This was made known in Tamale during the launch of Masara N’Arziki Farmers Association (MAFA).
Speaking at the launch, Mr Marc Kok, Managing Director of Wienco, said: “Maize is the most important cereal crop in Ghana and forms an important part of the food and feed system and also contributes significantly to income generation for rural households. The establishment of MAFA is therefore an indication of Ghana’s potential in maize production.”
He said: “MAFA is the culmination of the Industrial Maize Programme initiated by Wienco (Ghana) Limited in partnership with YARA and the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund which established the Ghana Grains Partnership and eventually gave birth to Masara N’arziki in 2009.”
The Managing Director noted that the importance of MAFA could not be doubted as maize accounted for about 56 per cent of cultivated land while about 98 per cent of the 3.5 million small-scale farmers in the country were engaged in crop production.
According to Mr Kok, Masara N’Arziki aims at ensuring easy access to affordable credit in the form of high quality inputs, appropriate training of maize farmers for higher productivity, ensuring higher yields for increased incomes of farmers and the nation as a whole, group marketing to obtain better prices, guaranteed markets for members, improving the standard of living of the member farmers and providing a model for sustainable farmer credit schemes.
The programme package provides access to fertilisers, hybrid seeds, herbicides, insecticides, spraying equipment, and innovative farm implements on credit as well as technical advisory and training services to farmers.
It also supports small and medium holder farmers to adopt good agricultural practices, such as land use and management practices, group cohesion and dynamics to increase productivity and profit.
Small and medium-scale farmers produce about 75 per cent of the nation’s maize crop, while the large-scale sector farms accounts for more than 25 acres of the produce.
On the average, about one million hectares of maize is planted annually, with the production ranging from 32 million to 36 million bags, depending on the weather and market conditions.
The sector, however, is hampered by the lack of input, poor training, lack of pest control, expensive infrastructure, ineffective and inadequate storage among other factors.
Mr Luuc Smits, General Manager Masara N’arziki, noted that it was a historic occasion for the farmers to join MAFA to the benefit of generations to come, noting that the large presence of key stakeholders and partners at the launch was an indication of the interest they had in the future of MAFA.
He expressed the shared vision of MAFA as the creation of a future of prosperity “by combining all our individual strengths to create one voice and one face – The Masara N’Arziki Farmers Association”.
Mr Smits described members of the Association as “the beating heart” of MAFA whose expertise would be used as a tool to achieve the goals of the association.
He urged members to tell everyone in their communities about what they heard and saw at the launch adding that ‘‘by carrying out the message of Masara, you, as a members, can make sure this Association will become a big success and will be there to assist farmers just like you’’.
Mr Henry Otoo Mensah, the Retail Manager for Yara Ghana, a key partner of the MAFA programme explained that Masara N’Arziki is an Hausa phrase meaning ‘maize for prosperity.’
He said: “Masara N’arziki today has become a key engine to growth and development for an African Green Revolution, which is creating values through value chains, establishing structures to improve agricultural productivity and increase food security….”
“The value chain approach therefore is crucial to overcoming the main constraints in farming as is seen in poor infrastructure, storage and transportation,” he said.
On his part, Pioneer Manager of MAFA, John Sumani Kelli recounted the history of the Masara Programme starting from results of tests conducted in 2004 by Savannah Agricultural Research Institute with hybrid seeds imported by Wienco.
He congratulated MAFA founding members, Council of Elders, the farmers and the staff of Masara n’Arziki ‘’in bringing the Association this far.’’
Mr Kelli said the Industrial Maize Project of Wienco began with about 1,000 acres of yellow ‘Master’ maize planted by 650 selected farmers across Northern, Upper West, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti Regions. He said due to various social, cultural and technical factors the programme was limited and focused on Northern, Upper West and the northern parts of Brong Ahafo regions.
He noted that the vision of Wienco was to make Ghana food secured through the promotion of growing maize for food, feed and supply to breweries in Ghana using good agricultural practices.
Mr Kelli said 2005 and 2006 were quite successful with up to 1500 farmers participating.
He said 2007 was a bad year for the programme, and said: ‘‘The lessons we learnt from 2007 have helped us to redirect our focus and put the programme on a more secured direction.’’
Kuoro Robert Samiu Hillia, Council Chairman of MAFA said “the involvement of MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) is very crucial in the delivery of agricultural services, the operational areas including the management of fertiliser subsidy, acquisition of farm implements and other areas of support”.
He said members of the association were being trained in collaboration with Technoserve, an agro-business company to keep records of their businesses.
The Technical training is done through MAFA Extension Officers during which the farmers are exposed to expertise on land preparation, planting procedures, handling of herbicide and insecticide, and fertiliser application, added the Council Chairman.
Kuoro Hillia urged chiefs to collaborate with MAFA to curb the destruction of farms by the grazing cattle of Fulani herdsmen and appealed to members to liaise with the Ghana National Fire Service for the training of fire volunteers to combat fire outbreaks which often destroy their farms.
He said Masara N’Arziki Farmers Association’s provide inputs, technical training and business training in partnership with Technoserve and also ensures the marketing of the maize grain.
Yara Ghana Limited was established in 2007 aimed at strengthening the quality and depth of input and related services along the agricultural value chain to increase the productivity of Ghanaian farmers.
The headquarters of the company is in Tamale in the Northern Region and covers the entire region and Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo Regions.
Wienco (Ghana) Limited, established in 1979 is jointly owned by Dutch and Ghanaian Shareholders.
As an agricultural company, Wienco specialises in the importation and distribution of high quality agro-inputs that meet international standards.
The objective of the company is the development of new crop protection areas and the strengthening of key partnerships that would enhance the productivity of the Ghanaian farmer and ensure that he or she obtains profitable high yields.
The company is strengthening its efforts to become a key player in the seed industry particularly, maize.