National Service deploys personnel into agriculture
Over three decades, the National Service Scheme (NSS) has been associated with the agricultural sector, having managed a farm for the scheme all this while.
However, in recent times, the scheme has diversified its coverage of deploying service persons to the agricultural sector, where personnel, especially those from agricultural institutions, are posted to the NSS farms.
Operations of NSS
The scheme which was started in 1973 now operates under Act 426 (of 1980) and is a compulsory one-year service required of all citizens of Ghana who are 18 years and above.
Personnel deployed are paid allowances by the NSS under the direction of the Ministry of Finance.
The NSS has the objective to develop skilled manpower citizens through practical hands-on skills.
The scheme also aims at training and promoting national unity and strengthening the bonds of common citizenship and national orientation among Ghanaians.
National cohesion and labour productivity are two central advantages of Ghana’s NSS.
Over the years, the scheme has repositioned itself in agriculture and contributed its quota towards addressing the food security needs of our country.
Each year, more than 70,000 graduates are deployed by the NSS to undertake 12-month compulsory employment postings throughout the country.
Given this large-scale labour mobilisation, it is only appropriate to rethink what assignment mechanisms are optimal for achieving the stated goals of the NSS and maintaining compliance with posting assignments.
It is the preserve of the scheme managers to assign participants to posts, including the location, industry and areas that match the specific expertise of graduates.
Considering this, the NSS took a paradigm shift from its traditional posting deployment plan to a more productive strategy to tackle food production.
The strategy created an economic enclave for the youth to engage in commercial farming focusing on maize, soya, rice and poultry production.
Personnel in agric
It is worth mentioning that a 20,000-acre Sekyere Kurman Economic Enclave Project has been established by the NSS at Abotantire in the Sekyere Afram Plains District in the Ashanti Region.
According to the Executive Director of the NSS, Osei Assibey Antwi, the scheme intended to deploy about 5,000 personnel into farming.
Described as the biggest farming project in the history of the NSS, it seeks, among other things, to support import substitution, ensure food and nutritional security and attract and retain graduate youth into commercial agriculture and its value chain.
PFJ Phase II
This vision fits very much into the plans of the MoFA and calls for collaboration as it prepares to officially launch the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase II (PFJ 2.0) programme, an innovative and comprehensive approach building on the successes of the initial/first PFJ campaign.
It takes a holistic view of the value chain approach by focusing on strengthening linkages among actors along selected agricultural commodity value chains and improving service delivery to maximise impact.
The programme substitutes direct input subsidy with smart agricultural financial support in the form of comprehensive input credit with a provision.
This will provide farmers with access to inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and pesticides.
An off-taker arrangement/commodity trading arrangement will be put in place to ensure that farmers have access to markets for their produce and that they receive a fair price for their crops.
The NSS, through the support of the Ejuraman Traditional Council, acquired a total of 715 acres of land from the defunct Ejura Farms Ltd to pilot the NSS Agriculture Project in 2010.
The farm was hailed by many, including the MoFA and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), as a bold and successful project leading to the invitation of the Executive Director of NSS to address the IFAD conference in Italy.
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.
The MoFA allocated five pens from its livestock farm to the NSS for its livestock project.
The project produces guinea fowls, layers, broilers, turkeys, goats, sheep, ostriches and rabbits.
Nungua livestock project
The farm has the potential to produce 50,000 birds annually and 350 crates of eggs daily if the right management practices are taken adequately.
They also operate a 40–footer cold store and a mini meat processor that processes meat into sausages and other products for sale to supermarkets, hotels and the general public.
Again, the MoFA, in 2011, through the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), leased 500 acres of land at Dawhenya to the NSS to produce maize and vegetables.
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 currently holding 20,000 fingerlings of tilapia.
The Branam specialised farm in Wenchi in the Bono Region was established in 2011, where yellow maize is produced for the poultry industry.
Papao demonstration farm
The NSS, in 1986, set up and operates an 11-acre Papao Demonstration Farm near the University of Ghana.
The farm is a fully integrated farm with crop, plantain and mango plantation, fish and livestock production.
The farm serves as a practical training setup for graduates from various agricultural institutes.
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 and a manufacturing unit for skills training.
The writer is Head of PR,
Ministry of Food and Agriculture