Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto outlines plans to transform country
The immediate past Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has outlined seven interventions the country must undertake to accelerate the total transformation of the country.
Describing them as the new paradigm shift and critical factors, he said the interventions included political will, a change in governance structure, research and development, strengthening of inputs and market systems and human resource development.
Dr Akoto, the longest-serving Minister of Agriculture th country has ever had, was speaking at a public lecture on: “Future of the economy of Ghana: Transforming agriculture for prosperity of all” at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) in Accra yesterday.
“I strongly believe agriculture will lift Ghana out of poverty and assure us not only of food and nutrition security but also generate the necessary resources for the development of the other sectors, including industry, health, education and infrastructure, in the medium to long term,” he added.
The former minister entered the UPSA Auditorium accompanied by a brass band, amid shouts of: “Adwumawura” and “Mr Planting tor Food and Jobs”.
The UPSA Auditorium, one of the largest in the country, was turned into a sea of red, blue and white, the colours of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The event attracted many stalwarts of the NPP, including a former acting Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the party, Alfred Boye, who was the Chairman for the occasion.
Dr Akoto served as a consultant to the World Bank (a United Nations agency) on soft commodities — cocoa, coffee and sugar — in the 1980s and recently stepped down as Minister of Agriculture to pursue his ambition of becoming the NPP flag bearer in the 2024 elections.
He narrated stories depicting the current situation of the Ghanaian farmer and shared anecdotes with statistics as evidence that the implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative had been a resounding success.
He, however, added that there was room for improvement.
He said between 2017 and 2021, government expenditure on improved seeds and fertiliser amounted to GH¢2.6 billion, noting that “to optimise the gains from such investments, we must further invest in the education of farmers”.
“There is the need for a new business model, value addition, productive stakeholder engagement, including the youth, smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers, all in agribusiness for adequate and affordable food and high value export to fully benefit from the gains of the sector,” he added.
Dr Akoto suggested that the country must prioritise agricultural transformation at the highest level of government through the implementation of a well-defined vision and strategy.
He said in his vision to transform agriculture for the prosperity of the country, he would go the way of the first Prime Minister on India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who once said: ‘Everything can wait, but not agriculture’.
Agricultural Management Team
He explained that in addition to the Economic Management Team headed by the Vice-President, there should be a newly created Agricultural Management Team (AMT), chaired by the President himself. to drive agricultural development.
He was of the strong opinion that to improve supply chain logistics and expand market access, infrastructure projects such as feeder roads, hospitals, housing, rural electrification, irrigation and storage facilities should be integral in the agricultural transformation agenda.
Another suggestion he made was significant investments in big data and technology for precise and evidence-based decision-,making in partnership with the private sector, adding that “an agricultural policy must be driven by evidence”.
Touching on research, Dr Akoto, who obtained his Master of Science in Agricultural Economics at the Cambridge University, said he would endeavour to appropriately fund the research venture of the diverse national agricultural research institutions, including the universities, in areas such as agronomy, extension and plant breeding.
Others, he added, were integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), integrated pest and disease management (IPDM), post-harvest management (PHM) and climate-smart technologies.
He indicated that to curb the effects of climate change and sustain yields on farmers’ fields, “we must grow crops that are resilient to withstand drought, heavy rains and heat. Sustainable investment in science, technology and innovation in agricultural development will offer prosperity to all, including smallholder farmers”.
Dr Akoto said the regulatory framework would seek to develop platforms for agricultural innovations, output market structures and incentives that allowed for the full realisation of the value of increased production.
“A well-funded and competitive private sector can manage and allocate skills and capital to scale up agro-processing and value addition and drive long-term sustainable agribusiness growth for job creation,” he added.