Bryan Acheampong: From Security capo to Agric Minister
In February 2022, our irreplaceable Finance Minister, thumping his chest, boasted that “Ghana will not seek a bailout from the IMF”, because “Government has what it takes to turn its ailing economy around”.
One year on, in February 2023, Uncle Ken, with a comatose economy but refusing to fall down, confesses: “Ghana’s economy will crash if there is no IMF bail-out by March”.
Anyhow, that’s only by the way: something to chew on.
My interest this week is with the “mini reshuffle”.
I am one of those who saw a saviour in Dr Afriyie Akoto when in January 2017, Akufo-Addo appointed him as Minister of Agriculture.
His profile, on Wikipedia, was impressive: BSc in Agriculture from Legon; MSc in Agricultural Economics from Cambridge University and a PhD, also in Agriculture.
Today, I don’t know what you think of his Planting for Food and Jobs, which was launched in April 2017.
For me, the nail in the coffin of this slogan was when the minister brought yam and plantain bought at the farm gate and transported them with government-fuelled vehicles, for sale at the Ministries.
It had taken him five years to realise that an agriculture policy that does not factor in transportation and marketing from inception is doomed to fail.
Fast forward to this week (February 7, 2023), the President nominated Mr Bryan Acheampong, MP for Abetifi, and one-time Minister of State in charge of National Security, as his next Agric Minister.
Do you know why I am excited?
Someone said that agriculture in Ghana has always fared well under ministers with military backgrounds.
Guess what I found: Bryan Acheampong served in the US Air Force between 2004 and 2006.
In my line of reasoning, whoever built Rock City Hotel at Nkwatia, with 608 rooms completed, and set to become Africa’s biggest resort by 2025 with 2,200 rooms, a water park, a zoo and an 18-hole golf course is worth entrusting with a ministry.
The man is wealthy, and I like wealthy people.
Even more exciting is when wealth combines with knowledge – and Bryan has two legs in both worlds.
(He is a PhD candidate at Legon)
As we have seen in Ghana since 1957, however, none of these two acquirements guarantees agricultural success.
So my fingers are crossed on his military background.
In this area, he has predecessors, namely General Acheampong and Colonel Bernasko (SMC government), whose Operation Feed Yourself policy saw arguably the best in Ghana’s agriculture.
Next is Commodore Steve Obimpeh, ex-Navy Commander.
Under him, as Agric Minister (as under Acheampong), every Ghanaian wanted to “go back to the land”.
Also, as under Acheampong, schools boasted of the size of their farms, including livestock and fish farms.
With school farms, Ghana could have been saved the disgrace, last year (for the first time in our existence) when schools as reputable as Accra Academy, Mfantsipim, St Augustine’s, Adisadel and Ghana National College had no food and students were eating porridge without sugar!!!
General Kutu Acheampong possessed only a commercial school certificate!
The next agric success story is laid at the doorsteps of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and, guess what?
The man at the helm was Major Courage Quarshigah, a soldier.
Bryan will soon be going for vetting. Before he goes, I have a piece of advice for him. He should run to PR guru and journalist Frank Apeagyei for a copy of his Ghana Must Go Kibbutz proposal.
In Kibbutz agriculture, the farmer becomes the absolute owner of the land on which they farm.
This phenomenon has achieved phenomenal success in Israel, a country where more than half of the land is desert.
Why did Kwame Nkrumah’s Workers Brigade and State Farms fail?
Apeagyei says their failure proves the point that “you cannot make a farmer out of a salaried worker”.
Against this backdrop, he suggests to the government to create a land bank for the distribution of lands to the youth, the unemployed and the entrepreneur class to go into farming, along the lines of Kibbutzim.
His idea of a farmer is the likes of Osei Kwame Despite, Sam Jonah, Mac Dan and Ofosu Bamfo.
In addition, Apeagyei is urging the government to
(i) invest in redirecting the rivers, as well as excess water from the Bagre and Weija dams to do the job of irrigating farms;
(ii) proliferate the country with warehouses and silos to address post-harvest losses;
(iii) create a dynamic and expansive marketing system to guarantee the farmer a good price for their produce.
Can anybody imagine what would have happened to this country by now if NABCO trainees had been let loose on the land from 2018, instead of lazing about at the ministries?
The writer is the Executive Director, Centre for Communication and Culture.