AGRA commits US$1.2m to support agric transformation

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The government’s agenda to transform the agriculture sector has received backing from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which has committed about US$1.2million in support of ongoing efforts to develop the sector, Country Head for AGRA Mr. Forster Kwame Boateng has said.

AGRA, which is keen on assisting smallholder farmers to double their yields and incomes through the adoption of improved seeds and fertiliser use, notes that its strategic partnership with government will help ‘go at scale’ to realise the needed agric-sector growth it envisions.

To this end, AGRA is said to have worked with government to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the flagship agriculture programme ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ – PFJ. It is expected to aid government mobilise more resources from the private sector, development partners among others to establish an inclusive way of transforming agriculture.

AGRA also assisted government to develop an efficient subsidy model through the introduction of farmer biometric registration – at the cost of $250,000 – for the implementation of PFJ.

This, according to the Country Head of AGRA, will help to properly identify the PFJ’s targets, track subsidy disbursement, and provide a database of farmers to buyers and input dealers among others.

He added that AGRA is working on an accountability mechanism for the Agric Ministry, and also the Ministry for Monitoring and Evaluation, to help track government’s investment in the sector.

Mr. Kwame Boateng, who said these in an interview at the backdrop of the Farmers’ Day celebration in Kumasi, indicated about US$300,000 has so far been disbursed from the funds earmarked to support government’s agric-sector transformation agenda.

He said one challenge initially identified with the initiative was the issue of marketing the produce. However, he mentioned that the USAID has helped to open up bids for private sector people, off-takers, to buy the maize from farmers.

“What government should do is go in when there are excesses that the private sector cannot take, and put it into a buffer-stock as strategic stock for food security,” he stated.

To address the lack of access to credit issue of farmers, due to the belief of some banks that loaning money to the agriculture sector is risky, he disclosed that government has come up with an insurance pillar to assure lenders they are cushioned when they lend to those in the agric sector.

He said what’s lacking is an insurance package to cover the farmers. In respect of this, he said the World Bank is working with AGRA to address crop insurance, too.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, also speaking at the Farmers’ Day celebration, noted that agricultural finance has been identified by the private sector as one of the most limiting factors to investment in agriculture.

He said it is in view of this that the Ghana Incentive-Based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending Scheme (GIRSAL) – initiated with the assistance of AGRA, seeks to improve and provide incentives for commercial lending to agribusinesses in Ghana.

He said: “It is designed to reduce risks in the agricultural sector, with guaranteed funds, insurance, and capacity building of businesses as its key pillars. It will certainly be a reliable facility for the development of commodity value chains”.

AGRA is said to be getting ready to support the GIRSAL Secretariat with about US$800,000.

In addition to this facility, the President said, is the Out-grower and Value Chain Fund (OVCF), which has been available for the past seven years.

He explained that these instruments will be used to increase access to finance and encourage the needed private sector investment in agriculture.