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Ghana needs to invest more in agriculture - US Ambassador

BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
United States Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Porter Jackson
United States Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Porter Jackson

Ghana needs to invest more in the agriculture sector and stop her over-reliance on imported food, the outgoing United States Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert Porter Jackson, has recommended.

“I would say that agriculture must have the most investment. I do think that there is significant progress in both health and education but I mention agriculture because we still see Ghana importing very large quantities of food,” he said.

Mr Jackson described the agriculture sector as the area that was not performing well in the country and said Ghana had the capacity to produce crops such as rice on large-scale commercial farming and do less small-holder farming.

In addition, he said, “Ghana is way too reliant on exporting products without adding value”.

Mr Jackson made the statements in a briefing he had with some selected journalists at the US Embassy in Accra last Tuesday (July 24), on his impressions about the Ghanaian economy and partnership between the US and Ghana during his tenure.

He said Ghana’s development was hinged on the export of agricultural products in their raw form, however, for the economy to grow and create more jobs there ought to be the establishment of more agro industries to add value on the products from agriculture.


He lauded the development programmes introduced by the government such as “Planting for Food and Jobs” and “one district,one factory”, saying that they were really important and “was moving the agriculture sector in the right direction.

“Though I think that emphasis must be placed on developing agro industries not only for products like rice and other grains, but also for the processing of mangoes for example’’, he suggested.

AGOA

Mr Jackson said Ghana’s export of orange and mango juice to the United States increased during his tenure and he expected the growth to continue.

“Similarly, we have seen far more garments being exported to the United States. Probably about $20 million to $30 million worth of garments are being exported this year, whereas five years ago it was less than $1 million a year.

“So we are seeing Ghanaian companies take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The US, on the other hand, has been assisting with targeted investments in the shea, cocoa and garment industries, but that need to see more insightful policies with regard to the establishment of agro industries, in my estimation. That is the area that I believe has the potential for growth in the short term,” he stated.

Duty tour

Mr Jackson said in his two and half years as the US Ambassador to Ghana, his priorities had been on energy, education, health, agriculture and peace and security.

He said Ghana had achieved tremendous progress in health, particularly against malaria, while statistics in maternal and child care services were very promising.

He said the US government, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, would build 18 more CHPS compounds in the Northern and Volta regions this year and gave an assurance that there would also be more training programmes for health professionals.

This, he said, would be an addition to the eight CHPS compounds built last year and bringing the total number in the two regions to 26 as identified by the Ghana Health Service.

The outgoing US Ambassador said a solar power system would be installed at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to help provide the hospital with reliable power.

Education

Mr Jackson said the US together with the government of Ghana had trained 700,000 primary school pupils in early grades in phonics and whose first test results would be available in August.

He said he was optimistic that the results would be better than the two per cent achievement incomprehension in 2016.

He said 30,000 educators in 7,000 schools were involved in the programme, which would include 400,000 more pupils come next year.

SHS two streams

Commenting on the proposed double intake at the Senior High School (SHS) in September aimed at allowing more students to benefit from the free SHS system, Mr Jackson said even though the proposal made sense in the short term, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES) ought to consider the options for the medium and long terms.

“But, Ghana has much to gain from having additional students in senior high school, so I’m very supportive of the idea of free senior high school,” he said.

According to him, while there was the need to construct more school buildings and more teachers to let the free SHS work, the US Peace Corps was on hand to provide Ghana’s secondary schools with teachers.

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