Impact of feeder road accessibility on agricultural production and marketing in Mpohor Wassa East District

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In many developing countries significant proportion of rural population lack access Lack of rural transport investment, including feeder roads, is an important constraint to agricultural development because it makes it impossible for farmers to market high value perishable crops as well as limits the adoption of new technology. It also makes the marketing of farm outputs unremunerative and modern inputs expensive. Earlier studies have shown that in inaccessible and ‘low’ access areas agricultural productivity and production are low but to date, very little is known about the impact of improved feeder roads on agricultural production and marketing. The objective of this study is therefore to investigate the impact F accessibility on agricultural production and marketing within the Wassa East District. The major research hypotheses were the following: 1) Farmers in high access road corridors take advantage of the superior accessibility to produce more than farmers in the low and inaccessible areas. 2) Farmers in the more accessible road corridors receive higher prices for their produce than farmers in the low and inaccessible areas. 3) Farmers in the high access corridors use more inputs such as fertilizer and agro—chemicals, receive more extension visits and obtain farming tools readily at reduced prices than farmers in the low access areas. A socio-economic survey of ag’1icu1tural production, transportation d marketing of five major staple food crops namely maize, cassava, plantain, cocoyam and tomato in the district were undertaken along two feeder road corridors; one with high access and the other with low access. A total of 50 and 30 farmers were interviewed in the high and low access corridors respectively. The results were analysed to isolate the impacts of accessibility on agricultural production and marketing. The study revealed that the poor accessibility accounts for the variations in food production, inputs used, transport charges, producer prices and post harvest losses between the high and low access corridors. Production differences of between 10 to 27 per cent were recorded for the selected crops between the high and low access corridors. Maize and cassava production were 14.6 and 10.2 per cent higher respectively in the high access corridor. Similarly, plantain and tomato production were 12 and 27 per cent higher respectively in the more accessible corridor. As a result of the poor road conditions and the high operating and maintenance costs the supply of transport services is limited in the study area. The few operators therefore charged high fares. Transport charges per ton km were between 112 and 140 per cent higher in the low access corridor depending on the type of commodity being transported. The high transport charges in turn make the prices of inputs expensive and their demand elastic. Fertilizer application and annual extension visits were higher in the more accessible corridor. The inelastic supply of transport services and the high fares limited the quantity of food evacuated and marketed. This, coupled with the poor storage system resulted in post harvest losses of between 10 and 12 per cent in the high access corridors and 16 to 20 per cent in the low access corridor. Similarly, producer prices were 20 to 30 per cent higher in the more accessible corridor. It is evident from the findings of the study that low production and marketing difficulties exist in the poor and inaccessible areas. Under such conditions, investments in agriculture do not pay off. This then limits agricultural production and results in low farmers’ incomes with its implications for the development of the study area. In the light of these findings the following were recommended as bases for improving road conditions and as incentive for higher agricultural production and marketing: i) Agricultural development and feeder road investments should be planned together. Roads should be prioritized for rehabilitation and maintenance bearing in mind their linkages to agriculture. Criteria for prioritization should include areas of high agricultural production, population, existing and projected traffic volume. ii) Complementary investments are needed in seeds, farm implements, storage, credit, extension service and transport services (motorized and non-motorized means of transport). iii) Participatory and institutional co-ordination in feeder road planning is needed in the district. The beneficiary communities, the technical and social infrastructure sub-committee of the District Assembly, Agricultural Extension Services and the Department of Feeder Roads should co-ordinate their efforts in planning for roads and agricultural development at the local level. iv) Road rehabilitation and maintenance plans should be integrated into the annual rolling plans and the necessary budget allocations made by the assembly. It is important to emphasize that unless investment in agriculture and feeder roads are planned together anticipated benefits would be very much diminished.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 1992