Agriculture needs evidence-based policies

Smallholder farmers in the country provide more than 80% of food produce for domestic consumption, industry and export, and provide jobs for 40% of Ghanaians – yet they face numerous challenges ranging from low and unreliable rainfall patterns, high cost of inputs, high post-harvest losses, limited access to extension officers, and difficulty in accessing credit among a host of other negative factors.

While agriculture censuses provide reliable and comprehensive data for policymakers, researchers and national development planners, the last time an agriculture census was conducted was in 1984/85. Conventionally, an agriculture census should take place every 10 years at the least – but logistical constraints have prevented taking the census for three decades.

Evidence-based decision-making is best undertaken with the requisite data, but from the foregoing we have attached very little importance to this all-important sector of national life; and we have been basically operating on assumptions, which underscores how lowly we rate agriculture.

Thankfully, a new census is to be undertaken after the completion of trainer of trainers’ workshops in all ten regions of the country. Currently, policymakers are working with an out-of-date database – and that speaks volumes of the lack of importance attached to agriculture.

We are on the verge of entering the 2018 farming season, and the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has had issues with some aspects of government’s flagship ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme. One is access to quality inputs like improved seeds, since the ones provided last year were not compatible with the weather conditions, and PFAG is therefore calling for increased investment in the local seed industry.

Another issue is with subsidised fertilizer, which showed high levels of smuggling to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo. With over 40,000 registered members, PFAG is best-placed to represent the aspirations of smallholder producers, since it has presence in all 10 regions of the country. PFAG wants to collaborate with government by deploying their fertiliser watchdogs to avert its reoccurrence, and we feel such collaborative efforts will yield positive results.

PFAG argues that government’s One Dam, One Village policy is a bold initiative to combat the ravaging consequences of climate change. However, the serious constraint of access to credit by farmers is one area where some positive intervention is required. This has the potential of scaring young potential farmers from venturing into agriculture as is being touted by policymakers. If the sector is not made attractive, the youth will prefer to hazard crossing the Mediterranean Sea.