Planting for Food and Jobs 2
Bryan Acheampong, Minister of Food and Agriculture

Planting for Food and Jobs 2

On April 19, 2017, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, launched the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) at Goaso in the then Brong Ahafo Region with the hope that this country would now begin to transform the agriculture sector for good.

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Because for centuries, we have continued with the same low hanging fruits with regard to the agricultural sector in general, which are: importing tractors and fertilisers only for a few to benefit and smuggle across the borders to help our neighbours produce.

To be fair, the past few years have seen the country witness bumper harvest which has been attributed to the PFJ project and other government sponsored programmes.

However, we have also seen over the past year especially, an unprecedented uptick in food prices. Indeed, a review of the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) by the Ghana Statistical Service over the past year indicates a huge imbalance in the food price index. Even though the statisticians would point to seasonal price movements, it is the quantum leap in food prices increases in recent times that is actually the issue. It brings into sharp focus the benefits accrued from the PFJ.

Graphic Business takes note that the non-food component of the CPI has seen an increase on account of sharp increases in the energy costs on the world market such as fuel, which pushed the food prices up as transport cost generally went up. Again imported inflation on account of the country’s excessive dependent on food imports was also a major push in the food index of the CPI due to the global supply chain disruptions on the back of the COVID 19 pandemic.

This brings up the larger conversation of taking the agriculture sector to the next level. Perhaps, it is based on the fact that the challenge associated with the PFJs version one is one of the reasons the government intends to launch the version 2 of this project as reported by the Deputy Minister of Foods and Agriculture, Mr Yaw Frimpong Addo, when he disclosed this in the United States of America at the 2nd Ghana Business Summit and Expo last week.

The challenges with farming and agriculture sector in general are very well documented. For instance, the focus on the youth for employment and jobs under the PFJs, while it may be good for the sound bites, the reality is that majority of the employed youth currently are disengaged from farming activities.

One indication of this is the shift in the rural-urban migration from 60 per cent to 40 per cent as per the last Census data. The reverse was the case some two decades ago. The youth are migrating in huge numbers to the cities for any kind of menial jobs they can lay their hands on. A combination of land availability and resources to start farming ventures are some of the major issues frustrating those who wish to take up the opportunities in that space.

At a national dialogue organised by the Daily Graphic in April this year, the experts were emphatic that unless there was a revolutionary or a sea-change in how we have applied policies towards the agriculture sector, we would continue to celebrate the little “victories” without actually winning “the war” of food sufficiency. 

It is a crying shame that over 60 decades of nationhood we cannot feed ourselves. That a whole continent of Africa, with a land total size of over 30 million Kilometres square, has to depend on a war ravished Ukraine, with a land size of 603,700 kilometres square (which translate to about 2 per cent of Africa’s land mass) for its food to feed its people.

If the version 2 of PFJ is to succeed we need to, as a nation, take the “bull by its horns” and start from the basics. Changing hearts and minds (that is re-orienting) of our people require time and relentless efforts to revolutionise agriculture to ensure food security in the country. 

We should begin with the kind of education given to schoolchildren to generate interest and present an image of farming that provides solution to our basic needs: food, clothing and shelter. 

Once we get the basics right, the bigger picture of resolving post-harvest losses and the value change management will naturally fall in place.

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