The President of the Federation of Associations of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE), Mr. Tony Sikpa has said that Ghana must make the cultivation of yam a priority to help sustain livelihoods and diversify farmer earnings.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Alliances for Action Women and Trade Roundtable Programme in Accra, Mr Sikpa, also the Chairman of the Yam Development Council, said the yam project aimed to help transform the crops production value chain into an industry for national development.
The Alliances for Action project comprises the Ghana Roots Crops and Tubers Exporters Union, the Association of Ghana Industries, Fairtrade Africa, and Food Research Institute, which has introduced yam farmers to new opportunities for income such as growing yam as seed.
Mr Sikpa said the strategy sought diversification and value addition to yam by leveraging extensively on research and extension support to improve the livelihood of farmers, especially women.
“The whole idea is to give yam farmers, especially women, new sources of income,” he said.
Mr Sikpa said the yam strategy aimed to increase the volume of yam produced, improve the quality and diversify the market.
“We want to grow the yam sector just like cocoa to feed industry aside creating a source of income for farmers. By this, we will bring more people into the industry and to move the country forward.
“With this project, we are showing farmers that if you want to grow yam, then grow quality to attract bigger and choicer markets,” he said.
He said the methodology being used to boost yam production could be used to boost production of other crops such as shea nuts, cashew, pineapple and papaya to give farmers sustainable and different stream of income.
Mr Sikpa said the strategy would be used to position yam as an input for the industry adding “we should not just see yam as a food for the table. Yam can be used for different types of products including wine, in pharmaceuticals, bread, and spaghetti.
“These are the ways we want to project yam so that we create a bigger demand for yam, and researchers would have to produce different varieties to suit the different needs of people. We will then be making yam as an industrial crop and create a bigger demand for it,” he added.
Dr Antonio Lopez, the Roots and Tubers Expert, said the strategy adopted a participatory approach to implement and evaluate the whole process.
He said the strategy provided a road map, priorities and areas for investment/resource allocation, and how to assess the progress made.