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Mon, Sep

Uncontrolled estate development threatens agricultural growth

Last Friday, the government honoured a number of farmers across the country for their contribution to the food needs of the people.

The 32nd in the series, Farmers Day was instituted in 1985 by the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government to boost the morale of the people who till the land, rear all kinds of livestock and either produce fish or catch same to feed the people.

From a very humble beginning when the prizes appeared to be tokens of appreciation, today the best farmer is offered a fully furnished house at a location of his or her choice.

Perhaps, looking at what it takes to become a best farmer, a house may not be enough to compensate for all the toil to feed the people.

We have travelled the path of abundant food production before. That was the period of the Operation Feed Yourself (OFY) programme during the Acheampong regime when all available spaces were turned into backyard farms.

In the early days of that programme, working people and, indeed, majority of Ghanaians found their way to the land, either as a full-time vocation or to supplement their incomes.

It came as no surprise then that Ghana became a net exporter of rice and maize. That was the second period, after the First Republic, that Ghana had encouraged large-scale agricultural plantations.

Unfortunately, we were unable to sustain the momentum, resulting in the country importing some basic food crops to feed its people.

A number of factors account for this sad state of affairs, major among them being the lack of credit, lack of a ready market for agricultural produce and the land tenure system.

There is no way any young person will get attracted to agriculture with the high interest rates and the lack of market, resulting in agricultural produce going bad during the harvesting season.

A 93-year-old farmer, Alhaji Malik Yuba, who was adjudged this year’s best farmer in Ashaiman, has appealed to chiefs to halt the indiscriminate sale of lands meant for agricultural production.

“We are importing virtually all major foodstuffs from neighbouring countries, including China, because we have sold all arable lands for the purposes of estate development,” he said.

The dire residential accommodation situation in the country, especially in the cities, has created a lucrative business in the sale of land.

Consequently, brick and mortar have taken over lands meant for agricultural production, for which reason hardly any agricultural productivity takes place.

The Daily Graphic is worried that even as  food crisis looms because of our inaction, there seems to be no policy in place to halt the uncontrolled sale of land.

Now, driving from Accra towards the hinterland in any direction, one sees no greenbelts.

The Daily Graphic calls for action from the authorities to halt the free-for-all sale of land and maintain land for agricultural production, so that Farmers Day will be relevant in all areas of the country, including Accra which, many years ago, contributed to the national food basket.