A National Agricultural Plan needed

that encapsulates food security, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability is needed

Agriculture is fundamental to Ghana’s economy and employs almost 50% of the population. Although its share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has decreased in recent years, it continues to be vital to growth. Together, agriculture and agribusiness is Ghana’s largest GDP contributor and this gives the indication that when proper measures are taken, agriculture and agribusiness can lead the kind of economic transformation seen in many emerging economies especially those with abundant land and water such as Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, and Ukraine. Food security in Ghana continues to be an important topic for discussion. Being able to achieve food security through sustainable agriculture will help the country to feed its populace as well as meet some aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Ghana has an agricultural land area of 13,628,178 hectares representing 57.1% of the total land area. This shows that Ghana should be able to feed its people and contributes to food security issues in West Africa. In spite of this, Ghana in 2017 imported over 135, 000 Metric tons about 112 million birds of frozen chicken from the European Union. Meanwhile, the national potential poultry output was estimated at 4.4 million birds. According to the Oxford Business School, only 34% of rice consumed in the country is produced in Ghana and 66% are imported. Though domestic production has increased by 12% between 2010 and 2015, domestic consumption has also doubled within the same time frame. Ghana currently imports between $300 – $500 million of rice annually and it is projected that Ghana’s rice consumption is expected to reach 63 kg per capita by end of 2018.

In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that World population will be 9.6 billion by 2050 and this will require a 70% increase in the current food production rates in other to feed the World. The United Nations have also stated that by 2030 about 60% of people will live in urban areas. Much of the one billion increase in urban population between now and 2030 will be in Asia and Africa, both of which are in the midst of transformations that will permanently change their economic, environmental, social, and political trajectories. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) published by Washington DC-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in collaboration with German-based NGO Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide ranked Ghana in 2017 as a country with ‘moderate’ hunger levels, a step below the best-ranked countries in the ‘low’ hunger levels category. Out of 119 developing countries, Ghana was ranked 65th best nation when it comes to hunger levels. Though Ghana was able to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on eliminating extreme hunger in 2013 which was ahead of the deadline year of 2015, the existing hunger and food security issues in the country demand pragmatic solutions.

Government’s vision of modernizing agriculture, improving production efficiency and achieving food security and profitability for our farmers are excellent policies and very recommendable in the sense that it will help achieve the SDGs 1st, 2nd and 15th goals by 2030.  Notwithstanding the prospects of this vision, some of the alarming concerns are, what happens if another political party takes over from the current administration. Will these flagship programs be still relevant? What new policies will be initiated for the agricultural sector that can sideline the current once we have? All these and others are relevant concerns that policymakers and other stakeholders think about always. To safeguard the sector, there is a need for a long-term plan to supervise the sector’s activities.

Over the years, Ghana has witnessed a system whereby one government starts implementing a policy and the next government abandons that simply because it’s not in their plans or a priority of the new government. To ensure agricultural productivity and better nutritional food now and the future, there must be an attempt by all stakeholders to develop a national plan that is geared towards food security, wealth creation, and environmental sustainability.

Prior to independence, Ghana started initiating policies that were geared towards the modernization of the agricultural sector. The Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) that lasted between 1951 and 1956 was developed as the first national policy for the sector. Subsequent policies that followed were; Operation Feed Yourself (OFY), and  Operation Feed Your Industries (OFYI), and the Ghana Food Distribution Corporation (GFDC) are all policies that were established in the 1970s. Between 1983 and 1990, two policies were also initiated namely the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) and  Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). Some of the policies from 1991 to 2000 are as follows; Cocoa Rehabilitation Project (CRP),  the Rural Finance Project (RFP),  the Agricultural Services Rehabilitation Project (ASRP), the Medium-Term Agricultural Development Program (MTADP) that had sub-projects namely; Agricultural Sector Adjustment Credit (ASAC) (1992–1999), National Agricultural Extension Project (NAEP) (1992–2000) and  the Agricultural Sector Investment Project (ASIP) (1994–2000) were all formulated and implemented. The Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Development Strategy (AAGDS) was also developed in 2000 to complement MTADP.   Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) I from 2002–2007 was also implemented alongside the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2003–2005.

Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) II from 2007–2015  that was also linked to the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) II and Comprehensive African Agricultural Development were also initiated. The Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) (2011–2015) framework for investments came into existence. Throughout these years, other regional policies such as the  Comprehensive African Agricultural Development (CAADP) under African Union’s (AU’s), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD),  The Regional Agricultural Policy for West Africa (ECOWAP) and other major projects have also been initiated by international organizations. The current government has “Planting for Food and Jobs” (PFJ), “One District One Factory” (1D1F), “One Village, One Dam” and other flagship programs that were formulated and are on-going to aid in the agricultural modernization of Ghana.

All these initiatives have been with us from 1951 to till date yet the agricultural sector contribution to the GDP of our economy keeps reducing at a fast pace. It is believed that most past initiatives could not help Ghana become food secured partly because some policies were initiated without the knowledge of other major stakeholders.

The winner takes all system we have in Ghana allows one political party in government to formulate and implement policies that suit the government’s priority and also satisfy the party’s manifesto. It is also believed that most governments we’ve had since independence do not show interest in what the previous government started. The current system of formulating and implementing new agricultural policies every four or eight years has not yielded enough benefits for the country. We must move beyond this system and plan for the future. Ghana needs long-term policies and strategies to be able to feed the country well and West Africa.

The call for a national agricultural plan requires that national leaders and all stakeholders work to build, strengthen and scale up the agricultural value chain to help in Ghana’s vision of becoming the agricultural hub of West Africa. To make this dream possible, the government must lead this agenda by establishing an enabling policy environment and invest in infrastructure and other public goods and services.

The government must create effective support mechanisms for all stakeholders including political parties and their representatives. The private sector that comprise the international and domestic companies across the value chain; farmers, often organized or  represented by national and local cooperatives or associations; civil society groups from international, regional or local organizations working to address food security and related agricultural issues in the country; donors and major international organizations dedicated to food security issues, such as FAO, IFPRI,  WFP, IFAD and others operating in the country; academia, research organizations and other thought leaders in the agricultural sector that contributes knowledge, advisory support should all be engaged to produce a single document that Ghana can depend on to develop and modernize the agricultural sector.

Based on all the background and projected forecasts given, it is recommended that Ghana develops a national agricultural plan that will capture food security, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability and other important concepts that are relevant and can help the agricultural sector achieve its vision. Having the plan in place will help all political parties especially to plan their campaign policies, assist stakeholders to know the direction of the sector and contributes accordingly. This will also help to avoid some premature policies and unachievable initiatives some stakeholders give to Ghanaians. It will help policymakers to propose strategies that can be used to achieve the long-term vision. Moving forward, Ghana needs to identify and engage influential  champions  across stakeholder  groups, develop  a  shared  partnership agenda, including high-level goals and key opportunities which can be achieved through multi-stakeholder, establish  the partnership structure  to drive ongoing collaboration  among organizations, define specific goals and action plans to deliver impact on the ground, including framework to measure progress against  goals, implement action plans on a project-by-project basis by experimenting with new collaboration models, and lastly leverage milestones to drive progress.

EVANS BRAKO NTIAMOAH is the chief operations officer (COO) of the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG) and a doctoral researcher in Agricultural economics and management. He writes, teaches and consults on agriculture and agribusiness issues. He serves as an editorial board member and a reviewer for a number of international journals. His research interest includes; climate-smart agriculture, food security, sustainable agriculture, and agribusiness management. You may contact him through E-mail: kwamebrako@yahoo.com

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