Ghana: Banishing bushweight to help farmers earn fair prices (World Food Programme)

| June 6, 2016

Download this story

Maize farmers in Ghana generally have little say in the prices they receive. A farmer selling a heaped “size 5” bag of maize—weighing 150 to 170 kilograms—is likely to receive payment for only 100 kilograms.

In Ghana, farmers sell their crops using an informal system called “bushweight,” and can lose up to 40 per cent of the value of their harvested maize.

But a recent change to introduce standardized bags, standardized prices, and weigh scales in some markets promises to help farmers earn a reliable income.

Fati Mahama is a small-scale maize farmer. She was unaware that she was losing money with the bushweight system until she began selling to the World Food Programme, or WFP. The WFP buys maize from small-scale farmers, but uses weigh scales to ensure that farmers are paid fairly.

Mrs. Mahama says: “The weighing scales have helped us make more money…. When I weighed my six heaped bags, I ended up with nine maxi-bags [bags which hold 100 kilograms], which I re-bagged into 18 mini-bags [which hold 50 kilograms] and sold to WFP for more money.”

Even knowing the market price, farmers don’t have much bargaining power. But in some areas, they have been taking action collectively by working in farmers’ organizations.

In the municipality of Ejura-Sekyedumasi in Ashanti region, farmers’ organizations have petitioned local authorities to enforce standardized pricing in the maize market.

Local authorities discussed the issue with farmers, traders, and transporters. They discovered that the previous introduction of weigh scales had been unsuccessful because it was expensive to keep the scales calibrated and in good working condition.

So officials chose to make it mandatory to use “size 4” bags, which hold 110 kilograms, rather than 150 to 170 kilograms.

Radio stations, including some who have collaborated with Farm Radio International, have been central players in making this change. On call-in shows, broadcasters provided an opportunity for small-scale farmers and traders to explain their concerns with the maize market. Broadcasters have also ensured that everyone is aware of the changes associated with the introduction of the standard “size 4” bag.

Traders initially resisted standardized bags because of the extra effort involved in re-bagging maize into smaller sacks. But the change means more transparency and trust between farmers and buyers.

Farmers are now earning the full value of their products, and are better able to predict their income for the season.

To read the full article on which this story is based, Banishing bushweight: Helping small-scale farmers earn fair prices, go to: