Ghana Becomes First Country To Launch National Yam Strategy
Ghana has taken a major step ahead of other yam-producing nations with the launch of a strategy for the development of the yam industry from farm to market. This follows the global conference on yams held in Accra on 3-6 October and ongoing strategic development for the sector.
The national yam strategy puts yam in the spotlight as a key crop to help Ghana fight poverty, enhance food security, and improve the livelihoods and income of women and men engaged in the yam sector.
‘The strategy envisions making Ghana the leading source of premium quality yam products with global penetration and contributing to an improved Ghanaian economy and livelihoods,’ says the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan.
‘One of the objectives of the strategy is to develop commercially-driven research and development as well as capacity building in yam value chain,’ he added at the inauguration of the strategy in Accra on Tuesday, 08 October 2013.
The economic value of the yam industry in Ghana has grown quite rapidly in recent years, with its foreign exchange earnings shooting up to the third position among the non-traditional export commodities in the period 2010 to 2012. Demand for yam in both fresh and processed forms is increasing in new markets abroad and domestically. The industry faces tremendous opportunities as well as challenges and requires support policies, private sector investment, and to become organized as a whole value chain.
The Ghana Yam Strategy is a bottom-up policy process that started in 2012. It is a private sector-led road map championed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture with the support of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) provided technical support and process facilitation.
‘Despite the contribution of yam, the crop has not been given the right attention. This is what this strategy aims to correct,’ says Mr Anthony Sikpa, Chairman of the Ghana Yam Strategy Committee.
‘With this strategy not only will yam be given attention, but it will also provide opportunities for all stakeholders in the yam sector,’ he added.
IITA Director for Western Africa, Dr Robert Asiedu commended Ghana for taking the lead in developing a strategy for the tuber crop.
‘We also encourage other countries to emulate Ghana, by developing similar strategies that give clear direction on how to make the crop work for the poor and improve their economies,’ Dr Asiedu added.
Indigenous to Africa, yam is a major staple contributing to food security and incomes, and also plays a significant role in the culture of the people.
The Strategy has been designed and developed to provide a holistic approach to sector development by considering both the economic and social value of yam in Ghana. ‘The methodology used combines IITA’s experience in agriculture research-and-development with ITC’s practice of participatory mechanisms and market-led planning for policy, enterprise, and sector development,’ said Hernan Manson, ITC Adviser for Value Chain Development, and Antonio Lopez-Montes, IITA Yam Breeder.
Country ownership and leadership have been ensured through a private-public platform in charge of building partnerships and articulating support for implementation,’ they added.
The platform includes approximately 200 stakeholders from the private sector, representing all areas of the industry, and support institutions (Ghana Standards Authority, Ghana Export Promotion Authority, Export Development and Agriculture Investment Fund, and National Development Planning Commission), commercial and development banks, research centers (CSIR, etc.), academia, and key ministries such as Trade, Agriculture, Finance, and Women and Children.
The Yam Sector Strategy aims at creating business and industry development with social impact while ensuring food security. It is based on five milestones:
Increasing fresh yam exports;
Developing a market for yam by-products and ingredients;
Reinforcing domestic industry competitiveness;
Promoting women-led yam business;
Increasing income from yam and ensuring food security.
Perlin Gunesoglu, Chairperson for the Turkish Ghanaian Business Council for DeIk (the Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Board), observed that the strategy provided a platform for transforming the yam sector into a vibrant industry beyond but not excluding food security.
According to her, ‘The work being done in Ghana for yam is very valuable and can serve as an example for other countries trying to develop their sector looking at commercial as well as social objectives.’
Pelin pointed out that apart from yam as food, the crop can also be used in many different industries including food, paper, textiles, and adhesives, through value addition.
But to achieve a high level of value addition, she emphasized the need for support from the government on each step of the strategy, starting with farming and collection of yam genetic resources.
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