The following post was written by Reeta Roy, President & CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, and was published on The MasterCard Foundation blog on Wednesday, April 13, entitled “Financial Services and Diversification for Small-Holder Farmers.” Roy traveled to Ghana with Rewa Misra, Program Manager of Microfinance for The MasterCard Foundation, and Jannalee Anderson, National Director of Philanthropy for Opportunity Canada and a skydiver at the recent Jump for Opportunity event in Florida. The MasterCard Foundation is supporting a five-country program to provide 1.4 million people with savings services in rural areas in Africa. Read Roy’s original post on The MasterCard Foundation blog.
Bonsaaso, Ghana. – After a two-hour drive from Kumasi on dusty, rural off-roads, Jannalee, Rewa and I arrived in the heart of cocoa country. Despite the sweltering and beating heat (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celcius), we were cooled by a walk under the shade of lush, green cocoa trees.
Cocoa is a major export of Ghana and is mostly grown by farmers on small parcels of land, which have been handed down and subdivided through the generations. As a result, the trees are of an older variety and crop yields are usually insufficient to support needs of households.
Nana Owusu Achampong, the head of the group, explained that he has been planting cocoa for decades. According to Nana, one acre usually yields two and a half to three bags of cocoa (each bag weighs 64 kilos).
Through this project, Nana and his fellow farmers each received fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides for three acres of land–the equivalent of a $365 loan–to optimize their cocoa production. This package to the farmers also included a pair of rubber gloves, goggles and a respirator–health and safety tools that are part of good agricultural practices.
Now, the group’s trees have doubled their yields to nearly six bags of cocoa per acre, or 18 bags in total. Each farmer will repay the loan with interest (the equivalent of 3.5 bags based on cocoa prices). Nana also has a savings account with Opportunity International and uses his increased income to support the education and health needs of his family.
While Nana was briefing us his mobile phone rang. He laughed and said, “I bought four mobile phones for my children who are always doing complicated things with these devices!”
“Is this where your money is going?” we asked. He smiled and his eyes twinkled.
“I’ve already bought 750 palm trees to produce palm oil.” Palm is a cash crop that is used to produce cooking oil and soap. Nana is already diversifying his crops and sources of income.
He said, “When the price of cocoa is down, I’ll have palm oil!”