According to Bethenny Frankel, a television personality, author and entrepreneur, your diet is your bank account, good food choices are good investment. Food has become the only common thing that brings people together. Knowing these facts the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo said that plans are underway to make the country food self-sufficient and reduce the huge food import bills. This statement sounds wahoo and intriguing but one should ask what are the possibilities of the plans? what are the prospects involved?
The agricultural sector in Ghana consists of a variety of produces and is an established sector that provides employment on a formal and informal bases. The agricultural produces are a variety of crops in various climatic zones which range from dry savanna to wet forests, running in eastwest bands across Ghana. The produces include: yams, grains, cocoa (which computes the largest exports), oil palms, kola nuts and timber.
However, in the past years, the Ghana witnessed short falls in profit from produce exports due to illegal sellers sieving into the makeup, selling unofficially and illegitimately. Agriculture is a major contributor to the country’s export earnings and source of inputs for the manufacturing sector. It is likewise a major source of income for a majority of the population. In 2013, the sector employed 53.6% of the total labour force in the country but overtime the progress of the sector is retarding and needs restrengthening.
The sector has experienced its lowest growth (0.8%) in more than two decades in 2011, the same year Ghana started its oil production in commercial quantities. Another oil craze! If they are not careful, they will forget the sector just as the governments of their African giant-brother forgot theirs -you can guess the country.
Diversifying the economy is wonderful but the mother sectors should not suffer in a bid to diversify. If the agricultural sector is weak, manufacturing will fall, leading to more importation bills for the country. The country is blessed with vast arable lands yet, every year, millions of dollars are spent to import food into the country, this is what an economy that neglects agriculture gets as a reward. It is never too late to make amends!
Ghana is a net importer of basic foods (raw and processed) including rice, poultry, sugar and vegetable oils while its top exports are crude petroleum, gold, cocoa beans, cocoa paste and cocoa butter. The country has grown to be a larger importer of finished products, after exporting the raw produce. This will hamper the growth of the manufacturing sector overtime. The president and his team have to involve measures to add value to the produce, the cocoa butter can be produced into chocolate, ointments, toiletries and pharmaceuticals. They also import medication, which can be done away with if the agricultural sector is revamped and utilised.
The new programme to make Ghana food self-sufficient is ‘Planting for food and jobs’. The flagship programme is to help address the declining growth of the country’s agricultural sector, it is a clarion call on every single citizen to take farming as a full time or part time activity. It gears towards improving food productivity and ensuring food security, as well as reducing food import bills to the barest minimum. How does the programme seeks to achieve all?
The programme employed: Supply of improved seeds to farmers at subsidized prices (50% subsidy), free extension services to farmers (1200 extension officers from the five main agric colleges already enrolled onto the programme; an additional 4,000 extension assistants to be mobilised), marketing opportunities for produce after harvest (arrangements have been made to offer ready markets for farmers who will be participating in the campaign) and e-Agriculture (a technological platform to monitor and track activities and progress of farmers through a database system).
The condition to be selected for the programme is quite tight: a farmer will require a minimum of 2 to 3 acres to be part of the campaign. With this condition, the fate of small scale farmers that cannot afford 2 to 3 acres is anything but positive and this has an effect on the programme.
Despite all the incentives the programme provides such as market opportunities for produce and others, a poor farmer might not be able to enjoy them. Of what use is a programme that does not reflect in the live of the peasants who make up huge part of the farming? The government of Ghana has to review this part of the programme, it should be extended to the smallest farmer in the country; after all, it is sufficience, enough food for all that they want. Provided the government seeks to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030 (for everyone, everywhere should have enough good quality food to lead a healthy life) they should improve the productivity and income of small scale farmers. This improvement can mainly be achieved by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices.
Another failure the programme did not address is the storage facilities of agricultural produce. According to the World Food Programme Regional Director in charge of West and Central Africa, Adbou Deing, the agriculture production of the country has increased overtime but the losses after the production is huge. About 40% of food being produced is lost and this is the average in Africa. The major problem of Ghana being food self-sufficient is wastage after production; there is little issue with production because of the increase that has being experienced so far. So, what are the plans to stop the losses of agricultural produce? The wastage experienced in Ghana can only be reduced by investing in food processing and storage facilities across the country.
The world bank also suggested that instead of devoting a large chunk of agricultural sector to cocoa production through investing in diversified productivity, beyond a single crop. The bank also called for more investments in research to increase farmer technology uptake as well as irrigation infrastructure to increase productivity and mitigate the impacts of climate change. There has to be an improvement on the public expenditure allocation and management as well as budget coordination in the sector; it needs more funding to be revived. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has to improve on the method of collecting data for proper analysis in order to improve the planning process, thereby enacting contextual policy in the sector.
Ghana cannot be food self-sufficient if oil still gets topmost priority to the neglect of the others. There should be value addition to the sector in such a way that raw produces are not the exports but processed products. Mr President, talk, they say, is cheap but action speaks louder!