WE ARE KILLING THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGG.
This year’s farmers’ day will be celebrated on Friday 4th November 2016 and a fair, passionate and objective minded columnist like me, would certainly make time and space to celebrate our gallant but poor majority farmers. Farmers spend all their time in the field even under hostile weather conditions just to ensure that there is abundant food to feed our ever increasing population. My piece today aims at critically dissecting some major pertinent issues on the agriculture sector of our economy.
It is indisputable fact that agriculture remains the backbone of our economy. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) estimated that 54% of Ghana’s working population is employed in the agriculture sector. The national average is estimated at 76.1% in the rural areas. In the three northern regions (upper west, upper east and northern region), I can comfortably state that about 95% of the people engage in various forms of agriculture. I try to let you know, that the role of agriculture is indispensable. We must therefore take the sector seriously and treat it as the foundation of our economy. Until we build a strong foundation, poverty and unemployment will continue to greet us every now and then.
Interestingly and lamentably, many of our farmers engage in peasant farming and have few or no opportunities to venture into large scale commercial farming. Farmers remain poor and in many cases, unable to pay the schools fees and other expenses of their families. The cost of inputs is relatively high whilst unfavorable rainfall patterns continually worsen their already pathetic situation. In fact, there are limited irrigation facilities to ensure all year round farming. As for the unpropitious prices for agriculture products, the least talk about it the better.
Despite all these conspicuous predicaments, we sit aloof and throw our hands in despair, perhaps awaiting a day or an era famine will befall us. Are we really serious? Anyway, such a calamity, if befallen us, would teach us a lesson to realize that indeed, agriculture is the goose that lays the golden egg. We must a matter of urgency; devise a comprehensive agriculture policy to swiftly move from the hand to mouth agriculture, to mechanized large scale farming. That is the only way the farmers’ poor condition could be ameliorated and to pave way for any meaningful industrialization which is being preached by the Ghanaian politicians as we march towards the polls in December. The fundamental truth is that agriculture is the vehicle for industrialization.
Notwithstanding the destitute nature of our agriculture sector, it is still a pillar of the economy. Between 2007 and 2016, the agriculture sector has averagely contributed 3.5% to GDP and that is not a mean contribution from a typical deprived sector. The figure could have been humongous if we had been thoughtful over the years about improving the sector. That is quiet embarrassing. Isn’t it?
Look, it is very difficult for African economies to be competitive in the global agriculture market not because of race or geographical position but because we appear to throw in the towel in the competition. Countries like Thailand and Vietnam have occupied a niche in rice production. It is as a result of their long standing commitment to their agriculture sector. No wonder we cheaply import most of our rice from these countries and that is thwarting the efforts of our few commercial rice farmers. Believe me; Ghana can do better if we are committed to capturing that height.
The youth and the educated elite of the current generation largely despite agriculture and consider it as business of the village illiterate. Let it go not unnoticed that unemployment continually escalates with our unrepentant quest for non-existent white collar jobs. I am of the strong conviction that agriculture is the ultimate salvation to our galloping unemployment situation. We have vast land for agriculture yet we remained choked in the cities struggling for survival. This growing misconception about agriculture must stop. Many politicians both in government and opposition take advantage of the situation and preach salvation but when they get there, there have many excuses for underperformance. I will personally not blame them. We live in a country where the formal sector employees through their labour unions parade along every route in town to demand better salaries. The poor farmer continues to be in the farm and has never demonstrated or gone to strike. Such a patriotic leniency should not be considered as a weakness by our farmers. To me, the most patriotic citizen in Ghana in terms of work is the Ghanaian farmer.
What I expect government to do is to institute a state farming policy which was implemented by the late Gen.I. K Acheampong. This will help us improve the sector. Our industries would get adequate raw materials and also to ease the unemployment situation that bedevils us as a country. Our national service personnel could be posted to such farms to enable them provide critical services in that area. That could be a possible way of curing the growing misconception about the sector. We also need to set up more marketing companies and agents to protect farmers’ interest in the agriculture market. Let me loud the efforts of COCOBOD on that score. Many farmers go through frustration in the market especially during bumper harvest seasons.
In celebrating our gallant farmers in such an important day, let me pause my lamentations here and salute all farmers across the country for their wonderful contributions to national development. I specially dedicate this article to all farmers in the Daffiama-Bussie-Issa District as they celebrate this years’ event at my lovely city, Daffiama.
Long live the Ghanaian farmer.