Increasing incomes of farmers

Organic and fair-trade exports from Africa




In Ghana the project supports two supply chains: 

  • Tropical fruit exporter WAD African Foods and its organic sugarloaf suppliers organized in the Ekumfi Atwia WAD Organic Farmers Association (EAWOFA);
  • The Volta Organic Mango Framers Association (VOMAGA) in the Volta Region.

In 2007 the project organized a workshop on business models for export of certified products. The workshop attracted representatives of organic farmer associations, exporters, researchers and NGOs (read the proceedings).

Ms Monney, senior officer of the Directorate of Crops Services, is project focal point for the Ministry of Agriculture. She took the initiative to set up an organic desk in the Ministry. She has since drafted a development plan for the organic sector in Ghana and together with the Ghana Organic Agriculture Network is now implementing a survey to assess supply and demand as a first step in the development of a local market.

Sugarloaf pineapples, green but ripe. Photo: C.E. Dankers, 2007.

Sugarloaf pineapple

In the Ekumfi district, located in the south of Ghana, sugarloaf pineapples are traditionally cultivated using an extensive system with long fallow periods. However, pressure on the land has led to shorter fallow periods and chemical inputs are now used by more and more farmers.

In the capital Accra, the sugarloaf pineapple from Ekumfi is valued for its refreshing taste. However, on the international market the sugarloaf variety is hardly sold as a fresh fruit because it stays green and consumers think they are not ripe. Therefore the sugarloaf variety is mainly used for fruit juice.

Given the green colour and its funny long shape it is remarkably that WAD African Foods has created its own market of loyal consumers in Switzerland. Although they were not labelled organic, the customers knew and trusted that the pineapples were cultivated without the use of pesticides. The farmers had more pineapples to sell, but to access a larger market labelling and therefore certification was necessary.

The project contracted Agro Eco who assisted WAD and EAWOFA to develop and implement an internal control system and the whole group was certified organic from 2007. The project also assisted WAD in recruiting a field officer and increasing its drying capacity. The success created a new problem: sometimes there were not enough pineapples. Therefore Agro Eco and the field officer worked with the farmers to develop a planting schedule so that production peaks would coincide with demand peaks and the number of certified farmers was increased from 23 to 40. 

The VOMAGA field officer shows a 4-year old mango tree that was pruned to obtain a better form. New branches have already grown out.
The VOMAGA field officer at a recently pruned mango tree. Photo: C.E. Dankers, 2007.

Mangoes for drying

In the Volta Region, around Juapong and Fojuko, mangoes were introduced in 1999 and farmers continued planting ever since. But local market prices are low. To be able to get certified and sell to organic and fair-trade exporters for higher prices, farmers formed the Volta Mango Growers Association (VOMAGA) in 2005.

However, a feasibility study by Agro Eco estimated that certification would be economically justified only from 2010 onwards, when more orchards would have matured and volumes increased. Another problem is that the area receives a lot of rain, and the quality of the mangoes suffers from high pest and disease incidence. Even though better organic practices have been introduced and the quality has improved remarkably, exports of fresh mangoes will remain problematic.

The Cooperative Department provided training to the VOMAGA executive committee, which has strengthened the association. With project funds VOMAGA was also able to recruit a field officer, who trained the farmers in organic practices and set up an internal control system. Agro Eco provided support to set up a collective marketing system. As a result, exporters of organic dried mangoes became interested and sales have gone up from almost nothing to 12 tonnes in 2008. They were inspected for the first time in December 2008 as a producer group of WAD but are looking forward to become an independent organic association

Related FAO web pages