The Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Professor William Otto Ellis, has lamented the long years of failure by the country to realise any meaningful change in the agricultural sector from the immeasurable volumes of research work published and reviewed almost every year on agriculture.
The agriculture sector — touted as the mainstay of Ghana’s economy in times past — boasts a number of widely recognised academic and research institutions and facilities in almost all parts of the country churning out volumes of literature on the sector yearly.
However, notwithstanding the relevance and sheer volumes of research papers published on the sector, as part of efforts to enhance and develop best farming practices within the country and the sub-region, Ghana’s agriculture has not seen any significant transformation over the years.
Ironically, the agriculture sector continues to lag behind other sectors of the economy in terms of funding and growth, and lately its contribution to the local economy. This is indicative of the fact that successive governments have failed to adequately address challenges confronting the sector.
According to data from the Ghana Statistical Service, in a revised 2014 GDP posted in April 2015, the agricultural sector is placed as the third-highest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Professor Otto Ellis, who was speaking on ‘Promoting Food Security in a Sustainable environment in Ghana’, as a keynote speaker at a one-day forum organised by GhanaVeg in collaboration with the Crop Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Kumasi, attributed challenges of the sector to lack of commitment in implementing policies born out of data provided on agriculture.
He said there is enough data available on agriculture, but the problem is that we have failed to take advantage of it.
He said until there is commitment to make sure that policies on agriculture are used, there is no need to bring them out. He thus called for a critical consideration of this development.
Touching further on how to promote food security, he emphasised establishment of the right policy framework to guide and support developed initiatives while also learning from other systems.
He observed that “predominantly as a nation, most of the people who produce to feed the country are small-scale farmers”, a greater percentage of which lack the required skills to transform the sector.
Against this backdrop, he asked that there be capacity building strategies developed to deal with and help farmers.
He said there is a need to design programmes that build the skills and knowledge of individual smallholder farmers, and training on community/group dynamics and networking with the potential to translate this into marketing groups/systems for empowerment.
Again, he asked for provision of the right policy and support to grow the agribusiness sector, particularly by way of ensuring access to financial, social capital with very low interest rates.
He said banks in the country do not find agriculture attractive to invest in due to ‘perceived’ risk associated with the sector. He therefore suggested that policies should be designed and enforced to ensure that banks reserve certain percentage of their facilities that goes into the agriculture sector.
The forum brought researchers and vegetable sector players together to interact and share ongoing research interventions that seek to ease challenges facing the sector, and also coincided with the 15th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Ghana Institute of Horticulturists (GhIH).
It was organised under the theme ‘Promoting Food Security in a sustainable environment in Ghana’.
The platform was also expected to be used for addressing research gaps, as well as finding solutions to address problems facing the sector.
Programme Leader of GhanaVeg, Mr. Joep van den Broek, said research is relevant in promoting the food security necessary for alleviating hunger in the world as well as sustaining a healthy environment.
He said the current challenges such as phyto-sanitation in vegetable crops, soil and climate change can be reduced if researchers and key players in the sector collaborate on finding practical on-field solutions.
GhanaVeg believes this research should be private sector-led. “We want to ensure these research activities are relevant to the sector and not shelved,” he stated.
Former Director Crops Research Institute, Dr. Hans Adu-Dapaah, called for inclusion of the horticulture industry to help bring improvement to people’s livelihoods, create employment, and as well contribute greatly to addressing the issue of food security.