The Farmers Day celebration, we have come far
At the onset of the Farmers day Celebrations during the revolutionary days some 39 years ago in the country, we were content with machetes and hoes as gifts to the best farmers in this country. Those were the days of tough economic times.
Today, we can say with pride that this national “event” has been an example of a national programme that has kicked on over the years. Huge sponsorships have taken centre stage in this national “event” and our farmers are beneficiaries of some of the modern tools and machinery necessary for their work.
It is also interesting that the Farmers Day celebration is one that has transcended all political parties since the 4th republic. An observation is that it is about the only matter apart from the payment of ex-gratia that politicians from both sides are in agreement.
In the days preceding this year’s event, the Finance Minister announced a GH¢10 billion investments among other initiatives in the agriculture sector.
According to the minister, the substantial investment was going to help bolster domestic production, reduce unnecessary imports while fostering food security in the country, making the country self-sufficient in agriculture.
“So in the year 2024, we are going to see a pretty deliberate approach to agriculture and once that begins, it is going to attract more people to go into agriculture. We will get the processing going and will be able to feed our students much better than we have,” Mr Ofori-Atta explained.
We commend government highly for this initiative. Our editorial of last week indeed focused attention on why we needed to be intentional about the agriculture sector to help boost this sector. We are unwavering in our belief that this sector holds the “magic wand” that can take our economy to the “Canaan” we so desire collectively as a nation.
One question though? Of all the interventions various government’s have undertaken, what has been the end results? Talk of the tractor and mechanised farming, irrigation projects, one-village-one dam in the Northern regions, free fertilisers, seedlings, mass spraying exercises, ban on poultry products, later to be reversed, planting for food and jobs etc etc…
In our engagements with farmers, they point out clearly that our problems with the agriculture sector is not just throwing money at every challenge, but a constructive engagement with players to understand the key issues associated with the agriculture sector.
The issues about land ownership is a major challenge for those who have the resources to undertake large-scale farming and even those who want to start small. It is the number priority for many potential farmers.
Indeed for those few investors who engage in mechanised farming, they do have the resources or can on their own attract the necessary funding to undertake their projects. Therefore, funding is the least of their challenges. Land acquisition, however, is a major bridge to cross in this country.
This is not to suggest that funding is not a key challenge. It is for many other farmers who do not have the resources to embark on large-scale farming.
Graphic Business takes note that among some of the interventions announced by the government include funding the agriculture sector through banks for on-lending to farmers. A good initiative given that a lot of funding has been lost when it comes from government agencies.
Our plea, however, is that the red-tapeism that has characterised such government funding through the financial sector should be reduced. The requirements for collateral in these times, and the current inflationary and interest rates at over 40 per cent because of the high-risk nature associated with the agriculture sector in general, would certainly not cut it for many farmers.
Several countries have fashioned out many strategies such as co-operative farming in which communities come together to fund their agriculture needs. By this, the communities ensure collective responsibility, hence has solved, to a large extent the funding gap issues.
Graphic Business believes there are several models that can be worked around to help anchor the cooperative farming methods that will deliver value for our agriculture sector in the country.
The agricultural sector needs every intervention it needs at this critical time. Therefore, Graphic Business will serve as the advocate for policies that lifts this all important sector to the heights it requires.
On this note we want to use this platform to wish all winners of these year’s awards well.