Tree Aid Ghana, an international development non-governmental organisation which focuses on working with people in the Sahel region in Africa to contribute to reduce poverty and the effects of climate change by growing trees, improving people’s incomes, and restoring and protecting land has on Thursday, 13th October, 2022 closed out phase 1 of their GRACE PROJECT in the West Gonja Municipality at a stakeholders meeting in Damongo.
In a welcome address, the Municipal Director of the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Peter Claver Anyeembey explained that, the Tree Aid grace project has been with them in the West Gonja Municipality for the past three years and that, they in the municipality have benefited a lot interms of capacity building for farmers in areas such as Bee keeping , cashew production, cashew processing into apple Jam, Juice and kebab which are income generation activities that has improved and benefited a lot of their farmers especially in the areas of the bee keeping component which had a lot of women actively involved.
The Agric Director also explained that the bee keeping has been one of the good things Tree Aid has done for farmers in the municipality.
He said, Tree Aid Ghana has also provided nursery facilities for three communities in the municipality which included soalepe, Sor No. 1 and laribanga where farmers had the oportunity to produce about 160,000 cashew seedlings on their own to supply to farmers to use for dry season farming.
On behalf of the Municipal Agric department, the Agric Director expressed gratitude to Tree Aid saying, the project has benefited a lot of farmers in the municipality and prayed that though Tree Aid is exiting, the will find another support to come back to support other farmers who are yet to benefit from their support.
He noted that, their data gathered has it that Tree Aid has entered about forty three ( 43 ) communities in West Gonja, an indication that Tree Aid has covered almost half of the communities in the municipality and must be applauded.
The country programmmes manager for Tree Aid, Mr. Jonathan Naaba in an interview with this source said, Tree Aid as an international development organization has operations in Ghana, mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Senegal and Burkina faso.
In Ghana, Tree Aid is working more in the 5 regions of Northern Ghana especially in the areas of Forest governance, Natural resources management, agroforestry, tree base and nutrition security, He added.
Mr. Jonathan explained that, under their GRACE PROJECT period, they have worked in the West Gonja municipality where about 43 communities were covered with the target of helping existing cashew farmers to improve on the yields of their existing cashew trees and has also helped other farmers to carry out other activities that can improve on their yields putting in place the best agronomic practices through which some 3,000 farmers registered as existing cashew farmers with additional 600 who are family members of the registered 3,000 farmers under what they termed as family farming project.
He further explained that under their GRACE PROJECT, farmers were given training equipments and tools for them to be able to do the best agronomic practices such as weeding, fertilization, bushfire control among others and has also linked farmers to the market to be able to sell in other to make money for themselves.
He disclosed that, the project has also helped farmers to learn how to make use of other cashew associated products like the cashew apple which usually goes waste adding that, farmers are now able to harvest and process the cashew apple into various forms like jam, kebab and apple juice for sale and consumption.
Mr. Jonathan mentioned that, they have facilitated an intercrop system where legumes are intercroped with young cashew trees to enable the youth and women get groundnut from the same farm where the cashew farmer is cultivating his/her trees in order for them to be able to process the groundnut into groundnut paste, groundnut oil and groundnut biscuits.
He also mentioned that other farmers under the GRACE PROJECT benefited from bee hives which included the integration of bee farming with cashew plantations where women and the youth received the hives and installed them under which activities they are able to increase the yields of cashew trees and at the same time enabling the farmers to harvest honey from the bees and that, the processes goes a long with a value chain establishment where the community members/farmers are supported to link up with buyers and other processors that will enable them sell their products to earn more money.
He also explained that through their GRACE PROJECT, some selected nursery workers in the West Gonja municipality are producing cashew seedlings, planting and supplying to their peer farmers so that the can also plant sustainably in a way that there will be readily available seedlings for every farmer to have easy access to them and subsequently use them.
He said the project is working strongly to improve on farm lands and so, farmers were given training on manure production so that they can produce manure in order to reduce the cost of production.
Among the things being done to help the community people in the West Gonja municipality, Mr. Jonathan said Tree Aid has set up a marketing information system ( MIS ) online through which farmers can have access to information on buyers and buyers also having information about producers in which way the two can connect , share information and negotiate prices when it comes to production and marketing.
During the GRACE PROJECT, Tree Aid collaborated with the Department of Agriculture, the Forestry commission, the police, fire service, the Municipal Assembly, Cecotaps, Arocha Ghana and many other institutions and has also built a cooperative structure for the farmers where the producer groups have started working in smaller groups and were aid with trainings to develop their enterprise plans to build a bigger cooperative union in the municipality to champion the course of all farmers and sign agreements with buyers and intern mobilize produce supply to the buyers.
Mr. Jonathan and his team together with the stakeholders later commissioned a Village tree enterprise shop for the West Gonja Municipal farmers cooperative union where farmers will sell and buy products such as Raw cashew nuts, Honey products, Legume products and for the purposes of Cashew apple processing.