ACDI/VOCA Volunteer Helps Mango Farmers Improve Productivity
Mango growers in southern Ghana with ACDI/VOCA Volunteer David Ringuette (center), wearing gifts he received during their last session
Ghana may be most famous for its gold, but, I recently visited Techiman in southern Ghana to help farmers produce a renewable commodity: mangos. I had the opportunity to work with 30 mango growers there. Now on my 10th ACDI/VOCA volunteer assignment for the USAID-funded West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, I can safely say that this group was the most enthusiastic I’ve encountered.
On most days, our schedule started with three hours of technical training in pest control, pruning, nutrition, or grafting. Then I headed out to assess the farmers’ orchards. With no time to stop for lunch, I ate snacks throughout the day for energy and usually returned to the hotel by 5 p.m.
Most of the farmers avoided pruning their trees. Because of this, their branches had begun to intertwine, preventing more mangos from growing. It was difficult to convince the group of the advantages of pruning. So instead, I pruned a tree for them in the hope that they would see for themselves the results at next year’s harvest. However, once they saw my demonstration, they decided they would start pruning their orchards a little at a time.
Before we visited the orchards, I always inquired how long of a walk it was. The answer was always 15 minutes. But only one walk took 15 minutes; most of them took an hour. I enjoyed the exercise though, and the millet beer that many farmers offered as refreshment upon arrival.
During my days off, I visited a monkey sanctuary and made fufu, a Ghanaian dish of cassava and plantain, with a farmer and their family. They raved about the quality of my fufu, but I think they were being generous. It was decent enough that they consumed it all. Then again, they may have been very hungry.
I believe the future of agriculture in Ghana is green and bright. Industrious farmers, who showed a strong desire to learn and innovate, made volunteering a pleasure for me. The Ghanaian people I met were friendly and wanted to ensure that you, the visitor, were safe and happy. I hope to return to the country soon.