With the right reform in our agricultural sector, we can grow the economy, create more jobs and attain food security. And while government has achieved and continues to achieve significant gains toward this vision, we can’t do it alone; but we need to ensure these partnerships are fit for purpose and make sense for the country.
An example of this is our partnership with AGRA, who has supported us to improve the enabling environment for smallholder farmers, while delivering the technical and structural reforms needed to help grow agricultural sector.
AGRA arrived in Ghana in 2006, and during its first decade, it invested US$12.8million in our national agricultural sector. That this has borne fruit can be established by looking at some of the results of this investment.
The establishment of 11 seed companies has been supported, as was the development and release of 45 seed varieties, of which 36 went on to be commercially developed. AGRA helped 20 people achieve PHDs and 27 to be awarded MSCs.
It trained 4,132 agricultural dealers, which meant the distances farmers had to travel to get access to inputs, such as seeds and fertiliser were reduced. It educated 702,000 farmers on the techniques of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), a process that mixes mineral and organic fertilisers and aims to maximise the utility of scarce nutrient resources.
As a result, 212,000 hectares have been cropped using ISFM technologies. AGRA’s intervention has resulted in 122,000 metric tonnes of harvests commercially gathered in, valued at US$23million.
AGRA contributed to the development and passage through the political process of regulations connected with the Plants and Fertiliser Act, a measure to ensure the efficient conduct of plant protection, to prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests, to regulate the import, and facilitate the export of plants and plant materials.
It contributed also to Ghana’s National Fertiliser Policy, and promoted the Seed (Certification and Standard) Regulation, which has been passed by Ghana’s Parliament.
All of this is of critical importance in a country where half the people reading this article work in agriculture. We cannot underestimate the challenge of enhancing a sector that accounts for more than half our gross domestic product.
AGRA’s initiatives are in no sense in competition with official government policy. On the contrary, its work has been fully in line with the state’s two main programmes in this sector, the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II) and the second phase of the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP II).
Like government, AGRA is committed to increasing incentives for private-sector investment and participation in agriculture, while improving access for Ghanaian farmers to both finance and markets. We are both committed to encouraging the adoption of climate-smart technologies and the use of climate-adapted seeds and fertilisers.
AGRA has improved the incomes and the food security of at least 1.2million smallholder households, and has facilitated the development of a ‘smart subsidy’ model to encourage the adoption of yield-enhancing technologies.
On the ground, 1,880 village-based advisers have been recruited and trained, and a partnership established to implement the National Rice Development Strategy – aimed at increasing the capacity of more than 128,000 farmers.
AGRA’s work takes it into many and complex areas, but its rationale is quite simple. It is to transform the working lives of primarily smallholder farmers – men and women typically cultivating staple crops on land measuring two hectares or less, by turning what had been a daily struggle, to survive into a thriving small business. In this fine and praiseworthy endeavour, AGRA has been a true friend to Ghana.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto is Minister of Food and Agriculture