By George Ankrah, a Journalist
38 years ago in 1984, in the first week of December, Ghana celebrated its hardworking farmers and fishers for producing food, fish and animals to feed the nation and for export. The honour was bestowed on these farmers by the late President of Ghana, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, under whose regime Ghana suffered from one of its worst droughts and food shortages in history, leading to hunger and poverty. The calamity, popularly came to be called euphemistically, “Rawlings chain,”.
A national agriculture restoration and revival revolution under the then Agriculture Secretary, Commodore Steve Obempeh was launched. Our committed and hardworking farmers were given wellington boots, hoes, cutlasses and a piece of cloth as awards. Although the giveaways were small, the essence of the awards was overwhelming, because it provided a sense of appreciation, encouragement and pride for the award winners.
Other past Agriculture Ministers operationalized the scheme. Of particular mention was the late Major Courage Quashigah, who acknowledged farming and fishing as field works and not arm chair or office works and therefore charged everybody at every level to move into the field. Indeed, the value and importance of good quality food to every man is very significant, thus the adage, the “stomach has no holidays.” From agriculture comes the survival of mankind. This is because we obtain clothing, shelter and almost everything from the agriculture sector, including even the oxygen we breathe to live. It is therefore important that we appreciate those whose toil and sweat are feeding us and this makes the celebration of the farmer’s day more relevant than ever before.
Ghana, our beloved country, is agrarian nation, with rich fertile soil, which can sustain more than one crop in any community or district. It is therefore disturbing, that as a people, we today virtually import basic crops, such as tomatoes from neighbouring countries at a huge cost of one hundred million dollars. We also, ironically, import volumes of onions from our Sahelian countries, as well as sheep, goats and cows, which we can equally rear and produce here with great comparative advantage.
Recently, the World Food Programme made it clear that African countries that fail to prevent the excesses of climate change would suffer from food insecurity by 2030. Unfortunately, Ghana has become one of such countries, destroying the environment, by reckless tree felling for charcoal and eco-degradation through illegal mining. Already, prices of foodstuffs are high, contributing to skyrocketing inflation. This state of affairs has forced the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto to introduce some measures, by bringing foodstuffs to the Ministries for Public Sector workers to purchase.
This intervention is not sustainable, because the question is, how many Teachers, Bankers, Civil Servants and Pensioners would have the money, let alone the time to waste additional transport or walk to the ministries to patronize the selected foodstuffs brought there. Why have we as a country collapsed the Ghana Food Distribution outlets in the name of politics and fathom economic recovery policies? Those outlets could have been serving a more useful and better purpose, if the essence of the intervention is to reduce prices and make foodstuffs more accessible and cheaper to the working class.
How difficult is it for the government to re-introduce the Ghana food distribution system, by partnering the Haulage Transport Operators, the Ghana Private Roads and Transport Unions and other transport operators and unions to go into the hinterlands and cart foodstuffs for the urban dweller and to the cities.
Apart from the first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who established the state farms and created opportunities for farmers, the youth and the aged, other successive governments have failed the nation in this score. The engineers know that when we process our crude oil here, we can produce fertilizer and make it accessible to farmers. Or, is that not the case? Instead, we import fertilizer and claim it has been subsidized for the farmer, only to smuggle these to neighbouring countries for whatever reasons and aims. Can you imagine the serious negative impact and implication this has on the economy? Our agriculture researchers have done a lot over the years with researches in improved modern farming practices, but because of the lack of support to their work, it is becoming frustrating to popularize their works in improved quality seeds for the farmer.
What we rather see is the introduction and importation of modified seeds into our agronomy practices, creating a new dependency cycle in agriculture. Why do we kill our rice, sugar and poultry industries and use billions of dollars to import such products from abroad? When shall we have a government with the gut to boldly take the decision to ban rice importation in favour of locally grown Ghana rice?
Ghanaian farmers, researchers and the youth are prepared to go into agriculture, if only the needed attention and support will be given to the sector.
Today, farmers are receiving housing, double cabin vehicles and cash, as awards for emerging best all-round producers. They deserve it and Ghanaians are grateful for their hard work. But, the critical attention, support and the needed incentives and tax waivers on agricultural tools and equipment will go a long way to encourage more people, particularly the youth to venture into farming and its related fields.
We say Ayekoo to our gallant farmers and all the award-winning farmers in this year’s edition of the farmers day awards.
We pray for more strength, good weather conditions and yields.