Homegrown solutions can address agric sector challenges — Panelists

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi
The panelists during the agriculture and rural development session at the Scorecard.
The panelists during the agriculture and rural development session at the Scorecard.

Panelists at an agriculture and rural development forum have advocated the need for Ghana to develop its own model to solve challenges that confront the agricultural sector.

They said the focus should not be on exporting people to learn to come back to help because of the different ecosystems that such countries have.

“The dynamics are different. Agric is not like the medical sciences that all human beings are the same so wherever you go to study you can practice at home,” the Chief Executive Officer of the Anyako Farms, Mr Richard Nunekpeku stated in his submission at the Scorecard, a Joy FM programme to assess the performance of the government’s two-year administration in Accra.

Instead, he said the focus should be to bring the experts to Ghana and deploy them into the districts where they could support local extension officers, build their capacities and provide knowledge for the farmers.

“So, over the years we can develop local content agronomic practices that are relevant and support our ecosystem rather than sending people to Israel and Brazil. When we send them there and they come back, their contribution is minimal because the environments are different,” he indicated.

Agric modernisation

Mr Nunekpeku said that looking at the contribution of smallholder farmers, about 80 per cent of production, it was necessary to support them to access inputs at subsidised prices so they will be able to overcome challenges with financing.

Therefore, government policies such as the planting for food and jobs (PFJ) through which improved seeds would be made available to smallholder farmers was in the right direction.

However, he said there are ways and manners to improve it to make more efficient and effective in productivity than in production as the current agenda was focused on increasing the number of acres being produced.

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“We should also look at what are we getting out of those acres because if you produce 1000 acres and you get 1.8 metric tonnes (national average), where are we going? When we can produce 100 acres and get 7.5 metric tonnes which is more productive.

So, yes, it is important we continue this policy initiative but we should continue to look at it from a productive angle,” he stated.

An agriculture economist, Dr Irene Egyir, corroborated the government had continued the projects and programmes it met in the sector and so was on course.

Thus, the continuity was what had been dubbed the PFJ, one village one dam, rearing for food and jobs, increased warehousing and planting for export and rural development, among others.

“Promises in the manifesto are being worked on and are well aligned to the six pillars of the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II since 2007).

And because agric brings food and nutrition safety issues to bear, institutional coordination has been strengthened,” she said.

However, Dr Egyir, who is also a former Head at the Agriculture Economics Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, said what was left was the speed at which things were being done.

Extension services

The United Nation (UN) recommends one agricultural extension officer (AEO) to about 500 farmers, but the panellists said it was not just about the numbers, but the officers should be well vexed in agriculture knowledge.

A Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Dr Sagre Bambagni, said the current discourse on the agricultural sector was as a result of renewed efforts by the government and that government was on target.

He recalled that the AEO ratio was not the best, especially when retires one were not replaced thus, a concession was sourced for the sector to be able to recruit about 1,200 AEOs and later 2,700 with adequate training to support.

“The challenges in the past which had to with logistics; no motor bikes to move around, working gear, fuel etc. and supervisors also lacked cars to be mobile.

We have been able to get 216 pick-ups for the then 216 districts and 3000 motorbikes for the AEOs.

We are working to step up this,” he said.

Policy implementation

Mr Christian Marfo of Precision Farms and Oils noted that the government was still in transition and might need to rethink and have very strategic focus in relation to the agricultural sector.

He said the publicity had gone down well with agricultural programmes of the government, but the challenge had to with the deliverables.

“Much as the intention is there getting it to the core is another thing.

The most important thing to get the appropriate logistics and machinery for the farmers, especially, the requisite seeds and not grains,” he said.

He added that the issue of fertiliser rationing was a challenge and should be looked at.