New face of PFJ 2.0: Transformative strategy for agric sector
In 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched the agricultural flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), which seeks to increase food production to ensure food sufficiency and promote farming as a noble and profitable business.
Phase one successes
For six years, the PFJ made a significant impact on food production in the country, having roped in 1.7 million farmers onto the programme, resulting in increased agricultural sector growth rate from 2.7 per cent in 2016 to an average of 6.3 per cent from 2017 to 2021.
The five key pillars designed for phase one of the PFJ policy action were the provision of 50 per cent subsidised certified seeds; 50 per cent subsidised fertiliser; e-agriculture; market opportunities; and free extension services.
The programme led to the attainment of food self-sufficiency in major food staples such as maize, cassava and plantain as well as increased yields in maize, rice and soyabean by 135 per cent, 67 per cent, and 18 per cent respectively from 2016 to 2022.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture attributed this largely to, among other things, the increased fertiliser application rate from eight kg/ha in 2016 to 25 kg/ha in 2022; increased distribution of certified seeds from 2,000 MT in 2016 to 36,000 MT in 2022, as well as enhanced extension service delivery with the recruitment of 2,700 agricultural extension agents (AEAs) in 2018, thus reducing the AEA-farmer ratio from 1: 1,906 in 2016 to 1:709 in 2020.
Surely, these are great strides to celebrate as a country.
However, there were a number of limitations in the implementation of the programme.
For instance, the programme put serious financial strain on the government, especially with the subsidised fertilisers and improved seeds.
For the first five years of the implementation of the programme, a total accumulated amount of GH¢ 2.68 billion was expended on seeds and fertiliser from 2017 to 2021. It is, however, a fact that this investment yielded over GH¢47 billion worth of the produce, though this was not reimbursed to the government.
That is why the current Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Bryan Acheampong, must be commended for reviewing the programme, in light of these and many other identified gaps during the implementation of the first phase of the programme.
Launch of PFJ 2.0
Consequently, last week, Monday, August 28, 2023, President Akufo-Addo was in Tamale in the Northern Region to launch the rebirth or the second phase of the PFJ, which was dubbed PFJ Phase Two (PFJ 2.0).
PFJ 2.0 seeks to build on the achievements of its initial phase, with a five-year comprehensive plan to modernise agriculture in Ghana.
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.
This plan emphasises the development of specific commodity value chains and active participation from the private sector.
Known as the Input Credit System, the PFJ 2.0 will provide affordable and timely credit specially designed to meet the needs of farmers.
It is aimed at transforming and modernising the agricultural value chain through the active participation of the private sector, improving service delivery to maximise impact and creating decent jobs for the teeming youth.
The input credit system replaces the input subsidy programme under the first phase of the PFJ, where fertiliser and improved seeds are supplied to farmers.
This was susceptible to all sorts of abuses including the smuggling of these farm inputs to neighbouring countries and onto the open market.
This was an open secret, which led to the interception of loads of trucks with farm inputs at the various borders of our neighbouring countries.
Therefore, the decision to fashion the PFJ 2.0 on input credit system to be managed entirely by the private sector will wipe out the infiltration of people rather than the real beneficial farmers.
The inclusion of the commercial large-scale farmers in a complete departure of the first phase is heartwarming and this is possible because an input credit taken would be borne by the beneficiary individual, who would be required to pay back.
This initiative is an intervention that would eliminate access to credit barriers, increase productivity and production, stabilise food prices, promote commercial agriculture and ultimately improve food security and resilience.
Modelled on the successful implementation of the first phase, the five-year PFJ 2.0 programme is expected to create more than 420,000 direct and indirect jobs along the value chain.
The government of Brazil is supporting the programme with $62 million, while the government of the Czech Republic has voted €10 million for the intervention over five years.
The underpinning model, which is the Input Credit System, according to Dr Acheampong, would solve a number of critical challenges such as access to credit, quality of agro-inputs, unstructured markets of agricultural produce and low mechanisation.
“Indeed, when we roll out the programme in full, one will no longer need to mobilise upfront financing for land development and preparation, as well as seeds and fertilisers which together constitute about 80 per cent of production cost.
“I’m bold to predict that with time, the new slogan for agriculture would be: PFJ 2.0, ‘neɛ wohia ara ne asaase’ – to wit ‘all you need is access to land’ and all other things shall be added,” Dr Acheampong told the farmers and officials at the launch of the PFJ 2.0.
The PFJ 2.0 programme, therefore, focuses on transforming and modernising agriculture through the development of selected agricultural value chains with active private-sector participation.
As the sector minister rightly said, the success of the PFJ 2.0 will hinge largely on access to tracts of arable lands.
Therefore, the role of our traditional authorities is crucial in implementing the PFJ 2.0 programme.