Friday, February 25, 2011

The Fruits of Aid

A new example of how foreign aid can help and improve local economies in developing countries comes from Ghana. ADRA, faith-based NGO, funded and supported by USAID conceived, designed, implemented and drove to success a project to stimulate fruit tree farming among local smallholders. This project has gone on from 1997 to 2006, and today, five years later, its success is glaring.

Starting with 1-3 acre plots assigned to almost 5,500 farmers in the region, now a buoyant and completely self-sufficient fruit based economy provides local markets, processing plants and even export companies with mangoes, pineapples and oranges. Some of the farmers have expanded from a couple of acres to several dozens, and the whole farming community is organized into associations so they can sell more effectively their products. The whole region has seen itself revitalized and today it contributes to Ghana's economy. Families and smallholders have assumed a more active role in the economic growth, and the increasing job opportunities mean that agriculture is an attractive option for unemployed people, thus decreasing the exodus to cities or other countries, especially of young people. Furthermore, the smallholders associations have been completely integrated in the value chain, becoming a basic part of it. Products elaborated with their fruits can be purchased in UK, France, the Netherlands or Italy.

Long-term commitment, close monitoring of the project year after year, steady funding, cautious planning and organization, close ties with local communities or good relations with political and economic powers of the country are among the keys to achieve success in development efforts like this one. Development is a continuous fight that requires years and hard work. But stories like the success of Ghana's smallholders make the fruits of the struggle against poverty as sweet as they can be.

- David Nebreda