Student-led SAFE programme helps communities focus on value-chain oriented agriculture

Robert Koomson (Left) and Elisabeth Utuka
Robert Koomson (Left) and Elisabeth Utuka

Robert Koomson is a farmer from the Krofu Agro Processors Association, located in Krofu, Mfantsiman Municipal District, Central Region of Ghana. Elisabeth Utuka is also from the central region and from the Theomark Enterprise, situated in Assin Edubiase. The two farmers were in attendance at the West Africa Regional Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) Stakeholder Workshop, held in Accra, Ghana. Dr Festus Annor-Frempong, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, explains the value of the programme.

“Robert and Elisabeth were invited to the workshop because they are key stakeholders. Our Supervised Enterprise Projects (SEPs) students work with them and focus on putting their experiences into a wider perspective to demonstrate that farmers are not working in isolation. SEPs are projects that place SAFE students in rural areas to work with smallholder farmers and improve agricultural practices.

“All the work we do is to assist the farmers, and in turn the farmers are very helpful to us, especially during the SEPs. When they are here they tell their stories as to how the programme has helped them, what they like about our student-le SEPs, what can be done to improve the SAFE programme, and what they can contribute as stakeholders for the sustainability and strategy of the programme. This direct input from farmers is invaluable for us”.

Through her involvement with SAFE, Elisabeth is now involved in agricultural practices at more points along the value-chain. She explained: “We plant cassava over two acres of land and process it into Garri (a popular West African food made from cassava). We sow maize (two acres), and rice (fi ve acres) too. We also own six acres of palm nuts destined for palm oil production by our cooperative consisting of eight farmers. We now combine the farming and the processing.”

Robert Koomson, who is also secretary of the 30 members Krofu Agro Processors Association, said: “I came here to attend the SAFE regional workshop as a stakeholder, and as beneficiary of SAFE funding. SAFE helped us to rebuild our solar dryers, as well as fi x and strengthen our cottage industry. We process our cassava into products like Garri and high-quality cassava flour; and we process our maize into fl our for the production of popular Ghanaian staple foods such as Fante Kenkey and Ga Kenkey. The student researchers in the SAFE programme came to our community to help us improve and engage in value-chain oriented agricultural practices, and postharvest processing and packaging our produce for sale. This has been financially beneficial, which we are maximizing by taking another workshop in our district on group saving.”

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