The Africa RISING project recently trained members of 21 farmers’ groups (from 21 communities) in Ghana on how to put in place and apply collective agreements for sharing maize shelling machines. The training sessions, which were held 13–19 August 2019, are part of the project’s efforts to promote agricultural mechanization among smallholders in the region.
‘During the 2016/17 cropping season, the Africa RISING research team introduced two types of small-scale maize shelling machines to the farmers. These were the diesel operated and electrically operated machines. We assessed the economic benefits of the two machine types and found that they increase labour efficiency among smallholders and save costs. Farmers can save up to 36 hours per tonne of maize shelled if they use the shelling machines,’ explains Africa RISING West Africa Project economist, Bekele Kotu.
‘Through the training, Africa RISING is mentoring farmers’ groups on how to effectively manage these shared maize shellers for the benefit of everybody in the community and improved livelihoods for all,’ he adds.
The tradition of sharing tools, seeds and infrastructure is well established in smallholder farmer communities in most parts of Africa. But the reality of farmer group dynamics, rationale for sharing, repair and maintenance often can, if not handled in an open and honest manner, derail group aspirations.
As part of the mentoring process for the farmers’ groups, Africa RISING has set some minimum requirements for the groups receiving the shelling machines. These include the groups having a formal constitution, contributing at least 25% of the machines estimated market value (about GH₵800 (USD148), ensuring gender balance in leadership, and linkage to local artisans who may provide professional support such as maintenance, adaptation and repair services if required.
Importantly, the constitution/guidelines for the groups seek to ensure the participation of all the members to ensure inclusivity as well as incorporation of diverse views and ownership. The group constitution spells out the rules and principles to govern the use of the machines. Key sections of the draft constitutions developed by the groups included basic information about the association, membership requirements, leadership of the association, meetings and decisions-making processes, maize shelling services, financial services (optional), member contributions, management of the shelling machine, financial management and procedures for amending the constitution.
What the farmers representatives said about the training