A Ghanaian investor has taken over the Aveyime Rice Project in the Central Tongu District in the Volta Region, with a promise to turn things around.
The investor, Christian Kpodo, and his company, Chrispod Farms Limited (CFL), will be the third entity to manage the project which has the potential to produce over 800,000 tonnes of rice a year, saving the nation almost $600 million in rice imports.
The new attempt to revive the project comes after previous management by US entity- Prairie Texas Incorporated (PTI) with the company Prairie Volta Limited (PVL) which ended in failure in 2016, and the Quality Grain Company which ended in a scandal, causing financial loss of almost $20 million the state and the jailing of four former top public officials in 2004.
At a sensitisation programme to introduce CFL to the communities within the catchment of the project, Mr Kpodo said as an indigene of the Volta Region, he decided to invest in the region to improve the livelihoods of people, as well as harness the resources of the region for sustainable development.
He said he always felt terrible whenever he visited the Volta Region and saw the level of destitution and poverty.
“When I look back and see how my people are suffering, with no jobs but we have such vast lands with nothing going on, I feel very sad.
After investing in other places, we have to come together and build this region,” he said.
Mr Kpodo said CFL intended to augment its production with an outgrower scheme to make the people have a sense of ownership of the project.
He said the previous policy of the company managing the project, planting and harvesting all the rice was one of the reasons the project did not succeed.
“We have to engage the people for them to also become shareholders in the project.
When they are involved as shareholders they will have a positive attitude towards the project and do everything to help it succeed,” he said.
According to him, as part of plans to materialise the outgrower system, CFL will open a training centre to train the people on the right farming techniques to help them become effective rice farmers.
“We also intend to employ more of the locals. If we involve them, they will not allow any saboteur to destroy this project,” he said.
The sensitisation programme, organised by Central Tongu District Assembly, was held at the site of the project near Bakpa Kebenu last Thursday.
On when the project would commence, Mr Kpodo said currently CFL was working on the technical aspect of the project to ensure that the irrigation canals, machinery, the fields and others were ready for a smooth take-off.
He, however, called on the government to support the project by streamlining the access to fertilisers and other machinery and inputs.
“The government must also limit the importation of rice so that rice growers across the country will have access to market and grow this economy,” he added.
The District Chief Executive of Central Tongu, Thomas Moore Zonyrah, said the coming of the new investor was a sign of relief for the district and its people due to the huge potential of the project.
He said the strategy by the new investor to employ the outgrower scheme would be a game-changer which hopefully would ensure that the district, the people and the entire country derived maximum benefit from the project.
“Our expectation is that the investor would encourage local participation in the project.
We also want the project to provide jobs and build people to become entrepreneurs and to help develop the district,” he added.
The Volta Regional Director of Agriculture, William Dzamefe, said despite the history of the project, many lessons had been learnt which could guide the current project to become a success.
“One main challenge that bedevilled the previous investors was their failure to take into consideration the cultural background of the people.
The current arrangement is that the investor should work hand in hand with the people,” he said.
For his part, the Mankrado of Bakpa, Togbui Kofi Tosu, said it was his prayer that the project would be sustained to provide opportunities for the people.
He called on the people of the district to support the investor to realise his vision of making the project a success.
Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org