Planting for Food and Jobs- agribusiness’ masterstroke: Meet the Driver, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto

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Planting for Food and Jobs- agribusiness’ masterstroke: Meet the Driver, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto

Agribusiness in Africa

This is the 3rd episode of my WILOA series and today I am focussing on the NPP’s flagship Planting for Food and Jobs Agribusiness Masterstroke. Now anybody who has followed my journey in the academy knows that I have done far more work in the service-related research arena than I have in agribusiness marketing.

That said, agriculture and agribusiness undoubtedly have a huge role to play in Africa’s developmental journey.

In Nigeria, the agricultural sector was the mainstay of the Nigeria economy before the country’s independence from Britain in 1960. Though the sector has been estimated to be the largest contributor to Nigeria’s non-oil foreign earnings (Iganiga and Unemhilin, 2011), it however, faces a myriad of constraints.

Tersoo (2013), PWC (2016), Munonye and Esiobu (2017) highlighted the constraints of agribusiness in Nigeria to include poor policy articulation, lack of appropriate technology, inadequate working capital, inadequate infrastructure, inadequate market information, weak irrigation system, disease attacks and frequent pest attacks, inadequate skilled manpower, amongst others.

In the past five years, in a bid to diversify the economy from oil due to the recent fall in export earnings from oil occasioned by decline in crude oil price, various administrations in Nigeria have had to design policies and programmes such as Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) and Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) to revamp and boost the agricultural sector.

ATA was launched to increase food security, employment generation, and improve farmers’ income. The APP was launched only recently with the aim of improving output quality and resolving food production shortage.

The concept of agribusiness is extensive and encompasses input suppliers, agro-processors, traders, exporters and retailers (UNIDO, 2011).

Agribusiness, together with Agriculture, in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is projected to be a US$1 trillion industry by 2030, compared to US$ 313 billion in 2010, and therefore, should be prioritised for economic transformation and development (World Bank, 2013). The focused attention on production agriculture – ranging from small and medium enterprises to multinational companies alone, will not achieve its developmental goals when isolated from agribusinesses (World Bank, 2013).

There is, therefore, a threefold challenge: (1) development of downstream agribusiness activities such as processing, together with upstream activities such as supplying inputs, (2) development of commercial agriculture, and (3) supporting and linking smallholder farmers, outgrowers and small enterprises to productive value chains.

This threefold challenge is what the NPP Government seems to have tackled head on with the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ). According to Mohammed Tanko and colleagues in 2019, to revamp the agricultural sector, the government of Ghana introduced a flagship policy called Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) in 2017. The main aim of the programme was to address the declining growth of agriculture in Ghana.

The policy focussed on increasing food production and ensuring food security in the country as well as reducing the food import bills to the barest minimum, especially rice. The project consisted of five significant pillars; supply of improved seeds to farmers at subsidised prices (50% subsidy), supply of fertiliser at subsidised prices (50% price cut out), free extension services to farmers, marketing opportunities for produce after harvest, and E-Agriculture (a technological platform to monitor and track activities and progress of farmers through a database system) (PFJ, 2017).

The five main crops selected were Maize, Rice, Soybeans, Sorghum and Vegetables (tomato, onion, Chili pepper) in line with priority crops as proposed in Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy II (FASDEP II) and its investment programme, the Medium-Term Agricultural Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) (PFJ, 2017).

Agribusiness in Ghana

The growth of the agricultural sector over the years has contributed immensely to Ghana’s GDP, which has however been on the decline in recent years. Although the sector has seen a constant percentage decline in GDP growth rate from 2008 to 2015, it however, witnessed a marginal decline between 2015 and 2016 from a GDP sector contribution of 20.99% to 19.60% (World Development Indicator, 2017). Figure 1 shows the trends of the percentage contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP of Ghana (i.e. Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)) between 2000 and 2016).[1]

Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ)

According to the Ministry for Agriculture Website Planting for Food and Jobs is a flagship agricultural Campaign of the Government, with five (5) implementation modules. The first module PFJ (Crops) aims to promote food security and immediate availability of selected food crops on the market and also provide jobs. This module was officially launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo in 2017 bestriding:

  1. Food Crops (PFJ)
  2. Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD)
  3. Greenhouse Technology Villages (3 Villages)
  4. Rearing for Food and Jobs ( RFJ)
  5. Agricultural Mechanization Services (AMSECs)

Under the government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs Programme,’ a total of 500,000 farmers were registered and 2,700 extension agents recruited to support the programme. The government has also made commitments towards the distribution of assorted farm equipment including 200 tractors and matching implements, 1,000 power tillers and walking tractors.

The scholarly literature has already begun to record some successes for the PFJ. Mohammed Tanko and colleagues in an article entitled “Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ): A panacea for productivity and welfare of rice farmers in Northern Ghana” argued that under the PFJ policy, rice production increased in the country, especially in the Northern part of Ghana.

The increased access to adequate fertilisers and certified seeds in 2017, brought about an increase in yields of rice. Average yields of rice increased from 2.7 MT to 4 MT per hectare, and more than 100% increase in yields for rice (from 2.7MT to 5.5 MT per hectare) under the Youth in Agriculture Programme of PFJ, in Northern Ghana (Alidu, Tanko, & Iddrisu, 2016; MOFA, 2017; Tanko & Alidu, 2016).

Published in Cogent Economics & Finance, Volume 7, 2019 – Issue 1, the article also argued that The findings reveal a positive impact of the agricultural technologies implemented under Planting for Food and Jobs programme on rice productivity and welfare of rice farmers in Northern Ghana. The research recommended the need for government to expand the beneficiaries using local media and the policy instrument of input subsidies to promote the use of fertiliser and improved rice varieties.

On Sunday 29th August, 2021, the Minister for Agriculture Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto also took turn at the Minister’s Press Briefing and set out as some of the following key achievements of the PFJ as:

  1. Improvements in Extension Service Delivery
  2. As at 2021, over 1,700,000 farmers have benefitted from Government’s PFJ Programme
  3. Increases in Agric Extension officers from 1,586 to 4,286
  4. The Ratio of extension officers to farmers has reduced from 1:1900 to 1,709
  5. Provisional GDP Growth rates increased from 4.7% in 2019 to 7.7% in 2020

The Driver – Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto

Finding a square peg to fit a round hole in Africa’s public sector institutions is a feat that must be deeply commended. This is because more often than not square pegs in round holes have led to poor leadership of public sector institutions and the consequent weakening of same.

The economic and social challenges that characterize the continent of Africa could be argued to be partly because of the systemic weaknesses and poor performance of public sector institutions. In the case of the Ministry of Agriculture in Ghana, the President of Ghana made an excellent choice in choosing Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto as Minister of Agriculture and the subsequent driver of the PFJ programme.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto studied at Cambridge University, where he obtained a Master of Science in agricultural economics. He also earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Cambridge in 1985 and has been a passionate believer in agribusiness excellence for years, and the power of same to transform Ghana.

In fact, when he noted as Minister in 2017 as the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Afriyie Akoto promised to increase the percentage of farmers who use improved seeds for farming, which as of June 2017 stood at eleven percent. He asserted the 85 percent of farmers still use traditional seeds, which reduce their yields.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto has been a big believer in PFJ from Day one and the excellent successes the programme has chalked is a function of his superior technical expertise (worked in the International Coffee Organization and consulted for the World Bank), and a strong can-do spirit. In the Sunday 29th August, 2021 press briefing I alluded to earlier, he summed up the PFJ achievements by announcing that the PFJ has made a considerable impact on national food supply and food security in spite of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a parliamentarian with an additional ministerial agricultural portfolio, what better testimony can be made about his role in driving the PFJ?

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto is clearly one of the reasons why I love Africa!

Afriyie Akoto was employed by the International Coffee Organization in London, England. Among the positions he held were economist, senior economist, principal economist, and chief economic advisor. He also served as a consultant to the World Bank (a United Nations agency) on soft commodities—namely, cocoa, coffee, and sugar. After working for over 18 years abroad, he returned to Ghana where from 1995 to 2008 he served as the CEO of Goldcrest Commodities Limited and Plantation Resources Limited.[3][4] 

WHY I LOVE AFRICA (WILOA) SERIES

The WILOA SERIES is a new business engagement series that celebrates all that makes Africa vibrant and blessed! In the light of the new AfCFTA this series chronicles in print, radio, TV and online, politico-economic activities that are boosting the success of Brand Africa. The series is championed by Professor Robert E. Hinson, the leading marketing scholar in Africa.

[1] Please note that the data for 2017 is not available in WDI.

 

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