Dr Bryan Acheampong, Minister of Food  and Agriculture, addressing journalists
Dr Bryan Acheampong, Minister of Food and Agriculture, addressing journalists

In search of food security: Does PFJ 2.0 hold the key?

Food security is the focus of every country since food is a matter of security concern.

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The popular saying that a hungry man is an angry man is a truism of the practical situation on the ground.

Consequently, every country strives to ensure that there is food for its citizens.

In Ghana, various governments undertook different policies in their bid to ensure that food is available at any given time.

One of such radical policies was the Operation Feed Yourself programme instituted by the then leader of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), Colonel I.K. Acheampong.

It was an ambitious programme to propel Ghana towards self-sufficiency in food production.

Every Ghanaian was encouraged to practise backyard gardening.

Launch of PFJ

In a similar fashion, the current government, in April, 2017, launched a flagship programme dubbed, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), which focuses on improving the yields of farmers, access to markets, reducing post-harvest losses and enhancing extension service delivery.

The programme, which comes in five models seeks to address every aspect of food production – crops, vegetables, animal rearing, tree crop production and the mechanisation model.

Six years after the introduction of the programme, which mobilised over 1.7 million Ghanaians into farming, painstaking steps were taken, and it reached a stage that it needed to be reviewed to address identified shortfalls and to build on the successes chalked up. 

PFJ 2.0

Launching the second phase in Tamale, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stated that the initiative held immense potential to accelerate the growth of the agricultural sector.

“This system represents a transformative approach towards empowering our farmers, enhancing productivity and fostering sustainable agricultural development in Ghana,” he explained.

The President believed that the initiative would contribute to the overall stability of food supply in the country and also promote financial inclusion, enabling farmers to build credit histories and access formal financial services that were previously out of their reach.

For the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Bryan Acheampong, the outcome of the review exercise highlighted the need for a change in strategy to tackle the problems in the agricultural sector decisively, “and this gave birth to the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase II”.

The initiative, which is the pillar for the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase Two (PFJ2.0) seeks to consolidate the gains made since the first phase was launched in 2017.

The initiative seeks to provide affordable and timely credit specifically designed to meet the needs of farmers.

Anchored on four pillars — value chain driven, market-driven, private sector focus and inclusivity, the initiative is an input credit system that replaces the input subsidy programme under the first phase of the PFJ.

Through this system, the government aims to improve access to agricultural inputs, foster the adoption of modern farming practices and technologies, and ultimately catapult the agricultural sector to new heights.

Implementation of PFJ 2.0

Seven months down the lane, the ministry has rolled out the implementation plan with the registration of farmers throughout the country at the district level.

The registration exercise requires interested farmers and institutions or companies to visit their district agricultural directorates where extension officers will assist them by capturing their data with tablets supplied by the government.

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To facilitate the process, a mobile and web application platform, the Ghana Agriculture and Agribusiness Platform (GhAAP), has been developed.

Additionally, agricultural extension agents (AEAs) and other technical officers have been trained in how to use the platform.

To participate in the programme, farmers or producers must have access to land or a farm, get their profile captured at the district level, be a Ghanaian citizen with a valid Ghana Card, engage in farming on prioritised commodity crops, while a company or institution must be legally registered.

Under the programme, a smart farmer, smart farm, and digitised agriculture approach will be implemented using the GhAAP.

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Eleven prioritised commodities will be considered under the PFJ2.0.

 These are: poultry, rice, maize, soya bean, sorghum, tomato, onion, pepper, cassava, yam and plantain.

The interesting thing about the PFJ2.0 is that unlike the initial PFJ which focused mainly on smallholder farmers, the PFJ2.0 includes commercial farmers.

Avoiding pitfalls

It is good the minister said in reviewing the first part of the implementation of the programme that painstaking steps were taken to identify shortfalls and to build on the successes chalked up.

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The good intention of the ministry and for that matter the government to give the farmers respite by providing them with all the input and to recoup after harvest should be seen as a good gesture by the farmers, thereby paying back according to the arrangement.

It is good that the registration process is rigorous to seal all the loopholes to ensure that no farmer plays a fast one on the programme.

This is so because previous experiences with credit to people had never been the best, and it is the expectation that the extension agents will play their role effectively to ensure that the programme succeeds.

The ministry must avoid pitfalls, especially how to recoup the heavy investment in the form of inputs.

Some people are smart in areas such as this.

 The language is normally not the same at the receiving point and the time to repay.

The financial institutions over the years have been jittery advancing loans to farmers because of the high level of risk involved in farming.

So, if PFJ2.0 has been able to get the financial institutions to commit themselves, all effort should be made to ensure that the beneficiaries pay back as arranged.

Writer’s Email: [email protected]

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