Sustainable Agriculture through empowerment is key to increase food production especially in developing countries. Ghana is one of the leading palm oil producing countries – second in Africa and eighth in the world.
Figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture reveal total fresh fruit bunches produced in Ghana increased nine folds over five decades.
From a low of 0.18 million metric tonnes in 1960, it rose to 1.64 million metric tons in 2010.
An international consulting firm, MASDAR, which prepared a master plan for Oil Palm say production increased 14 folds over the same period.
It was up 21 million metric tons in 2010 from 2 million metric tonnes in 1960.
Ghana, however, continues to import palm oil in excess of 50, 000 metric tons.
There are fears the current supply deficit could hit over 100,000 tonnes in the years to come.
At Juaso, palm oil production provides employment for over 300 adults.
It is one of the local production hubs in the Ashanti Region.
Until now, the industry faced challenges, including lack of modern equipment which contributes to unwholesome products.
Like many other areas, production of palm oil is often characterized by lack of modern equipment and the skill to operate them.
Extracting oil from fresh fruit from the field in the form of scaly bunches can be cumbersome.
Due to funding constraints, local producers prefer manual plungers, which require a lot of energy to operate, to more expensive motorized ones.
A mix of fibre and palm nuts is then separated by hand, in small-scale operations, after which the sorted fibre is covered and allowed to heat.
Denkyemenasohene at Juaso, Nana Osei Boansi Kuffuor II, recounts the difficulty local palm oil producers have endured over the years.
“It was difficult for the women who were doing the palm oil because it was not conducive. It was hard. Sometimes when they have started the work, then it starts raining. When it rains, all that they have worked for would be destroyed. They were losing money,” said the Chief.
Sorting is usually reserved for the youth and elderly, perhaps, in a deliberate effort to help them earn some income.
It also provides employment for many pupils and students who are on vacation.
For several years, this production site, close to the local basic school, has accommodated many palm oil producers at Juaso.
Smoke billowing from the site disturbs over 300 pupils and their teachers, an issue which has attracted the attention of traditional authorities.
Thanks to MTN Ghana Foundation’s economic portfolio, local oil producers will have the opportunity to operate in a modern factory. The National Board for Small -Scale Industries is providing technical support.
Kosy Yankey, Acting Executive Director of National Board for Small -Scale Industries, said,”Our role in this is to build the capacity of women who own businesses in this sector, in the oil palm production and to ensure that they producing quality products so that they can have access to better markets.”
The NBSSI will provide technical and managerial training for beneficiaries, as part of the partnership.
“One of the things we are doing to support the women of Juaso in the oil palm production is to set up the factory where they would be able to better process, [and] to build their skills so that they have a business, managerial, book keeping…,” Kosy said.
This means, with modern equipment, producers, especially, women will get relief in the production process.
Senior Manager, Sustainability and Social Impact at MTN Ghana, Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, says the project will not only benefit women but also their families.
According to her, MTN Ghana will equip the factory with modern equipment to facilitate the work of beneficiaries into producing standardised products.
“As part of the project, we are providing them with equipments. Equipments that will help them process the palm oil, do the extraction, do the boiling and then do the packaging.
“We are also arranging with some partners to get them training -training into book keeping, into packaging, getting the palm oil to be standardized so that they can get approval,” she revealed.
For local oil producers, the gesture comes handy, as it will increase their capacity.