Yam Improvement for Processing (YIP) Ghana
From December 2013 to March 2014, Sahel Capital Partners & Advisory completed a study of the yam value chain in Ghana with a focus on processing activities, in order to identify some robust and sustainable intervention ideas to accelerate yam processing for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation team to consider.
Ghana is the world’s second largest yam producer and 3rd largest yam exporter, behind China and Mexico1. In the production regions, yam serves as important cash and food crop for smallholder farmers and their families, with distinctions linked to the variety of yam and seasonality. As the second most important root and tuber crop in Ghana, by production and consumption2, yam is a male predominated crop. With a one-year production cycle, and limited storage technology, yam is typically available from July to February, and out of season for 3-4 months within the year. White yam (especially Pona) is the most preferred yam variety for consumption and processing. However, it is expensive and water yam appears to be cost-effective and available during the off season, but it is often viewed as inferior. Sadly, due to a range of challenges including harvest and post-harvest handling losses, 10-40% of yam go to waste. High costs of inputs and transportation make yam relatively expensive, especially during the lean season, with price increases as high as 200%. The value chain economics reveals that most of the margin on fresh yam goes to the middlemen and wholesalers. Demand for and consumption of yam is relatively low, with the average Ghanaian preferring cassava fufu to yam fufu. This reality translates into minimal informal processing of yams, largely linked to damaged yam from the farms which are processed into yam flakes, amala. In addition, there are only 5-6 active yam processors in the formal Ghanaian landscape. They process yam into pounded yam flour, or very rarely, yam flour for amala3, based on demand from other West Africans and Asians residing in Ghana, North America, and Europe. Sadly, these processors continue to struggle for survival with limited local access to affordable short term and expansion financing options and rising operating costs.