Some researchers at the University of Ghana have described the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) policy as a piecemeal initiative that lacks the potential to make the desired impact on smallholder farmers.
According to them, the Planting for Food and Jobs policy looked good on paper but was practically weak because it was focused more on the supply of inputs to boost production at the expense of other aspects of the agriculture value chain.
“We have stated policies and actual policies. The Planting for Food and Jobs is the government’s stated policy but with the research we conducted, there is nothing to suggest that the distribution and marketing segments of the agriculture value chain has been tackled,” Professor Joseph Teye, a researcher at the Centre of Migration Studies at the Department of Geography and Resource Development, said.
He indicated this while presenting the findings of a research conducted on food systems and the activities of smallholder farmers, the challenges, government policies and the future of farming at a two-day conference which opened in Accra yesterday.
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The research, which was conducted between December, 2017 and January, this year, is under the auspices of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with Oxfam, Private Enterprise Foundation and other partners.
It was carried out in farming communities in four regions comprising Northern, Eastern, Brong Ahafo and Greater Accra.
The findings of the research showed that only 17.5 per cent of the total farmer population received fertilisers and seeds under the Planting for Food and Jobs policy while the remaining 82.25 did not get any form of support from the government for 2017.
According to the research, almost all the farmers who received the inputs were worried that the fertilisers and seeds were not of the best quality and were not supplied at the right time.
"The findings of the research show that there is a problem with the distribution chain because more work has not been done to market the produce by farmers.
"We also found out that the farmers are worried about the repayment model for the subsidised fertiliser. On paper, it stated that the farmers will repay with farm produce but we found that they are being made to pay in cash even though their produce have no ready market," he stated.
A co-author of the research, Professor Joseph Yaro, said the research further showed that a myriad of challenges such as post-harvest losses, bad road networks, lack of access to credit facilities, inadequate storage facilities, worsened the plight of smallholder farmers.
The research, he explained, showed that most consumers tended to have taste for foreign food because local produce were of poor quality, poorly packaged and were highly perishable.
He called on the government to streamline the activities of farmers and traders in the marketing segment of the value chain to remove bottlenecks in the marketing of farm produce.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afiriyie-Akoto, said despite some challenges that the PFJ faced in the first year, the Planting for Food and Jobs would be more focused on storage and marketing of produce this year.
He added that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with three local entities to supply farmers with foundation seeds, assuring that there would be an improvement in the quality of seeds that would be supplied this year.
Meanwhile, the President of PFAG, Mr Abdul-Rahman Mohammed, called for the establishment of an emergency fund to tackle the challenges facing smallholder farmers.
According to him, even though policies by the government, such as the Planting for Food and Jobs, and the one-village, one-dam, were good, it required sustainable funding and increased investment to improve the lives of peasant farmers.
He further called on the government to take steps to check the smuggling of fertiliser meant for farmers to neighbouring countries.