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Ghana’s Agric Policy since 1960…Planting for Food and Jobs the new baby

By Sule N. Jotie

 

“There are two people in the world, the well-fed and the hungry. Hundreds of millions are worse than hungry - they are starved.”- Maurice Wood, Daily Graphic, August 6, 1962.

 

All governments, de jure and de facto, since Ghana attained republican status in 1960, have described agriculture as the mainstay or anchor of the economy.

 

It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture, and that the number encompasses the agriculture value chain — the variety of activities and set of actors that bring agricultural yield from production in the field to final consumption, and where at each stage, value is added to the product.

 

Efforts by past governments to modernize agriculture and increase food and cash crops production were guided by various agricultural policies, some of which were successful while others were not most probably because the policies were not well thought through or the governments did not live long to complete the implementation of the policies.

 

The Convention People’s Party administration

 

Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s agriculture policy started with the establishment of Co-operative and State Farms that were supposed to be run on commercial basis, and by 1962, 26 state farms were established.  Each constituency of the country had an officer responsible for the establishment of state farms. Crops targeted for these farms included rubber, oil palm, cotton, coconuts and fiber plant. Special attention was given to cocoa by improving its production methods. For instance, a number of fermentaries designed to improve quality of cocoa were to be established and run by the farmers on co-operative lines and attention was equally given to livestock, especially the control of diseases and the provision of feeds to increase local meat supply to reduce imports.

 

To ease the burden on farmers whose tools were hoes and cutlasses, district and regional tractor stations were set up to enable farmers rent tractors to plough their farms.This aside, cutlasses were also given to farmers, particularly cocoa farmers, at cheaper prices.

 

To facilitate the marketing of food produce, government established a Food Marketing Board that provided assured markets and guaranteed prices for products from the farms. Plans were also put in place to establish central seed processing centres to handle major food crops like maize, rice, groundnuts and many other crops.

 

Military regimes

 

Military regimes that came after the CPP government of Dr Nkrumah and subsequent ones also pursued agricultural policies that were aimed at alleviating the plight of the rural farmer and Ghanaians at large. For instance, the National Liberation Council (NLC) that overthrew the Nkrumah regime in 1966 spelt out its policies as follows: support for farmers by way of marketing, feeder roads, water conservation and irrigation, extension advice and agricultural credit. The regime described these policies as necessary for the rapid increase in the production of food and other crops.

 

The National Redemption Council (NRC) reactivated the state farms and the Workers’ Brigade concept to increase food production and dairy products it took power from the Progress Party government in 1972. It set up a special agricultural committee to prepare the country’s agricultural development plan,on February 18, 1972, the government launched what the Daily Graphic described on its front page as “…Big Agriculture Plan” known as ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ which was expected to increase food production in selected areas throughout the country.

 

The government announced that it had “declared firmly that agriculture has priority in the scheme of things and that the allocation of financial resources would show unmistakably the bias towards agriculture. The import restrictive policies of government would be more favorable to agricultural materials and equipment for the production of crops, cash crops for industrial raw materials, fisheries and livestock including ruminants.”

 

The government had acknowledged that the traditional mode of farming could not feed the nation let alone for export surplus. As indicated earlier, the ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ was anchored in government’s existing production units like settlement units, state farms and food Production Corporation—a policy which has been lauded even today, as  it encouraged many Ghanaians not just farmers, to plant crops on all available arable land, especially at the backyards of many homes.

 

Under the policy, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Farms Corporation, Food Distribution Corporation, Settlement Farms, National Investment Bank and private farms, educational institutions were given specific production targets to meet.

 

The last military regime took power on December 31, 1981 and formed the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). The government of the PNDC declared on January 18, 1982 that it was time to go to the farm. The government asked all Ghanaians to farm and stop craving for imported commodities. It pledged the Council’s priority to agriculture, adding that plans were afoot to achieve a green revolution in the country; emphasis was placed on the production of maize, rice and fish farming. Chiefs were encouraged to mobilize members of the communities to establish community farms to boost food production. Understandably, it was within this period that Ghana witnessed the harshest draught in her history and the need for food was more urgent than any other need.

 

Progress Party and People’s National Party Administrations

 

The two republics did not last long—each of them for about 2 years, 3 months. Nevertheless, they formulated agricultural policies that were expected to increase food and cash crop production in the country. The Progress Party government,for example, committed to increasing staff and financial resources for agencies set up to promote the production of raw materials for local industries, improve the quality of extension officers to cocoa farms and research into problems in the production and marketing  of cocoa. The People’s National Party, on the other hand, focused on providing incentives to individual farmers, organisations and business enterprises who would join the government to produce food and raw materials.

 

In the fourth republic, especially starting from 2001,agricultural policies were geared towards food and cash crop production.

 

The first New Patriotic Party government,under the fourth Republic, implemented the Fertilizer Subsidy programme to ensure that farmers were able to purchase the commodity for their farms. It also implemented the free cocoa spraying exercise in cocoa growing areas. While Cotton farmers in the north were also supplied with subsidized fertilizers for their farms.

 

The government of the National Democratic Congress Party did not depart from them when they succeeded the NPP in 2009. In addition the government constructed roads in cocoa growing areas to help cart cocoa to the ports and sold tractors to farmers on subsidized basis. In essence, agriculture, identified as the backbone of the economy, featured prominently in the national development programmes of all governments, since 1960, guided by specific policies.

 

Then enters a replica of ‘Operation Feed Yourself’, Planting for Food and Jobs

 

‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ is a flagship policy of the NPP, which is aimed at producing enough food to feed the nation, export the surpluses, reduce excessive food import bill and generate employment for Ghanaians. The focus of the programme is to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth in agriculture and allied sectors. The policy rallies the civic responsibility of all citizens to plant a seed of any kind during the farming season to green Ghana.

 

It is encouraging Ghanaians to grow grain crops and vegetables in open spaces including backyard gardens in urban areas. In that regard, private and public institutions are encouraged to set up their own farms. Institutions like breweries, food processors, schools, colleges and prisons are all encouraged to establish their own farms.

 

Like the previous policies, the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ is focusing on five key crops — maize, rice, soybean, sorghum and vegetables and about 200,000 selected target groups are expected to benefit this year in all 216 districts of the country to be increased steadily to about 5 million by 2020.

 

Implementation

 

The implementation of the programme is anchored on five pillars, namely the provision of seeds, supply of fertilizers, provision of dedicated extension services, marketing and electronic platform to capture and monitor activities of participating farmers. Indeed, some of these activities, especially the provision of improved seeds and fertilizers have already started.

 

Employment

 

Through this intervention, some 750,000 jobs, both direct and indirect,are expected to be created for the youth. These include 1, 200 unemployed graduates from the five colleges of agriculture, who have already been recruited, trained and deployed to the districts and will be provided with motorcycles and other logistics to facilitate their work with farmers.

 

Markets

 

Under the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme, Government intends to construct  a 1, 000 metric tonne capacity warehouse in each district to provide handling and storage space for the surpluses which are anticipated. In order for the surpluses not to stay in the warehouses for long and to encourage the consumption of local food, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture will enter into agreements with the Ministries of Gender, Education and Health to purchase foodstuffs for the School Feeding Programme, for colleges, hospitals and other state institutions.

 

ICT

 

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have brought changes in the way things are done and agriculture is no exception. It is for this reason that MoFA has reactivated its e-agriculture platform to provide information and extension services to make monitoring and evaluation more vigorous and timely.

 

Conclusion

 

The ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ initiative must work. And as the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, acknowledged at the launch of the programme at Goaso in the Brong Ahafo Region, the five pillars of the programme are not new to previous policies.

 

What, then, is new about this programme is the level of support it has received so far. The Canadian government is supporting the policy with CAD $ 125 million, over a five-year period, while the World Bank has pledged US$ 50 million support this year, 2017 and USAID, through its ‘Feed-The-Future’ Initiative, has also indicated its preparedness to support.

 

Even though President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has given his pledge that food crop farmers, fish farmers and livestock farmers will have the support and respect they deserve from government, the planting for food and jobs is not covering fish and livestock farmers. Government should, therefore,spell out its policy for these groups of farmers who supply the protein needs of Ghanaians.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

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