On the occasion of the 33rd National Farmers Day – 2017, the leadership and entire membership of the General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) of Trades Union Congress (Ghana) wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the many hardworking farmers of Ghana.
The role of agriculture in our dear country in supporting livelihoods of many families, guaranteeing food security, reducing poverty in rural areas, and promoting growth and national development has never been in doubt, and farmers remain the main pillar in this regard notwithstanding the myriad of challenges confronting them. Sadly, farmers and their families, majority of who live in rural areas are among the poor and marginalized in the country.
Although several attempts by various stakeholders including past and recent governments to address the many challenges confronting the agricultural sector, issues of access to land and water resources, improved seeds, fertilizers, high levels of post-harvest loses, poor infrastructural development (road networks, irrigation, power and storage facilities), agricultural credit, effects of trade liberalization policies, and access to markets for agricultural produce among others are still persistent and widespread. Indeed, these are not only problems confronting farmers but are also the main factors contributing to the declining fortune and share of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in recent years.
GAWU consider the theme of this year’s celebration “Farming for Food and Jobs” a timely and significant call which supports our long standing campaigns and advocacy for the consumption of locally produced agricultural produce in Ghana, especially local rice and poultry products. We have no doubt that given the requisite attention and support, the hardworking farmers in Ghana can and will be able to produce to meet local demand, industry and for export. The strong conviction and commitment of Ghana to produce sufficiently to meet domestic consumption, industrial needs and for export is hinged on the great potential of the agricultural sector to grow beyond the levels seen in recent years. However, this growth can only be attained by a strong pro-agriculture approach driven by productivity growth or yield growth, plus associated public investments and market access. Most significantly, this pro-agriculture approach can revolutionize rural Ghana and change the face of poverty in the country.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Seed
As we acknowledge and celebrate farmers’ achievements and efforts on this occasion of 33rd National Farmers Day, GAWU wish to remind government and all key stakeholders to recognize smallholder farmers (who are mostly women) as the main investors in the agricultural sector. As such, any attempt to support agriculture through policies and investments should focus on addressing the challenges confronting them as a matter of priority. The attempts of the government to modernize agriculture could lead to disastrous consequences for the sector and consumers. For instance, the Plant Breeder’s Bill currently before parliament will only pave way for the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and resources including genetically modified seeds and other planting materials. The Plant Breeders Bill if passed into law in its current form will undermine small holder access and control over seeds and planning materials, threaten farmers indigenous food systems and production practices, put the health of consumers in danger with severe consequences for the development of the country. GAWU is also worried that the government’s unbridled importation of seed for the Planting for Food and Jobs program has a high chance of introducing GMO seed into the country.
Rethinking Farmers Day public holiday
The Farmers Day is declared a public holiday in honour of farmers. The holiday has no significance to farmers. Farmers per their nature of work do not need a specific day through legislation as holiday. The holiday does not benefit them. Farmers know when to rest, and they will do so at their own convenience cognisance of their work demands than per statute or legislation. Moreso, the public holiday does not add or do anything to ease the numerous challenges confronting farmers. Yet the holiday costs the country (tens) 10’s of millions of Ghana cedis loss of productivity. It is GAWU’s request that government should abolish the farmers day holiday and use the money to be generated on that day to support agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture, especially the extension services division is in dire need of basic tools and equipment to enable officers deliver basic but vital agronomic services to farmers.
The Farmers day holiday as it is now, is a deliberate institutional-legislative arrangement that creates loss of productivity to the state without any real or latent benefit. Neither the farmers nor the workers of MOFA and Fisheries who are involved in preparing for the farmers day celebration enjoy the holiday. What then is the use of the holiday? Whose interest does it serve? Who bears the loss of productivity on that day? How much does the country lose? Is it not possible to avoid this loss? In the quest to improve upon agricultural productivity and create jobs, action must be taken to eliminate both institutional and practical wastage in the sector. The public holiday is one such huge avoidable loss to the country and should therefore be discontinued henceforth.
As we assess the extent to which the National Farmers Day celebrations contribute to agricultural development in Ghana, GAWU look forward to a comprehensive review of the farmers’ day celebration to move away from its annual ritualistic nature and align it to more radicalized, revolutionary and pragmatic national policies.
GAWU says AYEKOO!
Long Live All Farmers
Long Live GAWU
Long Live Ghana
GENERAL SECRETARY, GAWU