Rural Enterprises Project reviewed in Sunyani
Mr Mahama Ayariga, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry has explained that, the implementation of a proposed National Rural Enterprises Programme would further empower the rural poor with skills and other productive assets, to develop and grow their own businesses.
He said the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had given the Ministry the assurance it would contribute funding to upscale the Rural Enterprises Project (REP), to cover all rural districts in the country, made up of 66 existing participating districts and 95 additional ones.
The objective is to spread the benefits of skills development, technology promotion and transfer, rural financial services, job creation and poverty reduction, to all districts of the country”, he said.
Mr Ayariga was addressing the close of a week-long annual review workshop of the REP in Sunyani.
The main purpose of the workshop was to review progress of implementation of the project to date, discuss and identify practical ways of consolidating the results of the project, to ensure improved delivery of project services for enhanced impact.
The deputy minister emphasized that the expansion of the REP would involve among others, the establishment of sustainable structures for business promotion including, Business Advisory Centres and rural technology facilities nationwide.
“The expansion of the rural enterprises programme nationwide fits into the wider national strategy of establishing an institutional framework for the promotion of micro and small scale enterprises”, he said.
Mr Ayariga explained: “This has come about due to the lack of co-ordination and effective linkages of various programmes on MSE (micro and small enterprises) promotion at the district, regional and national levels. There is an avoidable gap that needs to be addressed for better strategy”.
He said it was expected that the institutional structure of the national programme would put in place an appropriate institutional framework that would effectively involve and co-ordinate the activities of all stakeholders at the district, regional and national levels, to enable them to work in harmony towards the sustained development and growth of micro and small scale enterprises.
“We at the Ministry of Trade and Industry consider the Rural Enterprises Project an important rural development and district level industrial intervention, that is fully consistent with the thrust of the private sector development strategy and the better Ghana Agenda of the government, both of which have the cardinal objective of enabling the rural poor to improve the quality of life and overcome their poverty.
Mr Ayariga said with the support for the project and also for other relevant programmes on micro and small scale enterprises development, the Ministry was demonstrating the government’s sustained commitment to employment generation and poverty reduction in the rural and economically deprived areas of the country.
He expressed the hope that the participants would go back with a greater resolve and a better approach to consolidate the gains made in the implementation of the Project and strategize to address challenges and deepen impact.
Mr Kwasi Attah-Antwi, Project co-ordinator, in a welcoming address, noted that, the Project, started in June 2003, had expanded its coverage from six new participating districts and 11 old districts to 53 new participating districts in 2007.
“With the continuous expansion every year, the project now covers a significant number of 66 districts in addition to 12 districts carved out of some districts in all the 10 administrative regions”, he said.
The project co-ordinator disclosed that since its inception, the project had reached more than 196, 000 persons, including 110,000 women, who form 56 per cent, with various project services.
He said of the number, more than 89,000 persons were trained in various community-based skills trades, small businesses management, improved production processes, occupational safety and environmental management, banking culture and others.
In the area of rural financing services, the participating banks have disbursed GH₵1.7 million credit funds to support more than 4,350 micro and small enterprises, of which 58 per cent were female managed enterprises, the project co-ordinator added.
Mr Attah-Antwi stated that, the implementation of the various project activities had resulted in a number of outcomes in the participating districts, mentioning specifically that, about 20,000 new small businesses were established and 50,000 new jobs created.
Over 25,000 have adopted new and improved technologies in their business operations whilst 15,000 increased production per month and 15,000 clients also increased sales per month, he added.
Mr Eric Opoku, Deputy Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, expressed his appreciation to the management of the project that the region had the largest number of 16 project districts.
He lauded government initiatives, such as the fertilizer subsidy, agriculture mechanization and the buffer stock programmes, which were yielding good results by the current relatively low prices of agricultural produce in the markets.
The deputy regional minister, however, noted that, in order to sustain these programmes, as well as the productivity engendered by the initiatives, there was the need for programmes as the Rural Enterprises Project to provide the scientific and technology backstopping.
Mr Opoku called for the enhancement of capacity of agro-processing enterprises to mop up excess produce from the farms to reduce post harvest losses and provide ready markets to sustain productivity.