President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday launched the government’s flagship agricultural programme: ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, which is designed to increase agricultural production, ensure sustainable supply of food at cheaper cost and create jobs for the youth.
The programme is expected to create about 750,000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment, especially for the youth.
Additionally, it is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 per cent, rice by 49 per cent, soybean by 25 per cent and sorghum by 28 per cent from the current production levels.
It also seeks to create general awareness and encourage workers in both the formal and the informal sectors and the unemployed to grow grain crops and vegetables in open spaces, including backyards in urban areas.
Hundreds of people from all walks of life filled the Nana Akwasi Bosomprah I Park in Goaso in the Brong Ahafo Region to witness the launch of the programme, which is expected to transform and modernise agriculture in the country.
The government of Canada is supporting the programme with $125 million over five years, while the World Bank has pledged $50 million to support it this year, with the Korean government pledging $9 million.
Launching the programme, President Akufo-Addo declared that ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ was the answer to the modernisation of agriculture, which was expected to end the migration of the youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs.
He said although more than 50 per cent of the country’s population was engaged in agriculture, growth in the sector had declined dramatically in the last few years.
“Food is unnecessarily expensive in the country that is blessed with fertile land. Our production methods are not modern and income levels of farmers and fisher folk remain low, making the sector unattractive to the youth as a viable means of livelihood,” he said.
The President said if Ghana was to make any meaningful change in the lives of its people, “our efforts must be directed at agriculture”, explaining that “the majority of people can only feel a change in their lives when we develop agriculture”.
He stated that the government’s aim was to modernise agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security and increase profitability for farmers in a bid to significantly raise agricultural productivity.
“We need to pursue value-addition strategy, aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing and developing new and stable markets for our products,” he stated.
Outlying the focus of the programme, the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, explained that the initiative would focus on five key crops — maize, rice, soybean, sorghum and vegetables.
He stated that this year’s campaign would focus on a selected target group of up to 200,000 farmers in all the 216 districts of the country, with the number increasing steadily to reach at least half of the farming population of five million by 2020.
According to the minister, the implementation of the programme was anchored on five pillars — the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilisers, the provision of dedicated extension services, marketing arrangements to ensure zero post-harvest losses and an electronic platform to capture and monitor the activities of participating farmers.
“As we speak, all improved seeds required for the programme have been deployed to the districts and are being distributed to farmers. Fertilisers are being dispatched this week and our campaign is taking off with great vigour,” he said.
Dr Akoto said 1,200 unemployed graduates from the five colleges of agriculture had been recruited and trained, while the government had resolved to construct 1,000-metric tonne warehouses in each of the 216 districts to provide handling and storage space for the expected surpluses which were anticipated under the programme.
“The provision of such a string of marketing infrastructure for food crops will be unprecedented in the history of this country,” he added.
In her remarks, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Canadian High Commission to Ghana, Ms Tina Guthrie, said Canada wanted Ghanaian farmers to be growing Ghanaian food for Ghanaian families, while creating jobs and increasing revenues for Ghanaians on national and international markets.
“There is such a great potential for agriculture in this country. From our experience, we know that Ghana is up to the challenge. Despite the difficulties inherent in being a farmer — the long hours and hard physical work — we have seen impressive results in our projects,” she said.
Ms Guthrie said findings from Ghanaian agricultural research did not always make it to the farm level and that even when productivity levels increased, farmers did not always have access to local or domestic markets.
“But these are solvable problems, and we trust that through Canada’s continued support to Ghana’s agricultural sector and the government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs” campaign, we can collectively address them,” she said.
Agricultural Development Bank
The Managing Director of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), Mr Daniel Asiedu, pledged the unflinching support of the bank in partnering the MoFA to successfully implement the objectives of the policy.
He announced that a credit line of GH¢150 million had been set up by the bank to support the government to meet the payment requirements for the agro inputs supplied to beneficiaries under the programme.
“The bank will assist the hardworking farmers participating in the programme who intend to expand their operations to transit into successful commercial farmers by providing the necessary support needed,” he said.
Mr Asiedu added that the ADB intended to pre-finance a number of agro input suppliers selected by the MoFA under the programme.
The bank, according to him, had also set aside GH¢300 million as credit facility to support various viable projects in the agricultural value chain for the 2017 financial year.
“We at the ADB endorse this great initiative and would like to use this opportunity to call on other financial institutions to do likewise by allocating funds for agricultural financing,” he added.