Changing perceptions to increase agric productivity
Until recently, agriculture in the country was perceived as a job for illiterates, school dropouts and the aged.
This was portrayed graphically in the appearance of people who were either going or returning from the farm.
They looked dejected and dressed shabbily.
Consequently, many youth, particularly the ladies, never associated themselves with agriculture, especially mainstream farming.
The youth who completed school shied away from agriculture because of the perception associated with the trade.
For some, their dislike for agriculture stemmed from the fact that during school days, when a student committed an offence, he or she was asked to weed the school farm as punishment.
That reinforced that perception and so, many young people would prefer trooping to the urban centres after school in search of white-collar jobs, when they could have earned a decent living in the rural areas through farming.
Even when, through sensitisation and education, the trend significantly shifted, with the youth engaging in some activities along the agricultural value chain, majority of them have been young men.
The 2021 National Best Farmer, Mohammed Mashud, and the 2022 National Best Farmer, Nana Siriboe I, are in their 40s, an indication that they have been farming for a while before winning the prestigious award.
It is a fact that women’s participation in large-scale agriculture has been woefully inadequate, although the number of women engaged in agriculture almost outweighs that of men.
From the clearing, sowing, weeding, farming, harvesting, processing, marketing and getting the food on the table, women play a leading role.
However, the recent inroads into the sector by ladies is worthy of commendation. Indeed, Charity Akortia winning the 2023 National Best Farmer Award should motivate young ladies to follow in her footsteps.
It is against this backdrop that the Daily Graphic applauds the 2016 TV3 Reality Show beauty queen, Oheneba Akosua Kyerewaa Yeboah-Ghansah, who took it upon herself to change the perception of agriculture among young ladies in the country using beauty pageants.
For her, a lady can engage in agriculture and still be beautiful so she introduced the reality show dubbed “Miss Agriculture Ghana”, which does not just focus on agriculture, but on everything about a beauty reality show such as catwalk, fashion, eloquence and beautiful looks.
Mrs Yeboah-Ghansah leverages beauty pageant as a tool to mobilise and mentor youth and women for enhanced agripreneurship, wealth creation, employment generation and food security.
Farming, indeed, is no longer the preserve of the aged, illiterate or school dropouts.
Now, farming is a serious business with profitable returns.
The reality show essentially portrays that as young women they can farm and remain beautiful in their farming costumes.
After all, farming has gone beyond the use of only the hoe and machete to mechanise farming and marketing of produce at the farm.
Indeed, farming can also be sexy!
It is worth noting that from 25 contestants in the maiden reality show in 2018, the figure went up to 45 in 2019, in 2020 a total of 65 participated, increasing to 83 in 2021 and in 2022, a total of 103 participated, with 2023 recording the highest of 113 contestants.
The Daily Graphic believes that using the reality show is a novelty to attract young ladies into the agricultural sector and stakeholders in the sector must encourage Mrs Yeboah-Ghansah to keep it up.
It is obvious that even though the focus has been on the winners, who are either pursuing mainstream farming, rearing, processing, packaging or marketing agricultural produce successfully, all the others who participated are equally pursuing some activities in the value chain.
We believe that aside from the reality show, which appeals to the young ladies, the adoption of technology, which equally appeals to all youth in farming can be another bait to attract even more youth into the sector.
The youth are attached to technology and anything new attracts them.
So, by leveraging technology, the country can galvanise the youth into the agricultural sector, be it mainstream farming or the value chain.
Currently, a number of the youth who are in the agricultural sector are operating in the area of new applications and technology.
Let us use technology as a tool to get all hands-on deck, especially the youth, to increase food production to ensure sufficiency.