Ghana becomes first country to launch yam strategy

11 October 2013
ITC News
The West African country’s national yam strategy aims to improve livelihoods of workers in the sector, inspire other countries to do the same

Ghana has taken a major step ahead of other yam-producing nations with the launch of its yam-sector development strategy. This initiative comes on the heels of the first Global Yam Conference held in Accra from 3–6 October.

The national strategy, which has been developed with the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC), puts yam in the spotlight as a key crop to help Ghana reduce poverty, enhance food security and raise the incomes of people working in the sector. The strategy targets five focus areas: increasing fresh yam exports, developing a market for yam by-products and ingredients, reinforcing domestic industry competitiveness, promoting women-led yam businesses and increasing incomes to ensure food security.

‘The strategy envisions making Ghana the leading source of premium quality yam products with global penetration,’ said Clement Kofi Humado, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, at the inauguration of the strategy in Accra on 8 October. ‘One of the objectives of the strategy is to develop commercially-driven research and development, as well as capacity building in [the] yam value chain.’

Yam receives ‘the right attention’

The economic value of the yam industry in Ghana has grown rapidly in recent years, with foreign exchange earnings ranking third among non-traditional export commodities from 2010 to 2012. Demand for yam in both fresh and processed forms is increasing in markets abroad and domestically.

The yam strategy not only addresses food security, but identifies ways for the food-processing industry to add value to yam crops. It provides a holistic approach to sector development by considering both the economic and social value of yam.

Yam is a staple in the diet of Ghanaians and other West Africans, who boil, fry and roast the tuber. It can also be used in products such as ice cream, pasta, high-quality flour, beer, wine and cosmetics. Its starch can replace modified starches in industrial processes.

‘Despite the contribution of yam, the crop has not been given the right attention. This is what this strategy aims to correct,’ said Anthony Sikpa, Chairman of the Ghana Yam Strategy Committee.

All stakeholders represented

The strategy is a private sector-led initiative that started last year, with technical support and process facilitation provided by ITC and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

‘The methodology used combines IITA’s experience in agriculture research-and-development with ITC’s practice of participatory mechanisms and market-led planning for policy, enterprise and sector development,’ said Hernan Manson, ITC Adviser for Value Chain Development, and Antonio Lopez-Montes, IITA Yam Breeder. ‘Country ownership and leadership have been ensured through a private-public platform.’

The strategy is supported by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry for Food and Agriculture, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

The platform includes approximately 200 stakeholders from the private sector, support institutions, commercial and development banks, research centres, academia and government ministries.