One thing Independence Day reminds us all of is how the country has exhibited a stable democracy, having organized successful general elections since returning to democratic governance in 1992. However, the constant concern is how the country is unable to be economically independent.
As the country celebrates its 65th Independence Day dubbed ‘Working Together; Bouncing Back Better’, it is a new dawn to channel efforts into sectors that are capable of contributing massively to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Key is the agricultural sector.
There have been numerous articles heralding the fortune of the agricultural sector and its contribution towards GDP. Given that, experts have made clarion calls on making agriculture interesting to welcome the youths as there have been concerns over issues of old age of many farmers, a situation some experts argue will eliminate sustainability in the sector.
Aside from that, the sector was to be made attractive for youths to help reduce the increasing number of graduate unemployment.
“Agriculture remains one of the critical sectors that makes a contribution to GDP over the years. We need to design policies that will make it more attractive, particularly for the youth. This has the propensity of creating sustainable employment, thereby, reducing unemployment,” Dr. Kofi Kodua Sarpong reiterated at the 10th edition of the Ghana Economic Forum in Accra last year.
Apart from making it attractive, there is the need to digitalise the sector. Professor Banji Oyelaran–Oyeyinka, the Special Adviser on Industrialization to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) also put forth that the Sub-Saharan continent will attain a positive growth mark in its overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) originating from agriculture.
Personally, if reading all these articles could alert one on how essential the agricultural sector is to the country and how citizens are realizing and adding their voices to the ‘let make agriculture work’ campaign, then there’s that preparedness of mind to really make it work.
However, there is the need to pay attention to some key plights that are capable of dwindling efforts in the sector.
Agric sector challenges
Due to the government’s inability to pay input suppliers, critical inputs such as fertilisers and other subsidised products are not getting to farmers on time – which in effect is disrupting the farming process and thereby posing a severe threat to food security. Based on this, some farmers predicted a looming food shortage if measures are not immediately taken to resolve the unavailability of fertilizer in the country.
Another concern raised last year by the President of the Greater Accra Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana, Michael Nyarko-Ampem, is that the industry, which employs thousands of people through the value chain is struggling to survive, owing to shortage of feed even for the birds. According to the Association, it has also not received adequate financial support from the government over the years. The association fears Ghana’s poultry industry risks collapse if the government fails to swiftly deal with recent challenges of feed for poultry.
The Global Food Security Index recently published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) indicated that the country has declined from 78th position in 2016 to 82nd position in 2021. Since GFSI considers the issues of food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience across a set of 113 countries, some experts argue that the country’s position is a reflection of failure of agricultural policies.
Over the years post-harvest losses have been a worry for many farmers. According to the Africa Post-Harvest Losses Information System (APHLIS) – a private sector initiative that gathers conservative data on PHL in the sub-region – Ghana lost US$141million in 2018 to PHL. It added that the amount could reach more than US$200 million by 2022.
Harassment by Police
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has also lamented that delays, harassment and extortion of money by Police officers along some notable roads from major food cultivation areas in the Northern Region have been contributing to post-harvest losses (PHL), leading to the consistent upsurge in food prices.
While the group is imploring the government to institute one designated barrier per region on major transportation routes from the northern sector of the country, the driver unions and other organisations must ensure that drivers carry the right documents to prevent delays on the road.
In our country where rail transport is virtually absent, roads are what commute people, goods and services, including farmers. However due to the poor roads network, some farmers find it difficult to transport the harvests, a situation which indirectly causes postharvest losses. Well, as the president’s promise of ‘Year of Roads’ still holds, fingers crossed, we hope to witness its successful execution.
The agricultural sector deserves friendly legislations, better welfare services, availability of funds, good roads to transport harvests, availability of farming inputs, technical and professional advice.
I wished I could highlight more, but I halt my ink, hoping these few but critical challenges that are capable of shutting dreams of the agricultural sector get addressed. And that as a country working together to bounce back, let’s not neglect the fortune of the agricultural sector.