Govt trades GH₵560m for GH₵1.3bn in planting for food and jobs programme

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Dr Owusu Afriyie-Akoto - Minister for Food and Agriculture
Dr Owusu Afriyie-Akoto - Minister for Food and Agriculture

The government is confident of generating an additional GH₵1.3 billion from the agricultural sector in the next farming season through its Planting for Foods and Jobs programme, which is expected to take off in March this year.

The amount is to be generated by some 250,000 lead farmers in the 216 districts that will be roped into the first phase of the programme.

The Planting for Food and Jobs programme, which is expected to cost the government GH₵560 million, is aimed at reviving the agricultural sector from its recent declining growth rates.

The Planting for Food and Jobs programme is designed to encourage all citizens - whether in urban or rural areas - to take up farming as a full-time or part-time activity.

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The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview that the programme was expected to encourage all Ghanaians to get in the line and plant something in their backyards and open spaces that are available and farms.

To help make this a reality, Dr Akoto-Osei said governmented intended to provide interested persons with the necessary resources such as improved seeds, fertiliser at a subsidised rate, extension services and also help them in the marketing of the produce so that they get a guaranteed price.

He stressed that the additional GH₵1.3 billion was the estimate the government was expecting from the 250,000 farmers who would be selected.

He said the government had selected five products for the first phase which included rice, maize, sorghum, soya beans and vegetables.

Going forward, he said government would extend the programme to cover the over four million farmers and also add other crops to it.

“In future we are looking at expanding the programme to include more farmers in the second and third year so that by the end of the fourth year of this government, all farmers and fisherman would have been involved. The following year, we will add more crops to it including cassava for commercial starch and others,” he pointed out.

 “We need to generate more wealth in the agricultural sector to be able to improve the livelihood of our farmers and fisherfolk and help grow the national economy,” he stated.

Creation of jobs

The minister also pointed out that the programme, which will start in the next farming season, was also expected to create over 750,000 jobs for the youth.

“The teeming youth don’t have much work to do and during the campaign, our then flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, promised to bring jobs to the teeming youth of this country and the first port of call is agriculture,” he noted.

“We are going to mobilise people from all shades of life to put their hands on deck to bring growth to agriculture production and to also absorb the huge unemployment mountain that we face in this country,” he added.

Growth in agric

Dr Afriyie-Akoto also explained that the programme would stir growth in the agricultural sector and bring it back to where it was seven years ago where growth was around seven per cent per annum.

He said that growth had slid significantly, as complete 2015 figures which are available to him indicate that the sector grew at a rate of 2.4 per cent.

“Though the decline has not been on a straight line, it has declined from 7.4 per cent in 2008 to 2.4 per cent in 2015. The challenge of this administration is, therefore, to reverse this downward trend,” he said.

He believed the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign would lead to a rapid growth of the sector and therefore urged everybody to come on board.

“We will build on this programme so that participation grows to include all farmers to push agriculture to where it belongs,” he stated.

Preparation so far

The minister also indicated that his ministry had already started preparations for the implementation of the programme as it had already met with the agricultural directors in all the 10 regions to plan and choose the participating farmers for the first phase of the programme.

He said the programme would be launched by the President in the Brong Ahafo or Western Region in March.

“We hope to generate the funds from our development partners. We have been talking to them and the response so far has been very positive,” he said.