Another National Farmers’ Day is here with us. Ghanaians, and the rest of the world, need not be told again that the day has been set aside to honour the nation’s gallant farmers and fisher folks. The acknowledgment is for their pivotal role in the nation’s socio-economic development.
The fundamental objective is clear – to motivate those in the sector to improve on productivity in order for Ghana to continually feed her growing population, provide raw materials to industries and contribute substantially to the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.
As we join many Ghanaians to express appreciation to our farmers and fishers, it is important to take stock of or gauge activities in the sector against plan.
Ghana’s agriculture still remains highlyunmodernized with production inefficiency. While the Ministry of Food and Agriculture acknowledges that farm implements used are cutlasses, hoes, axes, mattocks, and equipment like spraying machines and prunes, it says these farm implements are accompanied by traditional practices like “slash and burn.”
What this means is that the use of modern agricultural technologies is limited, and therefore farm work is highly manpower-based. No doubt, this is thwarting efforts to ensure increasing productivity toward achieving food security and profitability for our farmers.
Today, the principal sources of funding for farming activities is either from the farmers’ own savings or private money lenders and relatives. The high cost of finance and the cumbersome procedures, coupled with lack of collateral demanded by banks and other financial institutions have made it impossible for our farmers to get credit for their farming activities.
Whilst 44 percent interest rate is charged on credit for agriculture, there is no partial guarantee for our farmers, let alone indemnity for the daring ones contracting loans. How does the common farmer – smallholder – expand. Meanwhile, importers are able to secure credit facility around 29.5 percent, and sometimes lower. Where lies our priority as a nation?
We as journalists see it as mere rhetoric Government’s declaration of its commitment to the agriculture sector. If not, why will supply be nil for 180,000 metric tons of fertilization application captured in the 2014 budget? Last year, out of 360,000 metric tons of fertilizer budgeted to be distributed, only half of the figure was supplied for onward distribution to farmers across the country. This year (2016) is not different, and no one has found it expedient to explain to the Ghanaian populace why targets were missed.
Even the national policy on fertilizer subsidy has deliberately excluded phosphate fertilizer, which is badly needed by the people of Upper West Region. It is a known fact that two-thirds of soils in the Upper West Region are seriously deficient of phosphorus, but our leaders have turned a blind eye on it. To grow legumes, for example, requires application of phosphate fertilizer.
We want to tell Government not just to celebrate our farmers but be seen to addressing the main problems facing the agriculture sector, including low agricultural production, low level of technology, inadequate number of agricultural extension officers, shortage and high cost of labour, prevalence of pests and diseases, high cost of farm inputs, limited credit facilities, frequent land disputes, poor marketing network and facilities, and low prices of farm produce among others.
Once again, we take this opportunity to salute our farmers and fishers folks for their continuous support to food security and contribution to the economy.
Long live our gallant farmers and fishers!
Long live Gardja
Long live Ghana!!
Mr. Ernest Kofi Adu