ACDI/VOCA Ghana Farmer-To-Farmer Program: Field Report by Dennis L. Sharpe

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. HQ Assignment Number: 0740626
2. Assignment Country: Ghana (West Africa)
3. Name of Host Organization: Jemaric Farmers Association (JFA)
4. Dates of Assignment: September 16-October 1, 2016

5. Summary of Scope of Work Objectives:

The leaders of JFA requested the assistance of a F2F volunteer to train them on group dynamics, record keeping and effective management of an association. In addition, members of the association also face challenges with record keeping and team work. The original scope (training the leaders of JFA) was expanded to also include training those members of JFA who also wished to participate in the training.
6. Recommendation Summary: See attached recommendations.

II. BODY OF THE REPORT
1. Host organization description: The Jemaric Farmers Association (JFA) is an association of farmers located at Peki in the Volta Region of Ghana. The group was established and registered with the Registrar Generals Department in 2011. Members of the group cultivate mainly maize under rain-fed conditions and each member cultivates an average of two acres of farmland. Other members also cultivate cassava as an additional crop. JFA currently has 45 members, including 7 executives, three of whom are women. JFA also owns a 12-acre communal farm which is used for generating income to support the group’s activities. The leaders of JFA are requesting the assistance of a F2F volunteer to train them on group dynamics, record keeping and effective management of an association. This is because they have very limited skills in the effective management of an association. In addition to the above challenge, members of the association also face challenges with record keeping and team work. This assignment will enable the leaders to streamline their operations to meet the needs of its members.

2. Prioritized list of issues/problems and recommendations
a) Issues/problems: The Jemaric Farmers Association (JFA), an association of maize farmers in the Volta Region of Ghana, faces challenges on how to manage their association effectively as well as keeping records of their operations. The leaders face management challenges related to their roles and responsibilities and have difficulty coordinating the activities of the group. Membership of the group has dropped from 53 to 45 members. The members are also not paying their dues regularly and participation of members in the group’s activities has reduced. JFA plans to strengthen the association and its operations and desires to increase membership.

b) Recommendations:
i. Issue # 1: How to effectively manage the association.
Recommendation: How to effectively manage the association will by addressed by: establishing formal business plans for 2017 and 2018.
Proposed Action: By1/1/17, a committee (appointed by the Executive Committee) will present (for review and approval) a 2017 Business Plan & Operating Budget (hereafter referred to as the 2017 PLAN). Upon approval, the 2017 PLAN will be initiated within thirty days. By 4/1/17, the Executive Committee will present the 2017 PLAN to the membership for review and discussion. By 7/1/17, the Executive Committee will review the 2017 PLAN for review and appropriate action. By November 1st, a committee (appointed by the Executive Committee) will present (to the Executive Committee for review and approval) a Year 2018 Business Plan & Operating Budget (hereafter referred to as the 2018 PLAN). Upon approval, the 2018 PLAN will be initiated within thirty days. By1/1/18, the Executive Committee will review (for discussion) the 2017 Plan.
Anticipated Impact: JFA’s management will be able to effectively manage the association.

ii. Issue # 2: How to effectively manage the records of the association.
Recommendation: How to effectively manage the records of the association will be addressed by creating; installing; and activating a Formal Records Policy.

Proposed Action: Records management is the professional practice of managing the records of an organization throughout their life cycle, from the time they are created to their eventual disposal. By 1/1/17, the Secretary will present (for the board’s approval) a formal records policy. Upon approval, the policy will immediately go into effect.

Anticipated Impact: JFA’s management will be able to store, retrieve and view all of the cooperative’s records (without having to rely on memory). Organizational memory can only be applied if it can be accessed. To make use of it, the organization must have effective retrieval systems for their good memory recall among the individuals that make up the organization.

iii. Issue # 3: Leaders management challenges related to their roles and responsibilities.
Recommendation: Leaders management challenges related to their roles and responsibilities will be addressed via written job descriptions so that each leader knows what is expected of him/her.
Proposed Action: To help convey who does what regarding the board. By 11/1/16, said job descriptions will be given to each member of management. Subsequently, a written job description will be given to each member of management as soon as he/she assumes office.
Anticipated Impact: A clear written set of board job descriptions, will result in less communication and more corporate efficiency.

iv. Issue # 4: Difficulty in coordinating the activities of the group.
Recommendation: Difficulty coordinating the activities of the group will be addressed by using the Open Action Item List document for all open actions. One of the first indicators that an organization is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.).

Proposed Action: Beginning 10/1/16 (on a monthly basis) all actions/ projects will be entered on an Open Action Item List. On at least a monthly basis, the list will be updated and reviewed by the Executive Committee. All open action items will be reviewed (including: who is responsible to complete the action; when the action should be completed and any associated comments about the action).
Anticipated Impact: Effective coordination of the activities of the group.

v. Issue # 5: Decreasing membership.

Recommendation: Decreasing membership will be addressed by conducting (on at least an annual basis) a member satisfaction survey to determine why members are leaving the association.

Proposed Action: By 8/1/17 the Executive Committee will submit to the membership, a Member Satisfaction Survey (hereafter referred to as the SURVEY). The purpose of the SURVEY will be to determine if the membership views the association in a more favorable light than the 2016 survey. By 9/1/17, the Executive Committee will submit the SURVEY results to the membership for review and discussion. By 10/1/17, the Executive Committee will review the SURVEY and take action to resolve any member dissatisfaction. Within 30 days of taking action, the Secretary of the Executive Committee will communicate the Executive Committee’s action(s) to the membership.

Anticipated Impact: Increased membership.

vi. Issue # 6: Members are not paying their dues regularly.
Recommendation: Members who not paying their dues regularly will be addressed by contacting those members and explaining the importance of regularly paying their dues.

Proposed Action: By 12/1/16 the Executive Committee will establish a Membership Committee. The committee’s mission will be to contact those members who are not regularly paying. By 3/1/17, the committee will report its findings and recommendation(s) to the Executive Committee (for review and approval). By 5/1/17, the Executive Committee will either approve or deny the Membership Committee’s recommendation(s).

Anticipated Impact: Members who were not paying their dues regularly, will do so.

vii. Issue # 7: Increasing member participation.

Recommendation: Increasing member participation will be addressed by offering ways for the members to participate in association activities.

Proposed Action: By 1/1/17, the Executive Committee will establish that there will be 6 scheduled membership meetings per year (4 quarterly meetings; 1 annual meeting and 1 board/member training meeting –facilitated by a consultant from ACDI/VOCA).

Anticipated Impact: Increased member participation in association activities will result in increased member satisfaction; increased membership; and increased association income.

3. Achievement of Expected Products and Results (present and short term):
a. Short term:
· Leaders will understand their individual roles and responsibilities within the association
· Increased participation of members in activities organized by leaders of the association
· Improved operations of the farmers
b. Long term:
· JFA leaders will be able to carry out their roles effectively
· JFA leaders will develop additional services to improve members’ operations
· JFA leaders and members will keep good records
· JFA leaders will effectively manage the group
· Increased participation of members by at least 30% in activities organized by JFA’s leaders
· Improved operations of the farmers
· A higher ODI score within 30 months (due to the association’s ability to implement consultant’s recommendations)

c. Key Contacts: World Council of Credit Unions; Credit Union National Association and the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

Number of Persons Trained (Training defined as: formally structured training activities, usually in a classroom, which do not lead to an academic degree, or a learning activity taking place in a classroom or workshop with learning objectives and outcomes):
Male: __33____
Female: __13____

Number of Persons Directly Assisted (Persons who received face-to-face or hands-on technical assistance, training or advice from the volunteer. This is also considered program direct beneficiaries. “Persons Trained” are ALSO counted as “Persons Directly Assisted” and represent a sub-category of “Persons Directly Assisted.”)
Male: _33_____
Female: _13_____
Refer to Attendance Sheets (list of their names).

Feedback: This assignment was in Ghana for ACDI/VOCA (Agricultural Cooperative Development/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance).
My last assignment to Africa (for ACDI/VOCA) was a 5-week assignment to Ethiopia. The purpose of the assignment was to transfer knowledge to cooperative promoters in Ethiopia so that they could further transfer this knowledge to rural people managing Ethiopian Savings and Credit Cooperatives.

At first glance, you may feel that this “transfer of knowledge” is beyond the ability of rural people to understand and apply. However, it has been proven that rural people are capable and eager to learn and apply such knowledge.

I have learned that rural people in the world’s developing countries are just like anyone else, i.e., they are business people looking for a better opportunity to better their standard of living. They are no different from Wall Street Investors, millionaire traders, small business people, or you and me.
Organizations like ACDI/VOCA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Council of Credit Unions, etc., are actively promoting the growth of cooperatives. A cooperative exemplifies (perhaps more than any other type of financial institution) economic democracy. It has been said that, “The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.”

I have been asked, “Why would you go to Africa? You are not paid, except for your expenses, so why do it?”

In answer, I offer the words of another “Consultant” who went to Africa:

“It is not enough to merely exist. It is not enough to say ‘I am earning enough to live and support my family. I do my work well, I am a good church-goer.’ That’s all very well. But you must so something more. Seek always to do some good somewhere. Every man has to seek in his own way to make his self more noble and to realize his own true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it is a little thing, do something for those who have need of a man’s help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don’t live in a world all on your own. Your brothers live here, too.” —Dr. Albert Schweitzer

III. CONFIDENTIAL MEMO TO ACDI/VOCA (None).
1. Confidential information: In my opinion, there isn’t anything ACDI/VOCA needs to be aware of which should be kept confidential– pertaining to the project or ACDI/VOCA in general.

2. ACDI/VOCA follow-up actions: In the consultant’s opinion, ACDI/VOCA should revisit the host on or before 2/1/17. The purpose of the follow up would be to verify that the host has the initiated the seven recommendations.

 

Report by:

Dennis L. Sharpe, Ph.D., CCUE, CUDE
Cooperative Development Educator
Spanish Fort, Alabama USA
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