Farmers





Cocoa farmers form the base of the cocoa industry. According to Fairtrade.org there are in Ghana alone already 3.2 million farmers and workers on the fields. Almost all produced cocoa in the country is produced by around 865,000 smallholder farmers. [Fairtrade.org] Together with Farmerline, the minor group spoke with a lot of cocoa farmers from the LBC Adwumapa to get a great inside in the lives of farmers.

 

Field day

During our stay in Ghana we have visited several cocoa farms and spoke together with Farmerline and Adwumapa to approximately 50 farmers. As those farmers barely spoke English and were not able to write or read, Farmerline and the LBC functioned as interpreters.

We spoke with the farmers in six groups composed of seven to twelve people. These discussions were held to get insight in the lives of the farmers. Their needs and wishes help to understand the situation of a cocoa farmer. This information helps Farmerline in further developing the services provided. 

 

Struggles

According to the interviews with the farmers it became clear that farmers need information about several aspects of farming. Farmers struggle to correctly apply fertilisers on their cocoa trees. They also find it difficult to know when it is the best time to spray their crops with chemicals. They do not know where they can buy these chemicals and are not able to read the instructions on the labels. As the cocoa farmers lack the knowledge of the accurate prices of the necessary equipment, they can easily be cheated by sellers.

 

When insects infest the cocoa plantation, usually the farmers can identify the diseases and cure the trees with basic prescriptions. This is not always the case; sometimes the farmer is not able to recognise the maladies and do not know how to treat it exactly. They try some treatments which occasionally work, but often does not.

 

The Ministry of Agriculture has Agricultural Extension Officers (AEO) on the ground spread across the whole country. They can help farmers who are in need. According to the farmers, the AEOs are not always available due to the high demand compared to the number of officers. And more importantly, they are not for free. If a farmer wishes to have the AEO visit, the farmer should pay for the transport of the extension officer. Cocoa farmers cannot afford to pay these transport costs on a regular basis, which results in an officer visiting once in a long period of time.

 

Although the Ghanaian government promised to facilitate fertilisers to all cocoa farmers for free [Ghana News Agency, 28th May 2014], the farmers tell us that the fertilisers come too late or not at all. According to the cocoa farmers, only 10% of the farmers actually receive the promised fertilisers. 

 

Loans

By spending too much money on equipment, cocoa farmers face difficulties to pay for personal needs, such as: school fees for their children, health issues, funerals and expanding their business by purchasing new acres (see “Table 7. Emergency expances” on page <OV>).

 

Farmers requested help to learn how to save money and be able to anticipate on the above mentioned emergency expenses.

To find out the best way to help those farmers saving money, we need to know how much money they spend on emergencies. At the moment the cocoa farmers prefer to take loans from purchasing clerks, because the purchasing clerk does not ask an interest rate for the loan, while other sources ask an interest rate up to 100%. The relationship with them and the farmers is therefore rather good. This is also good for the purchasing clerk as mentioned in the LBC section. 

 

The maximum loan amount of loan a purchasing clerk will give to a farmer depends on the farmer’s expected yield. 

Topic

GH¢

Health issues (sickness)

300 – 1,000 

School fees

200 – 500 

Farm labour

450 (average)

Building projects

2,000

Land purchase

4,000

Funeral

1,000 – 2,000 

 

Emergency expances

 

Loans taken by cocoa farmers from purchasing clerks

 

Next to purchasing clerks, farmers also take loans from other sources like the bank (with interest) or family and friends. This, however, sometimes gives complicated situations. There was one female farmer who borrowed money from a friend of hers, but her cocoa yield was that year lower than she expected. Therefore she was not able to pay off her friend and is still in debt. She feels horrible to her friend, who is also having financial problems.

 

Mobile money

One of the ways to save money is mobile money. Mobile money is quite common in Ghana and is an alternative for people who do not have a savings account at the bank. Mobile money gives those people the opportunity to save smaller amounts of money. Mobile agents are active in the local areas where people with a mobile account can save, transfer and withdraw money using their mobile phone. Farmerline investigates if cocoa farmers are willing to participate in this saving method.

 

Most farmers have a mobile phone in their possession, their way of using is however different. Some only use it to call friends and family, while others use the calculator function, a few of the educated farmers send text messages or already use mobile money.

 

The opinions concerning mobile money are diverse. Some farmers like it and have already integrated it in their lives, others do not feel comfortable using it; they prefer to get the money from the purchasing clerk in cash. The mobile agents cannot provide large sums of money when a cocoa farmer needs it. Also there are no mobile agents in the local area at the moment.

 

Nevertheless, farmers indicate that certain aspects of mobile money have great benefits compared to their current situation. They can easily send money to their children who are at school, as well as receiving money from their grown up children who work in the cities. Moreover, the service works in non-banking hours and the cocoa farmers do not have to travel long distances to reach their capital. 

 

Mind set 

One of the things we noticed during the interviews is that the cocoa farmers felt used to the fact that they tried to get facilities for free. Whether it was equipment, machinery, fertilisers, pesticide or just plain cash. 

 

The farmers got used to the idea that third parties give things away for free to help them. We do not think that this is a sustainable way to help the farmers. In this scenario the cocoa farmers stay dependent on external sources. If one really wants to help them, one should look further than the current situation. Farmers have money, but cannot spend it twice. Farmers should be able to rely on themselves in anxious situations, instead of the hope that others will take care of them. For more detailed information, read 

 

NB: All information is deducted from the experiences from the farmers, which can be found in the appendix ‘minutes’..

CUSTOMER JOURNEY OF

FARMER ANTHONY 

To give the reader insight in the lives of farmers in Ghana, this is an interview with a vegetable farmer called Anthony. Although Anthony is not a cocoa farmer, it is very useful to know how the farming conditions are in Ghana. Anthony wakes up at four a.m. and goes to his farm. he shares the land with six other farmers. They all pay GH¢100 per month to use the land. Anthony also has three employees who earn GH¢300 per person each month. 

 

One of the favourite veggies of Anthony is lettuce. It grows all year long and takes only six weeks to grow. He also gets seeds to grow cabbage, green beans and celery from Chinese customers that buy it once they are harvested. 

 

When Anthony was young, he attended high school. He wanted to go to the university, but his father had an accident, so Anthony had to help him. Being
a farmer is good for the country Anthony thinks;
this is why he became a farmer. 

 

Most of the time Anthony is busy watering the fifteen plots of land he leases. The size of each plot is about 100 m2 (20m x 5m). Irrigation takes rather long at the moment. The plot is located on a slight slope. Therefore, water has to be pumped uphill. Anthony would like to have sprinklers to simplify this process and make the workload less intense. 

 

At the moment he and his co-farmers were in the trial phase of the services Farmerline offers. They get a weather forecast and market prices of the vegetables along with financial training. Both cost twelve cedi each per six months, but if Anthony decides to take both, he gets two cedis discount, making it a total of GH¢22. 

 

Anthony works in the early morning until one p.m., then it becomes to hot and he takes a break. At seven p.m. his working day is over. He goes home and spends two hours with his four children and his wife. At nine p.m., he goes to bed to sleep. 

 

Persona

With all the research the minor group has done, a persona was created, see “Figure 27. Persona farmers” on page <?>. A persona is a collection of interesting items about the certain person, so the needs of the farmers are clear.