A $40,000 grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is paving the way for a Fort Valley State University professor to conduct research on strengthening the cowpea industry in northern Ghana.
Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, a FVSU associate professor of agricultural economics, wrote a grant in 2016 called, “Enhancing the value chain, market information systems and the role of small-scale farmers and women in the cowpea industry of the northern region of Ghana.” Dr. Xuanli Liu, a FVSU assistant professor of agricultural economics, and Dr. James Bukenya, professor of resource economics at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU), collaborated with Ibrahim on this project.
Summer 2017, Ibrahim traveled to Ghana and conducted research on the production of cowpeas for 10 days. Originally from northern Ghana, Ibrahim said not only did he assist farmers by first gathering information on the region’s cowpea production, he also introduced the people to FVSU.
Ibrahim said cowpeas, which are very similar to black-eyed peas and commonly grown in West Africa, are very nutritious and used for a lot of different dishes in Ghana. Ibrahim noted the men generally do the farming, and the women do the trade in the research area.
“It’s very specialized,” he explained. “The women are known as aggregators. They buy from different people from small villages and then take the products to a bigger city market. The men take over as wholesalers and then take the products to the capital city, Accra.”
Describing the process as informal, Ibrahim said he’s trying to make it more formal. Therefore, he’s collecting more information on the roles of the men and women.
Also, Ibrahim noted market women use a large bowl as a form of measurement for grains. Noticing that the price of corn was half that of cowpeas, he suggested to the farmers to stop cultivating corn and put all of their efforts into producing cowpeas.
Ibrahim said because feeding their family is top priority, corn is a staple food.
“They are not going to take a risk,” he said. “My hope is that they will learn how to manage their risk better if they understand that it is usually better to put their resources into something that is more productive and see it as a business, not just to feed their family.”
Moreover, Ibrahim developed a questionnaire for a focus group of farmers to get feedback on their background, agricultural production, commercialization of agricultural produce, organizational level and family livelihood. A collaborator in Ghana plans to administer the surveys by December.
To further gather information, Ibrahim visited Extension agents, a research center and various village markets to observe transactions. He also made a courtesy visit to the vice chancellor of the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana.
In summer 2018, Ibrahim will travel back to Ghana. His goal is to analyze the surveys and then present his final report to the FAS and the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association meeting next year.
Additionally, Ibrahim plans to use the data to conduct a seminar in Ghana for various stakeholders, farmers, nonprofit organizations, academia and Extension. For more information about the cowpea research project, contact Ibrahim at (478) 825-6815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.