The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has commenced the distribution of motorbikes to extension officers across the country as part of moves to improve extension and monitoring services under the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
This follows government’s promise to revamp the agricultural sector as the basis for transformation of the country’s economy.
The minister, on Monday, handed keys for 94 motorcycles to the Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Evans Opoku Bobbie, for onward presentation to the Regional Directorate of Agriculture for distribution.
The 94 motorbikes are part of 3,000 to be distributed nationwide under the Modernising Agriculture Ghana (MAG) programme.
It is aimed at enhancing the efficiency of agricultural extension agents whose roles are critical to successful implementation of the flagship Planting for Food Jobs (PFJ) programme.
Presenting the motorbikes, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto stressed the importance of quality extension services delivery to the development of agriculture in the country.
He said the extension department’s condition, prior to the coming of this government, was appalling – forcing government to adopt interim measures, including the recruitment of personnel through the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) programme.
The Agric Minister observed that due to the freeze on public sector employment as a result of the IMF ban, the previous government failed to employ a single extension agent for over six years; leaving the ministry in a dire situation.
“Ideally, the ministry requires a minimum of 4,000 extension officers; but when we assumed power in 2017, we had less than 1,600 personnel. Even with this figure, about 80% of them were on their way to retirement” the minister emphasised.
He said after persistent efforts, Cabinet approved and granted financial clearance for the recruitment of 2,700 extension officers nationwide to complement the existing number.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto pledged government’s continuous support for farmers and staff of the ministry in order to achieve the objective of transforming the economy through agriculture.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Evans Opoku Bobbie, on receiving the items lauded the introduction of the PFJ programme, which he said has greatly benefitted in the region.
He said farmers in the region were able to increase their yields in 2017 as a result of being supplied with improved seeds and fertiliser, as well as extension services under the programme.
He added that there are indications that this year farmers will record bumper harvests in maize, rice and other crops.