APRA Ghana presents research findings in a dissemination workshop
Written by Louis Hodey
Key findings emerging from APRA’s research in Ghana were presented to representatives of oil palm farmers and oil palm processing companies, agricultural extension officers, district and regional directors of agriculture, and the media at a workshop on 17 March 2021 at the Takoradi Library & Office Complex.
In his introductory remarks, the APRA Ghana team lead, Dr. Fred M. Dzanku, highlighted APRA’s research in Ghana, explaining that their overarching research goal is to identify pathways to agricultural commercialisation that have been most effective in a) empowering smallholders (including women), b) reducing poverty and c) improving nutrition and food security. He further emphasised that APRA seeks to produce new evidence to inform policies and investment in commercial agriculture, to make them more effective and inclusive, and to provide a better understanding of the political economy behind agricultural commercialisation policy processes.
Prior to highlighting the key research findings from the APRA study on oil palm commercialisation, Dr. Kofi Takyi Asante detailed the socio-economic context, conceptualisation of agricultural commercialisation and livelihoods, as well as the objectives and research methods of the study.
The research used a combination of detailed household surveys and qualitative research (focus groups, life histories, key informant interviews) to analyse individual and household ‘selection choices’ related to different agricultural commercialisation pathways, and the livelihood outcomes resulting from these related to women’s empowerment; labour and employment; food and nutrition security; and poverty and inequality. Two rounds of surveys were conducted, involving 726 oil palm farming households. Dr. Asante revealed that four main oil palm marketing channels were operating in the study area – direct sales to oil palm processing companies (OPCs), sales to OPCs through agents, independent sales on local market, and own/artisanal processing (palm oil, alcohol, soap, etc.). Though there was unequal access to these channels based on structural and personal factors, 27% of respondents sold directly to OPCs, 33% sold to OPCs through agents, 29% were engaged in independent sales through local markets, and 11% were engaged in their own/artisanal processing.
Social dimensions of oil palm commercialisation
Presenting the findings on welfare outcomes of the four commercialisation channels, Dr. Asante revealed that those engaged in direct sales to OPCs, and those who process their own oil palm, produce similar subjective and objective welfare outcomes. Households engaged in these channels earn more and are happier compared to those engaged in sales to OPCs through agents and independent sales through local markets. On the other hand, those engaged in sales to OPCs through agents and independent sales through local markets are more profitable, compared to their counterparts.
In conclusion, Dr. Asante affirmed that there is a huge potential for enhancing the oil palm sector’s productivity, though challenges such as mistrust, limited access to financial and other resources, and land tenure issues remain. Finally, Dr. Asante proposed a stronger collaboration between smallholders, estates, and the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA) to boost productivity in the oil palm sector.
Following the presentation, participants engaged the research team with thought-provoking questions, providing relevant insights and suggestions for policy and practice. Key highlights include a proposal by representatives of oil palm farmers and processers for the government to establish an oil palm board (like the COCOBOD for cocoa) to regulate and address the needs of the sector and maximize the potential of the value chain. Mr. Samuel Avaala, who doubles as the CEO of the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA) and the Managing Director of the Benso Oil Palm Processing Ltd. (BOPP), indicated that the establishment of the TCDA is aimed at resolving the challenges confronting the oil palm sector in Ghana. He bemoaned the inability of the TCDA to perform satisfactorily due to political apathy resulting from changing political regimes.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Dzanku summarised evidence from the study which it is hoped will help to guide policy and practice:
- There are high commercialisation rates, due to high levels of specialisation in non-food cash crops, but this leads to seasonal food insecurities.
- The relationship between farmers and oil palm processing companies is highly informal.
- The oil palm economy is highly differentiated, and this could be perpetuating inequality.
- There seems to be a breakdown of trust among participants in the oil palm economy.
The event was widely reported in the Ghanaian media by radio stations, online news sites, and newspapers. These include Ghanaweb (https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/Oil-palm-farmers-advocate-a-Board-for-sector-1208383), and Ghana News Agency (https://www.gna.org.gh/1.20398920).