How one John Deere tractor opened up more productive acreage for over 800 farmers and increased Ghana’s food supply.
Adiza Baba was 17 years old when she left her home in Nagani, a small village in the Northern Region of Ghana, to work in Accra as a “kayayei.” For five years she worked as a porter, carrying heavy loads on her head for shoppers in the city markets, to earn money to send back to her family. It was the arrival of a bright green John Deere tractor that welcomed Baba home again.
“Although the ‘kayayei’ business is risky and exposed us to the many hazards of city life, we had to endure it to earn some money to remit to our parents and family members who were not getting much from subsistence farming,” Baba said. “I returned home last year to participate in the outgrower scheme, and it proved to be very rewarding.”
Issahaku Bagum, a nucleus farmer in Gushegu, had acquired the tractor with financing from Sinapi Aba Savings and Loan (SASL) to provide mechanization services to outgrowers in Nagani and improve and increase yields of staple crops. Since 2008, Bagum had been producing and aggregating maize, rice, and soy from 70 smallholder farmer groups to supply processors in the south. As demand for crops grew, he looked to find a way to support the smallholder farmers and increase the number of acres cultivated. In 2015, with his new John Deere tractor, Bagum was finally able to offer ploughing services and step up the area’s production.
“Our location in a remote area made it difficult for us to access tractor services to prepare our fields on time for planting,” Bagum said. “This resulted in most farmers missing the farming seasons. The tractor has made it possible for me to provide the smallholders with services on credit, for payment with produce at harvest time.”
The USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project (USAID-FinGAP) was established to facilitate financing for agribusinesses working along the maize, rice, and soy value chains in Northern Ghana. Through a partnership developed by USAID-FinGAP between SASL, a USAID-FinGAP participating financial institution, and John Deere, a private agricultural equipment supplier, financing was made available to enterprises in the targeted value chains that wanted to purchase John Deere tractors or other John Deere farming equipment. Under the partnership, John Deere buys down the interest rate up to 4% on loans offered by SASL, making it easier to access funds and pay back the loans.
“We receive ploughing services, seed, and agro input on credit to farm on family land and repay with produce. The remainder is sold for income to take care of our families.”
– Adiza Baba, 22-year old farmer
With the addition of mechanization services, Bagum and his smallholder farmers increased the total acreage cultivated for maize, rice, and soy from 120 in the 2014 season to 200 the following year. In the 2016 farming season, Bagum’s services reached 40 more farmer groups, bringing the total to over 800 individual members.
“Before the tractor arrived, farming in Nagani was tedious and unattractive,” Iddirisu Abdulramani, leader of a 30-member smallholder farmers group, said. “We had to travel to the district capital to book tractor services ahead of the farming season, wait for our turn, and pay cash. Even then, the tractor operators disappointed us, making it difficult to plough our fields at the right time, let alone increase the acreage cultivated for additional yield and income.”
Abdulramani and his group members who used to plough an average of four acres manually each season now plough between 10 and 15 acres of land each. They intend to continue using the John Deere tractor service and increase the acreage farmed in the coming years for aggregation and sale.
Equipment financing has helped many area families. At least twelve young women have left their “kayayei” jobs in the cities and returned to Nagani to earn a living from farming and to strengthen food security in their country. To them we say, welcome home.