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Ghana @52: The Woes of our Farmers
By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, Ghanadot

Accra, Jan 23, Ghanadot - Fighting rural poverty has been the onus of governments in all developing countries, not excluding Ghana, which clocks 52 years this year.

In Ghana, almost 70% of the poor live in the rural part of the country and their predominant occupation is agriculture which provides support for not only these farmers and their immediate dependants but for the entire nation and its industries.

The agricultural sector contributed 41.4% of the GDP in 2006 and declined to 35 in 2007, while it contributed 36.4% of foreign exchange in 2006.

Agricultural products also assure food security, serve as raw materials to the country's agro-industries, improve nutrition levels, increase exports and reduce the need for some food imports.

Higher rural incomes from agriculture can help combat poverty; since poverty is most severe in the countryside and moreover agriculture is accessible to the rural dwellers.

How will you feel when your child tells you one day he or she would like to be a farmer when he or she grows up? Will you encourage such a child to choose another profession?

Successive governments have not given much attention to agriculture in Ghana but rather paid rhetoric and lip-service to agriculture. But will the Atta Mills-led government do the same? We live to see.

Instructively, the upsurge of the food price hike which has rocked the world is leading to global food shortage which will persist till 2017. This is attributable to the noxious global climate change, competing demand for land for the production of bio-fuels and skyrocketing prices of agro inputs among others.

The food crisis is severely affecting the developing countries more than the developed ones since most developing countries do not pay attention to agriculture.

In the heat of the global food crisis last year, countries such as Vietnam, Egypt, China, India and Thailand, which were previously exporters of food, were restricting exports to other parts of the world.

In 2007, there was an average of about 35% increase in prices for major foodstuffs over the preceding year prices. The food crisis situation in the West African sub-region worsened in 2007 was mainly due to the extreme climatic conditions of drought and flooding in most countries, in which Ghana was not spared.

In Ghana, most parts of the country particularly the Northern, Upper East and Upper West, suffered this fate like the countries in the Sahel area of West Africa, in which an estimated crop production lost in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions stood at 238, 682, 13,880.55 and 4,513.0 respectively.

Close attention when paid to agriculture has the power of lifting the country, especially the many rural dwellers out of poverty, improving their lives, but this has always been overlooked and the potentials of agriculture been underutilitised.

The out-gone NPP administration, which ruled the country for eight good years, spent a significant amount of foreign exchange to import food items to supplement local production. What even made Ghana imports cabbages, onions, carrots, lettuces etc from neighbouring Burkina Faso in those days? What makes traders go to this country to purchase tomatoes at the expense of our local producers when climatic conditions also favour their growth as well? This shows that modern agriculture is metamorphosing from the traditional to technological methods of practicing it. Our dependant on the former will always make the sector be what it is (poor quality).

It will interest you to know that, inefficient agronomic practices, lack of improved crop varieties, poor farm and water management practices, and bad irrigation practices, lack of favourable pricing policies for crops and agricultural inputs and finally poor transportation and credit facilities have made the future bleak for agriculture in Ghana.

Many of these farmers have no access to the modern technologies in farming compared with their counterparts in other parts of the world. They still rely on the traditional methods of farming where they use the hoes, cutlasses, axes and amongst others which do not enhance productivity.

Limited access to high quality seeds and seedlings with higher yields and resistant to diseases, lack of enough money to purchase fertilizers have made farmers rely sole on poor planting methods such as shifting cultivation methods where they have to leave the land for a while to fallow before farming on it, coupled with poor irrigation practices have made farming very cumbersome in this country.

Apart from not having money to purchase fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides, our farmers do not have in depth knowledge on the use of these chemicals on their farms.

Currently, only about 2% of Ghana's arable land benefits from irrigation, compared with one-third in our Asian counterparts notably Malaysia.

Dependence on rain fed for most of our crops makes agriculture in Ghana risky one thereby making farming unattractive to investors to inject equity capital into it.








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