The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, yesterday launched the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme at Goaso, in the Brong Ahafo Region as part of its Manifesto Promise.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the programme is the basis of the answer to the twin-problem of the migration of youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs, as well as an end to the disgraceful spectacle of Ghana importing food stuffs from neighbouring countries.
Planting for Food and Jobs, the President explained, will be anchored on the pillars that will transform Ghanaian agriculture: the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilizers, the provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture.
“The Planting for Food and Jobs programme 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 current production levels. This programme will create 750,000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment,” he added.
Assuring that all the necessary measures have been put in place to guarantee the success of the programme, President Akufo-Addo indicated that to ensure fertilizer is readily available to the farmer at affordable prices, government has reduced the prices of fertiliser by 50%.
“A 50kg bag of NPK fertiliser, the fertiliser most used by farmers, up to now has been costing GH¢115. Under this government, farmers will only pay GH¢57.50 for it. Likewise, a 50kg bag of urea now sells at GH¢47.50, as opposed to GH¢80 last year,” he said.
Additionally, with a looming shortage of agricultural extension officers in the next two to three years, and largely as a result of the previous NDC administration’s decision not to employ any of the 3,200 graduates from the country’s 5 Colleges of Agriculture between 2011 and 2015, President Akufo-Addo revealed that his government has, in the last 3 months, employed 1,200 of these graduates.
He assured further that “in 2018, we will employ 2,000 more extension officers, with the solemn pledge of employing more graduates from our Colleges of Agriculture in the subsequent years.”
The use of the technology in the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, via the use of the e-Agriculture platform, the President indicated, will ensure the effective distribution of improved seeds and fertilizers, as well as a significant improvement in extension service delivery to farmers.
“To reinforce the pledge made by the Minister, government intends to construct a 1,000 metric ton capacity warehouse in each of the 216 districts. The purpose of these warehouses would be to handle produce, as well as to store the anticipated surpluses under the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ campaign,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo reassured farmers of the commitment of his government to expand the feeder road and farm track networks to mitigate post-harvest losses and also ensure foodstuffs are available to consumers.
Commending the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, for originating this initiative, President Akufo-Addo also commended the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta for “recognising the critical importance of the project, and allocating GH¢370 million in the ‘Asempa Budget’ for it.”
President Akufo-Addo also expressed the appreciation of government to Canada, who are supporting the programme with 125 million Canadian dollars over a 5 year period, for which we are grateful. The World Bank has also pledged support of $50 million for this year alone. USAID, through its Feed-The-Future Initiative, have also indicated, despite their initial hesitation, their preparedness to support Planting for Food and Jobs.
“The private sector has indicated its willingness to support the programme, and let me applaud the proactive role in fulfilment of its core obligations that the Agricultural Development Bank is taking in support of the programme,” he added.
The President, in reiterating his government’s commitment towards the revival of the country’s agriculture, noted that the Minister for Finance had increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture from 0.9% in the NDC era to 1.9%, with government targeting a 4.8% allocation to the Ministry by 2020, akin to the unprecedented feat chalked by the Kufuor era in 2008.
Gov’t will develop agriculture
The President noted that if Ghana is to make any meaningful change in the lives of the people, her efforts must be directed at agriculture, as the majority of people can only feel a change in their lives when agriculture is developed.
With Ghana’s agriculture predominantly hinged on the production of cocoa, President Akufo-Addo noted that the country has not made much progress in the cultivation of staples, like rice, maize and soya, urging, therefore, for a fundamental change in attitudes towards agriculture.
“Agriculture is not and cannot be a single-crop industry. Farming is a business and it is a profession that must be promoted and studied like all other professions. Ghana has the unique potential to feed its growing population, meet the raw material requirements of our processing industries, achieve food security, and compete successfully as a leading supplier to countries around us and beyond,” he said.
The vision of his government, he stressed, will be to modernize agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security, and profitability for farmers, all aimed at significantly increasing agricultural productivity. Additionally, a value-addition strategy, aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing and developing new and stable markets for products will be pursued.
“Our policies and interventions will encompass the full agricultural value chain and create additional businesses and job opportunities in the areas of storage, transport, processing, packaging and marketing of agricultural produce, all of which will ensure that our farmers and fisher folk earn higher incomes,” he added.