EcoFairtrade Project (EFP)
Ecological farming and fair trade marketing of value added farm products as an alternative development perspective for the youth in Northern Ghana.
The goal of EFP is to secure the education of farmers children by indirectly improving the economic situation of the parents. In the long run, the project will provide encouragement and motivation to parents to support their children's education even in difficult time.
To achieve this goal, the project has the following objectives:
- To strengthen farmers voices and their ability to market their produce.
- To increase awareness of parents in the importance of education by promoting school education of children.
- To Reduce the high frequency of child labor and migration to the south.
- To Strengthen farmers forces in the marketing of farm produce.
- To ensure a sustainable development of local communities through economic autonomy.
- To improve the social position of women in local communities.
The overall strategy of the EFP project is to provide the framework for local communities to organise themselves into farmers based organisations (FBO). Therefore YHFG and partners have developed a transfereable approach, which is currently undergoing its pilot phase within the sunuga project.
Pilot: The Sunuga Peanut Project
Short project history
2006, successful start:
In April 2006, around 300 peasant farmers in Zongoire, Bawku West District founded the Ecological Peasant Farmers Association (EPEFA).
In their statutes, EPEFA members committed themselves to send their children to school.
YHFG supported the farmers in the process of self-organization and creating democratic and transparent structures of group governance, furthermore, training sessions on agricultural matters were initiated.
In the dry season the farmers constructed basic production and storage facilities, during the rainy season, 80 farmers successfully cultivated the first EPEFA peanuts.
2007, serious draw backs
With an extensive seed loan, all 300 farmers entered peanut cultivation in spring 2007. Disastrous weather conditions caused serious floodings and humanitarian crisis in many regions of Central Africa.
Also at EPEFA most of the harvest was lost resulting in a menace situation of the farmers families and a financial disaster for the project
2008, new beginning and good prospects for 2009
In 2008, only 100 farmers were involved in the peanut cultivation and succeeded with a good harvest.
YHFG and EPEFA are currently trying to find partners interested in fair trade- ecologically planted peanuts.
With financial support of Il fuoco del Futuro, a project manager will coordinate the various aspects of the project from now on (agricultural, economic, documentation) and continue the careful and intensive training of the farmers. The EPEFA infrastructure will be completed and the organic certification initiated. Furthermore, YHFG and partners will be introducing a microcredit scheme.
Challenges and Achievements
Quality assurance and certification
Several quality criteria have to be met, to enable a certification of EPEFA nuts for the international (organic) market
Aflatoxins are produced by fungi, that grow on peanuts if these are not well dried. As they are toxic and highly cancerogenic, there are very strict international threshold limits, e.g. 20ppb (parts per billion) in the US, so only one foul nut can ruin a hole batch of peanuts. We found out, that locally produced peanut butter can easily exceed the aflatoxin concentration by factor 1'000- 10'000.
Careful training of the EPEFA farmers on best agricultural practices (uprooting, drying and storage) was performed during each harvest period. Futhermore, we constructed appropriate peanut storage facilities. As a result, no aflatoxins were detectable in samples of the 2006 and 2008 harvest.
The 2007 harvest was tested positive for pesticide contamination. Investigations concluded that heavy rains may have caused a spill over from adjacent melon farms that used chemicals
Even though influence from outside is difficult to control, we aimed an optimization of documentation and surveillance through a) taking test samples from different sections of the EPEFA to increase confidence levels, b) securing the traceability of potential contaminations by careful documentaion. As a result, no pesticides were found in the nuts from 4 different EPEFA farmers (covering 4 areas) in the 2008 harvest.
Weak educational infrastructure
After the foundation of the EPEFA cooperative, the local Apotdabogo primary school's capacity was exceeded by EPEFA children (before 50 children, after >300).
By private donation, the construction of further teacher's accomodation was made possible, consequently the Bawku West District assembly authorities hired two new teachers.
A school partnership was established with the Tiefburg primary school in Heidelberg, Germany. The funds, that were raised by the great commitment and enthusiasm of the german kids, were used in 2006 to by books for a school library and in 2007 - after the floods- to register all EPEFA families in the national health insurance.
Climate instability: harvest insecurity
Extreme weather conditions destroyed a great part of the 2007 harvest causing financial losses for single farmers but also for the EPEFA cooperative.
In 2009, YHFG will introduce a microcredit scheme to enable small groups of farmers to generate additional income during the dry season and thus placing the EPEFA cooperative on several foodholds
The Ecofairtrade Project (EFP) - a holistic and integrated approach towards sustainable development.
With the successful completion of the pilot project and autonomy of the EPEFA cooperative, YHFG plans to extend the sunuga approach and tranfer it into other peasant farmers communities in Northern Ghana.
The strategy of founding an establishing FBOs, is cast into five well-defined phases as follows:
Phase One: Community Entry and Self-Mobilization
The purpose of phase one, is for community members to identify and define what they can do to meet market demands, commit themselves as a group to undertake activities, and inspire and organize themselves to take self-reliant action.
Important steps of phase one:
- To meet with local authorities, local government representatives and opinion leaders of the communities to apprise them of our approach and gain their support.
- A workshop to identify what the community members exactly can do to meet market demand and what will give them a competitive advantage at the market place. This first workshop is also aimed at shifting the mind-set of the people from resignation to "it can be done!" and from dependency, "Governments will do it" to "I'm the one responsible." During this initial interaction with the community, facilitators will throw light on the negative effects of gender inequality.
- First phase of self-organisation: formation of interest groups, selection of leaders and beginning of training in self-governance issues.
Throughout phase one, each cooperative or group in the FBO tends to work on its own. The YHFG will assist in providing training in basic cooperative management, micro credit management and quality management of the selected commodity as well as pricing strategies. Market research and identification of connections to the market for the selected commodity is also pursued at this point. These trainings will lead to the setting up of a loan and rural industries committees.
Phase one is complete when cooperatives begin to work together as an FBO with real economic and political strength and elect an executive committee to lead them in phase two.
Phase Two: The Tipping Point
During phase two, the cluster of cooperatives work together as an FBO and construct their own production centre.
Major steps in this phase are:
- To secure the ownerships rights of the land for the building of the FBO and the farming.
- The cooperatives build the production centre, which houses a storage room, credit union, community meeting hall, offices and a food-processing unit. Depending upon the educational status of the community, other facilities like preschool blocks and classrooms for literacy training will also be constructed.
- Introduction of the microcredit scheme providing loans to interest groups.
- The cooperatives, with the loan support, will undertake various farming activities under the supervision of a project coordinator from the YHFG.
- Conduction of phyto-sanitary inspections.
- Begin of Organic and fairtrade certifications procedures.
- YHFG begins delivering the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshops.
Phase two will be seen as succesful when the production centre is formally inaugurated at a big public assembly with senior government leaders in attendance.
The successful construction of the production centre is the tipping point in the five-year process. Once this has been achieved, the process of calling forth self-reliance becomes irreversible. The building becomes a symbol of partnership, self-reliance and community unity.
Phase Three: Progress on All Fronts
In phase three, the FBO will begin to make progress on all fronts, including solidifying and creating an even more powerful partnership with local government.
- Crop Farming: With access to training and credit, women grow more and better quality food. On the FBO farm, farmers learn how to use new seeds, small-scale irrigation systems and composting techniques to improve their crops. They diversify crops and use food-processing equipment to reduce drudgery and preserve food. The food storage room is stocked from the FBO farm, and stabilizes prices for farmers as well as protects against shortages. Agronomical training, training on quality management and leadership training continues. Organic and fairtrade certifications procedures continues.
- Income: With better production and better prices, incomes increase. In addition, with training and credit, people invest in income-generating activities, such as raising animals, food processing and petty-trading at the local markets.
- Health: Health education for basic treatment, first-aid and nutrition education begins. Community members are able to treat and prevent diarrhea, TB, measles and malaria. Because of the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshops, more men and women will use condoms and seek voluntary testing for HIV.
- Education: As family income increases, more girls and boys stay in school. With children going to preschool women have more time for their education, training and participation as leaders. Men as well as women begin participating in adult literacy classes.
- Gender Equality: Through equality of leadership, the micro credit program and the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshops, women gain confidence. There is greater respect from men, and more authentic partnership. In addition, two women from each cooperative will receive training in legal literacy and reproductive health, becoming "barefoot lawyers" — village-level resources to women about their rights.
Phase Four: Self-Reliance
The micro credit bank begins placement and recovers loans, keeps records and mobilizes savings. The committee who run the bank take classes to pass the government exams, so that the loan program can become an official, government-recognized rural bank (the production bank). Once the production bank is officially recognized, no further financial support from The YHFG is necessary. The YHFG begins the exit process from the community. The following questions are raised and where the answers are not clear, phase four will concentrate on those gray areas.
- Are the people successful authors of their own development: motivated, confident, improving life every day?
- Do people work together as an FBO that is large enough to be a viable economic unit with leadership established?
- Do women have equal leadership with men, and are key economic players in the community? Does many women run for local office and are elected?
- Are those participating in the credit program enroll in literacy and numeracy courses?
- Does the community has the confidence and strength to successfully demand services, such as roads and electricity from local government?
- Are the people adequately and well-nourished, and successfully managing their own food security through the community food bank?
- Does the farming activities of the cooperatives diversified, improved and successful in the marketplace? Are the people cultivating crops and raising poultry and livestock that have high economic value?
- Does the cooperative have access to organic and fairtrade markets?
- Do both girls and boys attend pre- and primary schools near their homes? Is there a library filled with books?
- Do the people have reliable health care? How much has MMR and IMR drop?
- Do both women and men use protections to prevent themselves from getting HIV/ Aids
- Through the bank, are savings mobilized as investment capital for community enterprises?
- In overall, is there a vibrant rural economy? Are young men beginning to return back to the community?
The Ecofairtrade strategy is a proven, large-scale, low-cost methodology for empowering the people of rural communities in Africa to be the authors of their own development, and succeed in meeting all their basic needs on a sustainable basis, including the UN Millennium Development Goals. Our motivation on the strategy is based on the following:
- This strategy is replicable. We can do this from one community to another until the entire north of ghana is commercialised in agro-enterprises.
It empowers women. Women in Africa are the most important - yet least supported - producers on the continent. The strategy places women and their leadership at the center of the development process.
- It is integrated and holistic. It achieves synergy among programs in health (including HIV/AIDS prevention), education, adult literacy, nutrition, improved farming and food security, microfinance, water and sanitation, and building community spirit with a momentum of accomplishment involving the entire population.
- It is economically sustainable. The primary resources for the strategy come from the local people themselves, and by so, making existing local government resources more effective. Income generation is built into the strategy from the start. Within five years, our production centre should require no further financial support from The YHFG. They are entirely self-reliant.
- It is environmentally sustainable. People at our FBOs will learn composting and small-scale, environmentally sound irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation.
- It is based on a fundamentally different framework of thinking. Most programs treat local people as "beneficiaries" and, despite the best of intentions, reinforces dependency which is already a big challenge in northern Ghana. The YHFG treats local people as the primary authors and actors for their own development.