Empower farmers with skills rather than subsidies - Prof. Appiah Amfo

BY: Kester Aburam Korankye
Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo (left), Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, in a discussion with  Prof. Peter Quartey (right), Director, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo
Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo (left), Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, in a discussion with Prof. Peter Quartey (right), Director, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, has called on the government to move beyond subsidies and equip farmers with business development skills and corporate governance strategies.

She said when farmers were adequately trained and provided with the necessary equipment, it would make them financially stable, so that they would no longer require subsidies.

The V-C also urged policy makers to work with the private sector to develop a framework that would shift the production paradigm in the agricultural space from a subsistence culture to a value-creation economic activity.

Prof. Amfo made the call at the eighth annual Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI) stakeholders’ conference in Accra on the theme: “Transform towards sustainable and resilient food systems in Africa”.

The conference, which was held both in-person and virtually, was participated in by policy makers and researchers, including the Director of Crop Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr Seth Akoto; the Director of the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey, among others.

Subsidy programmes

Prof. Amfo said the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative was not different from other agricultural subsidy programmes in Africa, but given the limitations of the government’s purse due to competing development challenges, it was evident that the subsidy programme might not be sustainable.

She mentioned delayed payments to suppliers of fertiliser in the country as one of the challenges the government was grappling with, adding: “This is why we must adopt an all-round approach that will equip farmers to consider farming as a business that can offer decent incomes and sustainable jobs.”

“If we can equip and support farmers to do that, the sector will become attractive to investor capital because investors will be assured of reasonable returns on their investment,” she said.

Prof. Amfo further said there was the need for the government to be aggressive in promoting large-scale commercial agriculture by increasing the application of technology-driven measures in the entire food chain.

Reducing food imports

For his part, Mr Akoto said it was time for countries in Africa to reduce food imports by growing more food to feed the people.

“We spend nearly $40 billion on food imports, including commodities that can grow well on the continent.

We must redirect these resources to improve the food value chain of the continent in a way that is environmentally sustainable and inclusive,” he said.

He said the government had introduced a number of interventions, including diversifying the tree crop sector beyond cocoa to include oil palm and cashew under the Planting for Exports and Jobs initiative.

“This intervention is a typical game changer for sustainable food systems transformation and resilience.

Tree crop production can decrease carbon footprints, contribute to income diversification of farmers and reduce their risks due to food failure,” Mr Akoto said.