on yams and maize for their family nutrition and income.


In the end, it was quite a different visitor that turned Kwame's skepticism into ready acceptance. A blight of yam beetles swept through this area last year. The resulting loss of income was a serious setback for many farmers already struggling to make ends meet. 

Fostering Video Play
Click on the photo to watch Lawal (L) talk about his brother's decision to join the co-op.

As Kwame picks up a yam from a pile in his storage hut he points to numerous crab-apple-size holes where beetles had gorged themselves. "These yams are unfit for sale," he explains. "My family will eat them." 


"My brother has been talking to me about it for three years now and I think it's time to join them (the co-op)," says Kwame. "If I were a member, I would have had some support to cultivate soya beans which would have added to my income and also improved the health of my family. I see members of the co-operative and the improvement in their family life. Their wives and children are looking healthy. Their wives are also given loans to cultivate soya beans and to trade; there is happiness in their homes."


Determined to reduce his family's reliance on yams, both for consumption and farm revenue, Kwame has joined the farmer co-op and will add soya bean plants to his crops of maize, cassava and sorghum. His two wives, Afiais and Ramatu, intercrop pepper, okro, egushie and amarantus among the yams. They and their 15 children rely on yams and maize for their meals.


Despite lowering poverty in the past 20 years in Ghana, significant pockets of poverty and food insecurity remain, especially in the north. Each year more farmers are reaching a tipping point where they can no longer produce enough food to sell for income, and their tired and shrinking land holdings are equally unable to sustain their own nutritional needs.


Kwame's decision to embrace his local co-operative sets an important example for other farmers. He is a local chief and as such is looked to by many for his guidance and wisdom on such matters.


His dark soil with its small stones is just right for growing soya. Kwame says he'll continue to grow yams, noting their leaves make good fertilizer for soya. Through the co-op he will learn how to conserve the nutrients in his soil, and how to be less rainfall dependent. He will earn higher prices because, like the other co-op members, he can now store his soya beans in the co-op silo until prices rise in the weeks following the initial harvest sell off.


Kwame's turnaround is not unique among farmers in the Eastern Corridor. Farmers in eight districts are turning to each other to reduce their vulnerability. Aided by the Canadian Co-operative Association (on behalf of the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada), the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association Limited and SEND - GHANA, they are forming co-operative enterprises to help improve production and off-season revenue, enhance processing and storage, and improve marketing. Strong credit unions are providing needed and stable financing. Farmers are gradually improving productivity, earning higher prices by pooling, storing and marketing their crops, and generating off-farm revenue by turning household activities to sustainable small businesses.


This five-year project, known as FOSTERING, will ensure food security for almost 42,000 smallholder farmers and their households.


To learn more about this project, visit CCA's FOSTERING project page.
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CCA is a not-for-profit co-operative that establishes and strengthens  co-operatives, credit unions, and community-based organizations to reduce poverty, build sustainable livelihoods, and improve civil society in less developed countries.  


To achieve this mission, CCA works closely with Canadian
co-operatives and credit unions to channel their knowledge and experience to partner organizations and co-operatives in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Caribbean.