THE CHALLENGE OF FAILED AGRICULTURAL POLICIES IN GHANA

 

Agriculture and agribusiness remains the only sector of our economy that can generate massive wealth and jobs for Ghana. Why? The sector of agriculture has been under-developed and under tapped to the benefit of the state. Some few years ago for instance, Ghana’s vegetables were banned and as we speak Ghana’s fruit is also facing greater challenges that would soon lead to international rejects especially in Europe and America. Ghana’s fruit and vegetable sector engages nearly 100,000 farmers directly and indirectly.

 

In Ghana, agriculture employs over 65- 80% of citizens in both urban and rural areas. This sector is the least supported in terms of subsidies, capacity building, project financing, infrastructures and markets development. Our agricultural sectors are dreadfully challenged by exemplary leadership, innovative technologies and human resources. But, in the lives of Ghana’s economy, agriculture remains the main stay of the economy and it would remain so for a long time to come. Without access to predictable markets for their crops, small-scale farmers in mostly rural communities are often forced to accept lower prices for their crops and find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty. While the global credit supply for smallholders has grown in recent years, it is geographically skewed with less than 10 percent of financial flows reaching sub-Saharan Africa.

 

I recall in 2014 state of the Nation’s address, President Mahama stated that over $1.5 billion was spent on importing some eight food commodities into the country to beef up the national food security, and that range from cooking oil, rice, poultry, sugar, vegetables, fish etc. To many of us, this could be produced in Ghana of which Ghana has good arable farmland and climate to even do better than most countries in the tropics, if issues of agricultural financing and leadership challenges are resolved and dealt with by the state. In a nutshell, how can we have our mouths in someone else’s kitchen?

 

According to UN reports, between 1980 and 2000, global population rose from 4.4 billion to 6.1 billion, while food production increased by 50 percent. By 2050, the population is expected to hit over nine billion. Experts say agricultural production needs to increase by at least 60 percent over the next 40 years to meet the rising demand for food. The causes of all these problems are the unsustain exploitation of the earth’s resources, triggered by growing affluence in some parts of the world coupled to desperate poverty in other continents, linked to rapidly increasing population. The Millennium Development Goals will not be met through continuous reliance of 70% of Africa’s population on subsistence agriculture. On paper, Africa could be transformed from food deficit continent to one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural produce.

The millennium development goals will not be met through continuous reliance of 70% of Africa’s population on subsistence agriculture. On paper, Africa could be transformed from food deficit continent to one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural produce.

 

A lot is on Africa to lead the world in achieving food sufficiency, given its relatively huge uncultivated land resources and untapped potentials in agriculture, and unattained potential productivity gains as a main source of future supply and stability for food and industrial agricultural markets. Had we implemented good policies and deplored good structures to man the projects we would have performed better than most nations, so why import what can be produced here in large quantities and even export to other countries? Could it be leadership challenge? Could it be challenge for innovative technology and research? Could it be information and human resources challenge? Could it be challenge for monitoring and evaluation? And could it be political will or the general notion that agriculture is risky? Yet in the United States of America (USA), the USA government through USDA subsidies agriculture to a tune of $1billion per day, to support the local actors to develop local infrastructures and develop markets in other regions of the world. Secondly the government of USA and Europe has supported their farmers to produce and market their produce. The US government through the World Food Programs, use WFP to market the excess produce to regions or areas of scarcity.

 

So, what are the current policies to support and protect the existing agribusiness? What are the current policies to support and establish start-up agribusiness? What are the policies to engage more women and youths in agriculture for revival of the sector? What policy has been put in place to fund business of agriculture? Any policy for the government to support agro- marketers to establish Ghana’s markets in other countries as the Nigerian’s has done? Ghana has good agricultural policies and regulations, yet the horticultural sectors are faced with massive global rejection of our fruits and vegetables on the European and US markets with crippling embargo that would destroy the livelihood and income of over 100,000 non state-actors that are directly involved in here. And if Ghana keeps importing farm produce, then foreign farmers are directly competing with local farmers in ways that put our local farmers and food security at risk.

 

For every one dollar spent on imported food commodities creates a job for one foreign farmer abroad but deny our farmers the opportunities to establish. A huge proportion of our local production and markets has been captured by importations and it’s gradually taking over the local economy. In Nigeria for instance, importation of tropical crops has been banned and local farmers empowered to produce and substitute for domestic demand

 

As government is unwilling to implement good agricultural policies that would regulate the sectors, many sections of agriculture remains threatened for lack of supervision, remuneration and motivation. The local seed companies and seeds banks are collapsing if not collapsed, many of the agricultural sector lacks financial players to support start-ups and revamp the sector by engaging the youths and women to partake in it, mining industries remains a major threat to agriculture as farmlands are destroyed for mining and never restored, waterbodies polluted with heavy metals and toxic compounds. State departments refusal to partner local farmers leading to refusal to help farmers develop markets in other regional economies with expanded value chains integrations in agriculture.

 

Ghana’s farmers must look away from conventional farming to organic farming, to stand out as Africa food hub (food baskets). In conventional plant breeding or farming very little attention has been paid to the possible negative impacts of new plant varieties on food safety or the environment. However, this kind of farming has caused negative effects on human health. For instance, a cultivated crop variety created by conventional cross breeding can contain excessive levels of naturally occurring toxins. The introduction of genetically modified plants has raised some concerns that gene transfer could occur in the field between cultivated and wild plants and such concerns also apply to conventional crops. Such transfers have occasionally been reported but are generally not considered a problem.

 

GMO and conventional foods are so genetically manipulated and they cannot grow well and output high without high doses of weedicide, pesticide, insecticide and fertilizers. Crops grown with high toxic and poisonous chemicals, usually contains high levels of toxic residual chemicals which affects man after consuming them. Today, we have more diseases on our hands than we can handle from consuming conventional food with high level of toxin and toxic compounds in them and from heavy usage of agricultural chemicals. We will tell you some of the diseases and illnesses that has of recent increased with conventional farming & GMO came into our food system 1) Autism 2) Diabetic 3) Hypertension/ High blood pressure 4) Fibroid 5) Child abnormalities/ babies born with congenital defects 6) Infertility/ sterilization in male and female 7) Anemia 8) Food allergies 9) Skin diseases 10) Tumour of all kinds in all body parts 11) Hydrocephalus 12) Erectile dysfunctioning and loss of sperm volume count 13) Reduce enzymes reactions leading to accumulation of toxin in our body 14) Imbalance hormonal production 15) Physical impairment 16) Wasting diseases 17) Hole- In- Heart among new born or children 18) Hunger among our population, today over 2.8 billion risk hunger in the world.

 

Other problems of conventional farming and GMO technologies in our environment and other species of lives are- 1) Destruction of our fertile land and increase barren lands. 2) Killed earthworms, termites, mushroom snail in our soil. 3) Killed bees and butterflies that pollinate our crop. 4) Polluted our water bodies, killing our fishes and poisoning water for safe drinking. 5) Increases global warming and climate change due to poor sequestration of soil carbon. 6) Increase environmental and natural disasters. These are some of the many few consequences of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and conventional agriculture.

 

Due to failed policy implementation by various state parastatals and agencies more jobs and wealth cannot be created. Students graduates from various universities only to remain unemployed. Can you imagine what $1B can do to the agricultural sector in Ghana? First, if state actors were busily working we would have developed lots of arable lands to irrigated farmlands and developed more dams, large pasture and rangelands would have been developed to manage livestock industries across Ghana. Secondly, if we were really producing food the engineers would be busily constructing storage facilities (silos) to store and factories process our produce. Third, if the Extension services were performing their duties, we would have maintained certain standards in the food production chains and processing sectors. Fourth, there are lots of waste generated each year in agriculture which could be recycled to create more employment and other products such as turning waste into compost, ethanol and gel. Fifth, more graduate students would have been involved in agricultural researches, developing better innovative technologies and products for better agricultural prosperity and performance.

 

Interaction with many rural farmers reveals a very depressing working conditions and environment as the sector is fronted with surmountable challenges facing the agriculture and horticultural industries. The challenges facing farmers and SMEs are-

  • They access to credit facility to expand, coupled to high interest rates
  • Lack of Business Development services training and capacity building
  • Lack of technological transfer, research and agricultural innovations
  • Lack of government pragmatic policies to promote and protect Small SMEs.
  • Lack of access to foreign markets and govt support to develop markets in other economy
  • Lack of agricultural insurance to make agriculture attractive for the youths and women in both rural and urban areas.
  • High cost of employing high skilled labour.
  • High cost of agricultural services and inputs.

 

The protection of indigenous seeds genome and the support of local seed companies to venture into producing and breeding of tropical seeds for national and food security. But instead the current national policies are protecting multi-national seed and agro-chemical companies competing to destroy the local seeds adaptive to our local climate and environment at the expense of the indigenous seeds. Is Ghana‘s policies not meant to protect the expansion and survivability of our agricultural systems? Then what are we doing to encourage our own?

  

We need to encourage plant breeders, more so the animal breeders, without crop breeders to breed our tropical crops and modifying the yield outputs, then our food industries is faced with imminent challenge. Our breeders are not properly resourced hence they do not breed and so farmers do not get improved varieties to grow their livelihoods. Private industries and manufacturers must support plant breeders to breed for secured food security. Without crop and animal breeders we are faced with food insecurity.

 

Lastly, the current crisis between the nomadic herdsmen and crop farmers is worth mentioning as the two units has not being properly defined with clear cut policies to develop each unit without the interference of the other. In many countries across the world land areas has been developed for livestock and crop farming what has been the position of Ghana in the last fifty years? It would be advisable to demarcate certain areas in every region for livestock industries by establishing pasturelands, range areas and ranches through livery services initiatives. As its popularly said, he who controls protein controls the world. Let’s develop our protein industries with well-defined but measurable policies.

 

We see this as a good avenue to help increase incomes and job opportunities for ten million employees of agricultural businesses, three hundred thousand smallholder farmers and over two million farm family members. If the cedi slums against major international currencies, it is because we are not producing

 

KWASHIE DARKUDZI B. Sc Animal Health (Hon) is the Operations director of Darsfield EarthCare & Farm-Tech Foundation and agriculture in environment civil society. He is a trainer of rural farmers in organic farming fruits and vegetables, sustainable agriculture such as agro-forestry, snail, mushroom, beekeeping and captive rearing of animals, aquaculture and agro-processing initiatives.

Contact. dvfarms1970@yahoo.co.uk, darsfoundationgh@gmail.com.

 

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