Dec 08, 2011 at 3:52pm
27th National Farmers Day
COMMENTARY ON THE 27TH NATIONAL FARMERS DAY
The National Farmers Day was instituted and first held in 1985 at Osino in the Eastern region to help find solution to the myriad of challenges that confront farmers through an award system that motivates and opens up opportunities for hardworking farmers. Despite the challenges they face, most Ghanaian farmers have proven themselves worthy of recognition, but a recognition that should guarantee them appropriate agriculture and trade policy support and implementation and ensure access to quality seeds and other input, links to value addition, guaranteed markets and protection from the unfair global agriculture trade. The level of food sufficiency, though with room for improvement, is a proof of the diligent work that the farmer puts in to feed the nation. Therefore it is commendable that government has set aside one day every year to recognise their contribution to national development.
The majority of farmers in Ghana are ‘small scale’, who contribute about 85 per cent of local food production under trying conditions. It is therefore logical that an award system should target small scale producers to motivate them to be more productive. However this is not the case. The criteria is rather more favourable to medium and large scale farmers who receive tractors and other farming equipment while small farmers are given such implements as cutlasses and sewing machines. This could be the reason why laudable themes selected to mark the farmers day since 1985 have not succeeded in changing the face of agriculture in the past twenty six years. Governments have so far not been successful in turning the themes into realistic developments that will influence farmers and other value chain actors to be more productive. A sample look at some of the themes is refreshing. In 1993 at Akuse ‘An Efficient Marketing System - A Booster to Sustained Agricultural and Industrial Growth’. In 1996 at Esiama, ‘The Human Resource- A Crucial Factor in Agricultural Development.’ In 1999 at Bolgatanga, ‘Effective Marketing Promotes Agricultural Production.’ In 2005 at Navrongo, ‘Agriculture Production and Productivity - The key to Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction’. Though very relevant, all these themes are still distant dreams. That is why the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) must be the benchmark by which progress made in agriculture should be measured and specifically determine who benefited and in what manner. This way, we may as a country be able to assess our collective efforts towards growing agriculture and industry. Those that excel in this endeavour may be patted on the back and awarded but then many more who may not be directly awarded would have benefited from the wider productivity improvements and increased incomes.
Every hard working farmer in Ghana deserves an award but it is estimated that if the national farmers day goes on for the next 100 years, many more hard working farmers would be left without an award of any sort. During a period when actual yields of food crops fall far below achievable yields for the large majority of farmers, it is unacceptable to be awarding a few rather than create conditions, through the implementation of existing policies for the benefit of farmers, industry and Ghana’s development. The resilience shown by the Ghanaian farmer has proven their ability to be competitive when given the right support and protection. The conditions for the implementation of these policies exist. The question then is, what is the government waiting for?
BY: IBRAHIM AKALBILA, COORDINATOR, GHANA TRADE AND LIVELIHOODS COALITION (GTLC) P.O.BOX MP 2989, MAMPROBI, ACCRA.