Give agriculture the attention it deserves

As with every edition of Ghana’s annual Farmers Day celebrations, this is a period when policy makers, corporations and indeed all sorts of influential individual enterprises and institutions seek to associate with agriculture and those who engage in it. It is instructive though that within days of its passing, it is forgotten and the same individuals and institutions who portended to support increased local food production quickly turn their attention back to the consumption of imported foods as the Christmas and new year festivities approach.

Ghana’s inattentive attitude to agriculture is puzzling. This is a sector that produces the products that consume half of the income of the average Ghanaian household. Therefore, the prices of those products have more influence on living standards than any other.   

It is also the sector that employs the most Ghanaians, estimated at more than half of the country’s able work force. Therefore, the fortunes of the sector have unparalleled impact on the rate of employment across the country.

To be sure though there are lots of challenges that continue to stifle the performance of Ghana’s agricultural sector. These include outdated farming techniques, lack of information, lack of storage capacity, inadequate finance and inefficient distribution systems among other things.

However, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that all the challenges have long been identified but so little has been done to overcome them. One administration after the other in Ghana has come to power, identified the problems constraining the agricultural sector and announced plans to overcome them. Yet nothing concrete seems to be done subsequently.

We believe that agricultural output can be increased in geometric proportions if only the sector’s stakeholders can muster the determination to execute the solutions to their problems which have been suggested for years, indeed decades now.

 This has to start from government itself. For instance, the Marshall Plan for Agriculture, having been drawn up, is not being implemented as it was planned because of financing constraints. However, year after year, political administration after political administration, Ghana takes billion of US dollars in Eurobond issuance receipts, inconsequentially little of which is ploughed into financing the infrastructural and operational requirements of a sector long recognized as the most important in the country.

This newspaper is not about to go into the methodologies by which Ghana’s agricultural sector can enjoy vastly improved performance. They are all well known to all the sector’s stakeholders. What is needed now is simply the political will to execute those methodologies.

Until then Ghana will keep on commemorating farmers day every year, as lip service to a sector that can dramatically improve our fortunes.