2019 FARMERS’ DAY CELEBRATIONS
Ghana Friday, December 6, honoured its gallant farmers and fishers for the role they have played and continue to play in the nation’s socio-economic development. It is fulfilling that 35 years on, the state continues to observe the day instituted in recognition of the role farmers and fishers play in the economy especially their arduous efforts in reviving agriculture after the poor performance of the country’s agriculture in 1982 and 1983 due to intense drought. For a decade, the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP has dwindled. It has been overshadowed by the contribution of the services and industrial sectors. With the possibility of the nation taking its eyes off the sector, the theme for this year’s Farmers’ Day Celebration, “Enhancing Small Scale Agriculture Towards Agribusiness Development”, cannot be more appropriate. The sector contributes about 19 per cent of GDP, in addition to significantly contributing to foreign exchange earnings and tax revenue as well as holding the key to curbing rural-urban drift.
On the average, the sector provides livelihood for about 45 per cent of the population. This year’s theme underpins the necessity to commercialise agriculture irrespective of size. The limited land area and a fast-growing population means that the best and probably the only viable way out for our farmers to remain profitability is to increase yield per unit area through improved production methods, enhanced capacity of farmers and fishers, introduction of superior planting and breeding materials, improvement in agricultural production capacities and production conditions as well as developing sustainable production and post-harvest techniques. Majority of Ghanaian farmers are smallholders, living below or just above the poverty line and working on less than two hectares with low levels of productivity. Across the country, only about 3.4% of our cultivated area is under irrigation with most of the facilities being managed under public Sector Schemes.
Mechanized farming is still on limited scale, use of fertilizers and other productive inputs is very limited with extension services being public-led with limited penetration. For most of these farmers, agriculture is a struggle to survive. Poor rural infrastructure, lack of developed supply chains and inadequate financing contribute to low yields and unreliable supply from smallholder farmers. In order to improve the profitability of farming enterprises and to make farming a thriving business, there is the need for the creation of reliable market outlets for farmers to be able to sell their produce. Farmers also require access to high-quality inputs, especially quality seeds and other propagating materials. It is ironical that Ghana remains one of the countries with the lowest certified seed usage in Africa in spite of re-doubling of efforts in the recent past. The full potential of smallholder farmers can only be realised by intensive research to produce high yielding, disease and pest tolerant varieties and species to reduce the risk of yield variability.
Reliable Extension Service is also needed to educate farmers and fishers on the choice of appropriate sowing date, use of appropriate technology to minimise drudgery, development of simple storage and drying technology to reduce post-harvest losses and optimal application of fertilisers and other agrochemicals. The implementation of the One Village One Dam programme would increase agricultural production in a climatic zone where water stress is the most important limiting factor to crop production. The implementation of the One District One Factory Initiative most of which are agro-related provides a reliable marketing outlet for farmers to sell their produce.
Apart from access to dependable markets and availability of high-quality inputs, smallholder farmers and fishers need access to reliable and adequate financing to enable them to apply optimum levels of inputs to ensure optimum yields. It is therefore important for the state to continue to create an attractive agricultural environment with minimal risk to entice financial institutions apart from the Agricultural Development Bank to commit an appreciable proportion of their loan portfolios to the agricultural sector. It is the hope of our heroic farmers and fishers that the theme for this year’s national farmers’ day “Enhancing Small Scale Agriculture Towards Agribusiness Development” would not remain on banners but would see real efforts targeted at materializing it. We say congratulations to all the awards winners. Long Live Ghana- Long Live Ghanaian Farmers and Fishers.
BY POLYCARP KWAME AKOBENG OF AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT BANK ACCRA.