Out of darkness, NSS shines

Ever heard the expression, “thinking outside the box”? I had known the meaning but it had not occurred to me to find out why we say and write it.  

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According to Google, the expression comes from a famous puzzle created by an early 20th century British mathematician Henry Ernest Dudeney.

The puzzle asks one to connect nine dots on a three-by-three grid, using four straight lines without the pencil leaving the page. 

To solve the puzzle successfully, one has to realise that the boundaries of the “box” are psychological and the only way to do it is to extend the lines beyond these artificial boundaries.

In the course of this year, I have devoted this page thrice to patting the shoulders of State-owned Enterprises whose managements have been thinking outside the box. They include Ghana Oil Limited (GOIL), Intercity STC and DVLA.

Sitting at the UPSA Great Hall on October 10, 2022 to witness the launch of the 50th anniversary of the National Service Scheme (NSS), the expression “thinking outside the box” kept humming in my head.  

To my list of state institutions whose managements have shot them (or are shooting them) out of hopelessness into unbelievable prominence and/or a course of profitability, I add the NSS.  

Set up in 1973, there is no patriotic Ghanaian who has not been concerned about the longest lasting joke called “National Service deployment”.

 Who is the stranger in Ghana who doesn’t know that most of the graduates deployed into ministries, departments and agencies only get there to become glorified messengers?

Their most consistent service is running errands for the officers, chiefly to run across the street to buy them roasted plantain and groundnuts for lunch.

Yet a Daily Graphic news item in August 28, 2023 revealed that each year, the NSS deploys more than 70,000 graduates to undertake the 12-month compulsory employment postings.

Imagine this vast army of energetic youths unleashed onto potential productive activity and all we did for many years, apart from teaching, was to contain them in sectors that had no need for them! Meanwhile, year after year, governments have struggled to get the money to pay them.

Working

The NSS is one of only a handful of government schemes since 1966 that have worked in Ghana.

I here get up for General (later Mr) Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, Chairman of the SMC.

We killed him for no cause.

I am not justifying corruption, but if Acheampong was branded corrupt and killed for same, what should we not have done to those who overthrew and killed him – but who, shamelessly, took US$5 million bribe from Africa’s most brutal dictator!

Successive managements of the NSS have, from what I heard and have seen since the 50th anniversary launch, undergone a paradigm shift “from its traditional posting deployment plan to a more productive strategy to tackle food production.”

Farms

There are now NSS farms, where service personnel engage in commercial farming.

At the NSS livestock farm at Nungua the personnel are producing guinea fowls, layers, broilers, turkeys, goats, sheep, ostriches and rabbits. 

The poultry section produces 50,000 birds annually and 350 crates of eggs.

Its 40–footer cold store and mini meat processor process meat into sausages and other products for sale to supermarkets, hotels and the general public.  

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At Dawhenya, National Service personnel are producing maize and vegetables on 500 acres of land.

The farm has the potential to produce 6,000 bags of maize annually and 40,000 fish (tilapia).

The scheme is also undertaking fish farming on the Dawhenya Lake with four cages capable of holding 20,000 fingerlings of tilapia.

Its Branam specialised farm in Wenchi in the Bono Region, established in 2011, produces yellow maize for the poultry sector.

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The farm has ponds for fish production, a poultry section that produces 3,000 broilers and 3,000 layers producing about 45 crates of eggs daily, a piggery that has 251 pigs, a rabbitry with 182 rabbits, three acres of mango and coconut plantation, as well as a snail production section.

It also has a livestock feed mill to produce poultry and animal feed.

What brought joy to my heart is news that from the Ejuraman Traditional Council, the Service acquired a total of 715 acres of land from the defunct Ejura Farms Ltd to pilot the NSS Agriculture Project in 2010.

It continues: “The pilot was successful in harvesting 6,400 bags of maize, which were sold under a special arrangement to the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) for the feeding of students in 95 senior high schools.”

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Unbelievable, isn’t it? In a land where nothing works. Indeed, given the NSS reality, it is difficult to accept the FACT that Ghana is poor.

If National Service personnel have fed schools, why should it be difficult, or impossible to think that students currently in school should feed themselves?

Acheampong did it – and he was only a commercial school product! 

The writer is Executive Director,
Centre for Communication and Culture.
E-mail: [email protected]

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