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Govt will develop agriculture - President Akufo-Addo

April 21, 2017, 2:05 p.m.

PRESIDENT Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has reiterated his government’s commitment to make agriculture the pivot of Ghana's economic and social development. He noted that if Ghana was to make any meaningful change in the lives of the people, her efforts should be directed at agriculture, as the majority of people could only feel a change in their lives when agriculture was developed.

Speaking at the launch of government's flagship agricultural programme ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, on Wednesday at Goaso in Brong Ahafo Region, President Akufo noted that with Ghana’s agriculture predominantly hinged on the production of cocoa, the country has not made much progress in the cultivation of staples, like rice, maize and soya, urging, therefore, for a fundamental change in attitudes towards agriculture.

“Agriculture is not and cannot be a single-crop industry. Farming is a business and it is a profession that must be promoted and studied like all other professions. Ghana has the unique potential to feed its growing population, meet the raw material requirements of our processing industries, achieve food security, and compete successfully as a leading supplier to countries around us and beyond,” he said.
The revolutionary flagship ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme is aimed at transforming Ghana's agricultural sector. The programme is expected to address the twin-problem of the migration of youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs, as well as an end to the disturbing spectacle of Ghana importing food stuffs from neighbouring countries.

President Akufo-Addo explained that the Programme would be anchored on the pillars that would transform Ghanaian agriculture: the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilizers, the provision of dedicated extension services, and marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture. “The Planting for Food and Jobs programme is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 per cent, rice by 49 per cent, soyabean by 25 per cent, and sorghum by 28 per cent from current production levels. This programme will create 750,000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment,” he added.

The vision of his government, he stressed, would be to modernise agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security, and profitability for farmers, all aimed at significantly increasing agricultural productivity.
Additionally, a value-addition strategy, aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing and developing new and stable markets for products would be pursued.

“Our policies and interventions would encompass the full agricultural value chain and create additional businesses and job opportunities in the areas of storage, transport, processing, packaging and marketing of agricultural produce, all of which would ensure that our farmers and fisher folk earn higher incomes,” he added.
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, said this year the programme would focus on a selected target group of up to 200,000 farmers in all the 216 districts of the country.

He said 1,200 unemployed graduates from five colleges of agriculture had been recruited and trained to provide extension services.
Dr Akoto announced that the World Bank had pledged to support the project with the sum of 50 million US dollars and expressed the hope that other development partners would also support the programme.
Pemapem Yaw Kabrese II, the President of the Brong-Ahafo Region House of Chiefs, lauded the programme and advised Ghanaians in general to support its implementation.

Details of the programme

Over the past eight years, the Agric sector has recorded steady decline in terms of growth and contributions to the economy of this country.
From 7.4 in 2008/9 fiscal year, the sector has witnessed its fortunes dwindled to as low as 2.8 in 2016.
This had largely been attributed to the failure by the previous administration to inject the needed capital into the sector to enable the ministry roll out policies and programmes that can help our dear farmers improve their lives and contribute immensely to the development of the country.

The President, in his electioneering campaign, pledged to revive the agric through agricultural modernization and use the sector as the vehicle for economic growth and job creation.
Economic-wise, the only sector whose growth can be amply achieved in the next few months into the administration of the NPP appears to be the Agricultural sector.

It is for this reason that upon the appointment of Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, he outdoored the flagship policy ‘Planting for Food and Jobs Campaign’. The campaign is aimed at ensuring food security, reduce huge food import bills and to create jobs for the teeming of this country. It seeks to make agriculture and farming an attractive sector for Ghanaians.
An estimated $2.2bn is said to be spent annually on the importation of eight major food items into this country.
About 50% of this amount ($1.1bn) is spent on rice alone.

This is not a healthy development for a country like that Ghana that has vast fertile lands.
Ideally, the country's five million farming population should be able to produce enough to meet local demands and surplus for export to increase Ghana's foreign exchange earnings.
The Planting for Food and Jobs Campaign, therefore, seeks to address this rather sad development and reverse the declining trend of the growth of the agricultural sector.

It is a national clarion call on Ghanaians; individuals, groups and organizations to either take farming as a part-time or full time occupation.
Each and every Ghanaian is being called upon to plant something either for domestic consumption or for commercial benefit.
It is a private sector-driven programme whose success will rely much on the contribution of players in the private agribusiness.
Government will provide agricultural inputs at subsidised prices and also support farmers with extension services.
An initial number of 200,000 farmers selected from the 216 districts across the country are expected to participate this year which is the pilot phase of the program. This will further increase as the years roll by.

The objective is to target almost half of the 5 million farming population in the country.
About 750,000 direct jobs will be created whilst about 1.2bn revenue could be contributed to the economy.
It is built upon five main pillars:

1. Provision of Improved Seedlings at Subsidised for participating farmers selected farmers will be given improved seedlings (not GMO) at subsidised prices with flexible payment system.

Government has agreed to absorb 50% of the cost of the seedlings whilst the farmer pays the other 50% at flexible terms.
By flexible terms, we mean the farmer will be required to make 25% down payment. The other 25% will be paid after harvest (either cash or in kind)
Five major crops are being considered under the pilot phase of the project: these are:

Selected areas
1. Maize
2. Rice
3. Sorghum
4. Soybean
5. Vegetables- Tomato, Onion, Chilli Pepper

Other industrial crops will be considered next year.

2. Supply of fertilizers: similar arrangements under the seedlings also apply to the fertilizer.

3. Supply of Extension services
Under an arrangement with the Youth Employment Agency, government has acquired the services of 1200 graduate extension officers who have completed school from the five agric training colleagues and had been sitting home without jobs.
Currently, there are about 3200 backlog of graduates who are yet to be employed after completion of their course. This program has therefore come as a relief to many who were sitting idle.
The rest will be absorbed in subsequent years as the program progresses.
The selected 1200 officers have already undergone orientation to abreast them with the processes involved in the program.
Inputs such as motorbikes, boots, coats and allowances will be provided.

4. Marketing Arrangement for Produce after harvest
A multi complex approach is being adopted to deal with marketing of the produce. Government intends to purchase part of the produce directly from farmers with valuable prices whilst arrangements are being made with private firms to purchase part.
Government is in discussion with the UN World Food Program on a special arrangement.
Government is also seeking to revamp the defunct National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) for the storage of the produce (private entities have expressed interest)

5. The fifth pillar is E-Agriculture, a technology platform that will build a database for participating farmers.
Biometric data of all farmers will be obtained and fed into a tracking system to check the supply of seedlings and fertilisers as well as the work of extension farmers.

This will eradicate the incidents of theft as far as the inputs are concerned as the technology will be able to track the movements of seedlings and fertilizers across the country.
This will also help determine an estimate mode of selection of farmers.

Mode of selection of farmers

Regional and district agricultural directors were tasked to compile list of interested farmers who are willing to be part of the program.A farmer will require a minimum of 4 acres to be a beneficiary.
This list includes the selection of choice of crop/crops to be cultivated. It is then given to the IT Consultant, Essoko, for the subsequent compilation of biometric details from the field using GIS system.

Source: Thefinderonline.com

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