A former National Top Farmer has called for a review of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) program to give full meaning to the government’s huge investment in the program.
George Asamoah Amankwaa, the 2014 National Farmer of the Year, said research should focus on storage to help farmers run their farms profitably.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Kumasi last Saturday, Mr. Amankwaa said there is no doubt that the PFJ is a commendable program that the Akufo-Addo administration should be commended for.
However, he said the application, which focuses heavily on production without taking appropriate measures to address post-harvest losses, discourages farmers.
“It is unacceptable for the government to support farmers with fertilizers and other farm inputs to improve production, only for farmers to watch their crops rot because there is no ready market at the end of the day.
“It will not encourage young people to take up farming,” he said.
Citing himself as an example, he said that this year he had to watch the mangoes grown in his farm rot as there were no buyers.
The former National Best Farmer, who grows maize, plantains, vegetables, mangoes, yams and oil palm and also has cattle and fish ponds, said: “Farmers are not Santa Claus, they should produce just for the sake of it.”
One district, one warehouse
In October 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched the government’s one district, one warehouse program at Ejura in the Ashanti Region.
The warehouse initiative, part of the Poverty Alleviation Infrastructure Programme, was to look at the construction of warehouses in all 216 districts to manage the crop and store the expected surplus under the PFJ.
At the opening ceremony, the president said that the construction of warehouses will minimize post-harvest losses and improve the sale of agricultural products.
Mr. Amankwaa, who said the warehouse initiative was a big vision, said more needs to be done to make it beneficial to farmers suffering from post-harvest losses.
“We want the government to do more in this project and the results will have a positive impact not only on farmers but on agriculture in general,” he said.
Youth in agriculture
While commending the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) for encouraging youths, especially university graduates, to engage in agriculture, Mr. Amankwaa stressed that unless bottlenecks in the system are addressed, the goal will be very difficult to achieve.
According to him, the John Kufuor Foundation recently organized a seminar on agribusiness in Kumasi and when he looked at the youths who attended the event, it was clear to him that many of them were skeptical about taking up agriculture as a business.
He wondered how university graduates could engage in agriculture if there was no ready market for their produce.
“Sometimes tomato farmers in Derma have to go to radio stations to get people to come and buy their tomatoes,” he said.
The former National Top Farmer said many farmers who take out loans to take on their businesses struggle with how to repay the loans.
“Every year we face an overabundance of tomatoes in the prime season,” he said, asking, “When will this annual problem end?”
Mr. Amankwaa said that while he was in India recently, he visited a farm where he realized that farmers were not using large dams for irrigation.
“They use simple borehole technology that ensures groundwater irrigation plays an important role in improving food security and livelihoods of rural communities.
“Some farmers are using the technology in their sugarcane plantations and the results are excellent. Therefore, I see no reason to focus on large dams in Ghana especially in the northern part of the country when simple and effective technology is available to help farmers plant year-round,” he said.
According to him, another important initiative of the government, “One village, one dam” initiative, should not focus on the construction of large dams.
According to him, the country is blessed with engineers who have the technical knowledge to develop appropriate technology for this form of irrigation.
Don’t touch knowledge
He also urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use the experience of former national farmers to develop agriculture.
According to him, former national farmers will want to see added value to their products, which means that storage and processing must be done seriously.
Contact with industry
Mr. Amankwaa, who owns Europa Farms in Ahafo and Ashanti regions, said agriculture has had a huge positive impact on industrial development because industries regularly need raw materials to run efficiently.
Therefore, he suggested that appropriate improvement should be made in agriculture to realize the expected goals of the “One District, One Plant” policy.
“I am sure that the Ministry of Agriculture has everything we need to improve our agriculture and we expect more from the ministry,” he said.
He also stressed the need to fix bad roads leading to farming communities.