VEGA Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Preps Ghana's Food Safety System for EU Audit

Thanks in part to help from Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteers, the Ghanaian government’s Plant Protection and Regulatory Services (PPRSD) is anticipating substantial progress to be found during its next inspection from European Union (EU) auditors in September. The Improving Food Safety Systems Project (IFSSP) in Ghana, implemented by VEGA Member International Executive Service Corps (IESC) seeks to strengthen the sanitary and phytosanitary compliance system in Ghana.

Volunteer Ernst Neering worked with the PPRSD to prepare the department for the September audit. During his July 2017 assignment, he played devil’s advocate, pretending to be an EU auditor and then providing recommendations that would help the PPRSD demonstrate that Ghana has the systems in place to resume key horticultural exports to the EU. Neering has extensive experience working in plant health and inspections, including during a previous trip to Ghana in early 2017.

“When I saw the vacancy for a volunteer, I thought, this is something I can do,” Neering told VEGA Program Manager Laura Alexander during a program visit to Ghana in July 2017. “If I can be paid, great, but if I’m a volunteer, it’s also fine, because for me, it’s about being in the field with farmers, doing the work.”

IFSSP, which runs from May 2016 to September 2018, is supported through a Program Development Project (PDP) grant under Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Special Program Support Project (SPSP). 

Over the course of the project, IESC will send 60 F2F volunteers to work with small organizations and stakeholders across the Ghanaian government, including the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and PPRSD. Volunteer experts on the project have already accomplished assessments of the mango and chili value chains, provided agricultural best practices training and assisted small businesses in improving record keeping methods.

Currently, the project is focused on training PPRSD staff and participants to identify and detect pests in the value chain, as well as how to convert the existing manual traceability system to an electronic one. Once completed, the electronic system will allow staff to quickly identify, address and track sanitary issues in the value chain, helping to ensure Ghanaian products meet international safety and certification standards.

PPRSD has already hosted several F2F volunteers . In addition to Neering’s work, Emily Zobel, a faculty extension assistant at the University of Maryland, worked with PPRSD previously to equip produce inspectors and extension agents with the knowledge and skills required for effective identification and inspection of insect pests and diseases. “It’s good having different volunteers coming in because they have different perspectives,” said William Lamptey, who works for PPRSD. “The volunteers so far have put in their best.”

“Previously, we went from 15 recommendations [from EU auditors] to 8, so we already made a lot of progress,” added PPRSD employee Claud Kwadwo Mintah. As for the upcoming September EU audit Neering helped them prepare for, Mintah said, “We are confident.”

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