Under an unfolding agricultural programme, Ghana’s Upper East and the other regions in the North will be benefitting from a major scheme intended to create wealth and integrate the economies of Ghana and Burkina Faso in a remarkable way.
When later this year the project is inaugurated in Ouagadougou under President Blaise Compaore, ECOWAS will be taking the first major steps in integrating its peoples and cultures through agriculture, which is really the peoples economic activity employing over 60% of the population. Considered against the fact that over 70% of Ghana’s population belong to the informal sector, the impact is expected to be profound.
The economic crop in the centre of the novel arrangement is tomato, Burkina Faso magic economic crop, which incidentally is also the leading cash crop in the Tono, Vea, Pwalugu irrigation sites in the Upper East of Ghana.
Documents in the possession of the New Crusading GUIDE reveal that as part of the economic integration process, Burkina Faso is to share with Ghana best practices in agriculture in enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries. Ghana already shares the convenience of a Trade Joint Commission, which is a vehicle in coordinating systems that will enhance bilateral trade.
Ghana and Burkina Faso’s Ministries of Trade and Agriculture have been active in putting notes together and empowering the informal sector in pushing the agenda for a framework that will be underpinning this new face and phase of bilateral trade between Burkina Faso and Ghana, using standards in packaging, pricing, marketing and financial systems.
The Ghana Mission in Ouagadougou and the Burkina Faso Parliament, personified in the influential Fatoumata Diendere-Diallo, former Mayor of Ouagadougou, also played massive roles in initiating the framework and systems. Indeed, the first lines of the proposal were written in the living room of Fatoumata Diendere-Diallo, during a meeting between Ghana and Burkina Faso to discuss the nation’s turbulent and, sometimes, crime-riddled tomato industry.
Fifteen years ago, Burkina Faso imported tomatoes from Ghana – in the Upper East. Today, able-bodied men and women pick the fruit and vegetable from farm gates in Burkina Faso during harvest season from December to May, whilst others act as scouts for traders from Ghana who are in search of tomatoes to buy – whilst in their own backyard and irrigation sites, the productive population in agriculture is aged.
When these able-bodied men from Navrongo, Chiana-Paga and Bolgatanga are not employed on farm gates in Burkina Faso, they are on mission as foot soldiers for political parties – because, according to them, agriculture does not pay. Indeed, they had seen over the years, banks drag their parents to the courts for reneging on loans they had contracted from the banks to produce vegetables.
Poor yield and market occasioned by lack of extension facilities and best practices have reduced agriculture in the Upper East in Northern Ghana to crass drudgery. Worse still, producer-trader relationship, a key ingredient in agro-business, had worsened over the years – heightened by the fact that traders down-South, for profit reasons, skip Upper East farmers and move into Burkina Faso to import the vegetable.
Matched against the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s efforts at revamping the Pwalugu Tomato Factory to support marketing of tomatoes in the Upper East, Ghana may be blazing the trail for others in the ECOWAS sub-region to emulate in integrating peoples and economies in realizing the ECOWAS vision of expanding national economies beyond borders.
The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, mandated by Ghana’s Government to help accelerate, create wealth, and growth through agriculture and employment generation is expected to provide a massive and missing link, not only in moving back people up North and in bringing back lost populations now slaving in urban towns and cities in Ghana, but also creating industrialized zones for further enhancing trade and economic boom in the sub-region.
Challenges dogging the cross border trade, which warranted this intervention and turned curses into blessings, include traders from Ghana crediting tomatoes from Burkinabe producers and absconding; buying with fake CFA, and drivers from Ghana ignoring safety rules and engaging in hit-and-run practices.
Others include contraband activity, in which drivers sent marijuana across the borders onto farm gates for exchange for tomatoes and rape, and armed robbery attacks against traders, both on Burkinabe and Ghanaian highways.
The framework is based on research conducted by Washington-based food policy research institute, including MoFA scientists and researchers.