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Agric ‘crisis’: if only the reverend and the politician could meet!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah - Afari
The writer
The writer

I don’t know whether Deputy Agric Minister Mr George Oduro and the Rt Rev Dr Setorwu Ofori, Moderator of the Global Evangelical Church have ever met.

But it seems to me that if the two could meet, it would benefit Ghana immensely.
They appear to share a critical concern about a matter of national importance so I wish they could meet, and soon, and talk in the interest of the country.
From their recent reported comments, I have concluded that the two gentlemen have something in common other than surnames that begin with the 15th letter of the English alphabet. 
Their issue? In summary, the future of agriculture in Ghana; specifically training and how to attract the youth into the sector.
My idea of the two needing to meet has been sparked by the following news items:
The Daily Guide of Friday, August 16 reported, under the headline, “Govt Tackles Ageing Crisis in Agric” that:
“Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Horticulture, George Boahen Oduro, says (the) Government is applying a number of solutions to tackle the ageing crisis in farming. 
“The solutions (he outlined): introduction of new technologies to reduce the workload of farmers for fewer people to get more done, supply of inputs, redress of stigma around farming and collaboration with professionals to address the challenges in the sector.
“Speaking at a media launch of ‘Agric Machinery and Inputs Fair 2019’, in Kumasi, the Deputy Minister said (the) Government was also trying to convince young people to see farming as a viable way of life after realizing that the average Ghanaian farmer is 58 years of age.
“According to him the country’s food supply would be at risk … without a new generation to take on the job of farming when the current generation of experienced farmers retires,” the Guide reported.
Then the Ghanaian Times of Monday, August 19 reported, under the headline, “Govt must revive Ghana’s Agric Colleges”:
“The Right Rev Dr Setorwu Kwadzo Ofori, Moderator of the Global Evangelical Church (GEC), has urged the Government as a matter of urgency to resource and revamp all the agricultural training colleges in the country in order to save them from imminent collapse.
“Rev Dr Ofori observed that agriculture was the mainstay of Ghana’s economy and lauded the Government’s Planting for Food and Jobs policy to enable the country to become self-sufficient, (but bemoaned) the current poor state of the colleges of agriculture.
“The policy, he noted must be sustained and every attempt must be made to ensure that agriculture is made attractive to the younger generations to make it sustainable.
“The Moderator was speaking at (a) … service … at the Victory Chapel of the GEC, Ho Fiave, in the Volta Region. He said it is sad that all the six colleges under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture have virtually collapsed or were operating far below their production capacity,” the Times said.
I assume that the reverend wouldn’t be making his passionate, timely plea without the relevant facts.
Again, how I wish somebody could arrange a meeting between the two men!   
If the Ministry of Agriculture (MoFA) is campaigning for young people to go into farming, why are the agricultural colleges being allowed to deteriorate, even to the point that the reverend has launched an SOS for them? 
Evidently, one way of attracting the youth into farming would be to start with the ready pool of graduates from the agricultural colleges.
Shouldn’t agricultural colleges products be among the first, or even the first, target group in the drive to get the young into farming, with incentives both during training and after?   
Is the MoFA aware of the plight of the colleges, as highlighted by the reverend?
If the answer is ‘yes’, aren’t the colleges part of the MoFA’s resources? If no, why not? And why have they been neglected so much when the training they offer has huge potential for Ghana’s agricultural and economic ambitions?
If the answer is ‘no’, why? Why have the colleges seemingly been left to fend for themselves when they could play such a crucial role in solving the problem of recruiting people to take over from aged farmers?
It’s strange that at a time when there is agitation about ageing farmers, the agricultural colleges have reportedly become orphans. Yet, they have parents, well placed parents at that, the MoFA. This ministry is so central to the Government’s economic drive that those colleges should be among the most enviable educational or training institutions in Ghana.
Students in, or graduates from, those colleges should be sleeping easy because after all they should be completing their training with employment support waiting for them. So how come the colleges are reportedly in such serious distress?
I just don’t understand it!
Why can’t the MoFA turn its attention to the colleges, assist and even expand them, so as to have a ready and willing, trained pool of youthful farmers and agrobusiness-inclined graduates? 
So what is the Ministry’s response to the reverend’s plea? So far, silence.
This is why I’m suggesting that Rt. Rev Ofori and Mr Oduro need to meet and talk. I believe that if the two could have a face-to-face, there is the strong possibility of a solution to the problem emerging.
That is my first idea for the MoFA.
My second suggestion is what I have often canvassed in this column: that it is time for the National Farmers Day main prizes to go to deserving, YOUNG farmers, and smallholders, to act as the ultimate enticement to get the youth, including and especially those not in the colleges,  interested in farming.
Why would any young person be interested in going into farming when every blessed year they see the main prizes, the house or the tractor or the vehicle, or the pickup truck, being won by big-time, already established and wealthy commercial farmers while young prize-winners have to be content with Wellington boots, wheelbarrows or cutlasses?
The National Farmers Day will soon be here, so this is the time for the MoFA to revise its formula!
In the meantime, if only the politician and the reverend could meet! And if they do, maybe my second proposal will be of interest to them.
So can somebody please do Ghana a favour and facilitate a meeting between Deputy Agric Minister Mr Oduro and the Rt Rev Dr Ofori?      
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