• Announcement
28. May 2024

The Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) traveled to Ghana with students from four German universities. Company visits, a university workshop and an exchange with GIZ Ghana were on the agenda to familiarize the group with the challenges and opportunities at the beginning of agricultural supply chains.

An article by Vera Heyes-Johannsen

Orange mango pieces glow on large trays. They have just spent many hours in the drying oven and now it's time to cut, sort and pack them. A group of 17 students are watching all these processing steps with interest. They have travelled to Ghana for eight days with the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) to learn about the beginning of agricultural supply chains. Dried fruit is on the programme today and, carefully clad in protective clothing, the students are allowed to get to know HPW Fresh & Dry Ltd. as the largest producer of naturally dried mangoes, pineapples and coconuts in Africa. The company processes over 20,000 tons of fresh fruit in Ghana every year, exports 2,400 tons of dried fruit and employs more than 1,000 people. In a detailed discussion with the management, the group learns about the biogas and solar plant, water treatment and other sustainability activities, as well as the challenges the industry is facing. 

The afternoon continues with dried fruit: Yvaya Farm produces dried tropical fruit on a much smaller scale, but with a great deal of commitment and entrepreneurial spirit. The mango season is also making itself felt here: Fresh mangoes are loaded from the lorry at full speed and prepared for drying. The company sees itself as a young, dynamic company with women in management positions and stands for climate-friendly agricultural processing that creates sustainable jobs, increases income and protects the environment. The students are impressed by the dialogue with founders and employees and by the tour of the small company, which is based in a large residential building in Accra. The students buy many beautifully packaged bags of dried fruit as souvenirs from the tropical country, which is known for its variety of agricultural products. 

Cocoa - from bean to table

One of Ghana's best-known products is cocoa - the country is the world's second largest exporter of cocoa beans - and so a visit to a cocoa farm is also on the agenda. After a two-hour journey to the Eastern Region, the bus comes to a halt in a small village. Children wave cheerfully and curiously at the roadside before the INA group, clad in rubber boots, trudge along a narrow path through the tropical forest. The path leads past banana trees and cassava plants to cocoa trees. Green, yellow, purple and dark red fruits glow on the trees; delicate light-coloured blossoms grow on some of the trunks. Cocoa farmer Ocreco Ade tells the group about his work and the problems caused by climate change, which are causing the farmers' income to shrink - such as the decline in yields due to a lack of rainfall or too much rainfall. The students thoughtfully set off on their way back to see how cocoa is processed at the FairAfric chocolate factory: From the cocoa bean to the packaged bar, the company handles chocolate production in the country of origin and then delivers it to Europe. This keeps jobs and added value in the country of origin. A still unusual business model that the business administration and logistics students are looking at with great interest. 

Bananas and rice in the Volta region 

An early start is the order of the day for the journey to the Volta region: passing baboons sitting by the side of the road near a national park, the Volta region impresses with its lush green colours and plenty of water. To this day, the region benefits from its geographical location and the regulated flow of water from the Kpong Dam on the Volta River. The water from the dam is used to irrigate the Golden Exotics Ltd. banana farm, which the group visits. Conventional and organic bananas are grown on an area of 3,000 hectares and the bus ride to the administration building passes kilometre after kilometre of green perennials. The management talks openly about the challenges and opportunities as well as the resource-saving drip irrigation system from the nearby river. 20 lorries of bananas leave the farm every day on their way to the port, from where the fruit is shipped mainly to Europe. 

The fields of a nearby rice co-operative are also supplied with water from the Kpong dam. Rice is one of the staple foods in Africa, but a large proportion is imported from Asia. A GIZ project is now endeavouring to promote local rice production and thus create jobs. The MOVE project - Market Oriented Value Chains for Jobs and Growth in the ECOWAS region - is being implemented by GIZ together with other partners. Its aim is to improve income and employment in the ECOWAS region along market-orientated and resilient value chains. The students were able to find out how this is achieved in lively discussions with smallholder farmers in the rice fields and in a rice mill. 

Discussion and dance at the university

During a project day at Central University Ghana on the outskirts of Accra, Ghanaian students of agricultural sciences and other disciplines and the students from German universities were able to exchange ideas and learn from each other. After a tour of the extensive green campus and a warm, official welcome, the students set to work in groups. The lively discussions focus on the opportunities and challenges of rural development and global agricultural supply chains. The day, which is well organised by Central University, is rounded off with a joint lunch and various cultural performances: After the Ghanaian students had performed local dances, the INA group impressed with salsa dancing and, in the end, everyone from the dean to the students was happily shaking a leg. 

Regional studies with dinner and city tour

Also very cheerful were the dinners with Ghanaian families. Instead of being told rigid facts and figures about the country, the students visited local families. Together, they prepared typical local dishes like fufu, banku and jollof rice and talked about politics, football, schooling, family life and everyday habits in their respective home countries over dinner. A city tour of Accra with stops on colonialism and independence as well as an informative walk through  Jamestown district rounded off the programme. Last but not least, a visit to the country office of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provided a good insight into the tasks and challenges of German development cooperation. 

Raising awareness of sustainable agricultural supply chains

The students summarised their trip with many thoughtful notes, many photos and impressions, many contacts and conversations that they will take with them into their professional lives. The international group of students from the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, Kühne Logistics University Hamburg, the Centre for Sustainable Leadership Witten-Herdecke and Nuremberg Tech University are the decision-makers of tomorrow. The aim of sensitising them to sustainability in global supply chains and giving them food for thought for implementation in their future professional lives was certainly achieved by this inspiring trip. 

Dancing at Central University © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Rice cultivation in the Volta Region © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Reis mill © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Rice project in the Volta Region © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Visiting a rice cooperative © Felix Hirschberg
Banana plantation © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Growing bananas © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Visit at the Yvaya Farm © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Visit at HPW Fresh & Dry © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Dried mangos © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Fresh mangos© GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
The chocolate factory of FairAfric in Suhum © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Cocoa fruit © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Kakao blossom © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial © Leila Mehulic
At Central University © Central University
Prof Jumah welcomes group at Central University © GIZ / Vera Heyes-Johannsen
Workshop with students at Central University © Central University