Accra, Sept. 2, GNA - More than 50 rural farmers trained as food processing entrepreneurs under the tutelage of the Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA), Ghana, have pledged their commitment to take advantage of the export market in cassava, cashew and maize.
The farmers who were drawn from Greater Accra, Central, Eastern, Ashanti and Upper East regions received the training in a weeklong capacity building workshop in Accra.
They said having been provided with enough knowledge and skills on ways to process various foods and handle various equipment, they were going back with expectation that their products would be exported. ADRA is providing a loan of 30.5 million cedis and 5.5 million cedis each for the acquisition of cassava graters and corn mills respectively through the sponsorship of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Speaking at the closing ceremony on Thursday, Mr Samuel Asante Mensah, Country Director of ADRA, Ghana, said so far 150 rural farmers nationwide had been trained under a food security programme that sought to improve agricultural production and incomes of 30,000 farmers. He said this year the programme was spending 710 million cedis on the purchase of various food processing equipment including cashew crackers and roasting machines for the beneficiaries.
Mr Mensah entreated the farmers to take very good care of the machines and endeavour to repay their loans in time for others elsewhere to benefit from the programme.
"When food is processed, value is added and the consumer is offered a greater variety of choices from which to choose.
"The shelf life of the produce is prolonged thereby improving food availability and distribution as well as marketing opportunities for both the farmer and the processor."
Ms Mildred Taylor, ADRA Logistics Director, urged the farmers to observe the highest standards of hygiene and sanitation more especially when they were going into the processing of foods.
She said that would ultimately impact positively on the rest of the community and would improve their chances for sustained marketing for their products.
"Try to break into the export market. In this attempt hygiene and sanitation are very crucial."
She said small-scale processing set ups were doing a tremendous job in terms of value addition to agricultural products, but a lot of attention still needed to be given to processing centres with respect to hygiene and sanitation.
Ms Taylor called on environmental health institutions such as the Food and Drugs Board to be more proactive towards enforcing laws on hygiene and sanitation.
"If people who blatantly flout public health laws with impunity are dragged to court and are appropriately dealt with...the practice will subside," she said.
Mr Dickson Asomaning, the course prefect, expressed the farmers' gratitude to ADRA for the assistance saying; "We have been redeemed from the primitive way of business to a modern method which we believe is going to turn our lives and families around."
"We will do our best to ensure that whatever we have been taught is put to practice in order to increase our yields to enable us to export some."
Mr Asomaning appealed to ADRA to also assist them to put up the structures to enable them to put to practice what they had learnt as early as possible.