Former Foreign Minister Madam Hanna Tetteh has noted that it would be in the best interest of the country if successive governments continue the agricultural programs instituted by past regimes. According to her, most of the agricultural policies in Ghana have acronyms but the assessments of these programs are on the headlines and not the details.
“What we have to recall is that whatever any administration does the subsequent administrations have a choice either to build on it or to disregard it and start something completely new” she said.
Speaking to XYZ News’ Joe Bright Nyarko at the 5TH John Evans Atta Mills Commemorative Lecture organized by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast on Thursday 27th July 2017 in Accra; Madam Hanna Tetteh said:
“The thing is to ensure that once some time, effort and resources have been committed to a particular initiative in order to take us and reach a certain point, then I think that the lessons that we should learn is that it would be in our interest if we can see that that there are benefits to be derived from these initiatives to continue with it while we start new initiatives that we may have in mind in other to be able to achieve the desired outcome”.
Asked whether Ghanaians have politicized agriculture to the extent of shielding the gains made over the years, the former Awutu Senya West MP said:
“I think what we have done is that, we’ve paid attention to the headlines but not much attention to the details, and because we have not focused enough on the details what’s happening is that very often things have been started, they’ve been built up to a point, somebody comes with entirely new ideas, doesn’t complete a programme that is in progress to be able to maximise the possible benefit from that programme before they come with something entirely new”.
Food and Agricultural Sector Development Plan (FASDEP)
Madam Hanna Tetteh revealed that during the presidency of Late Prof Mills “there were a number of policy initiatives and in Ghana most of the policies initiatives have acronyms and one that we worked with was FASDEP for the improvement of the agriculture sector and the focus was …making sure that we could improve the production of the basic food crops that we eat in this country, so that we would cut down on our reliance on imports of such products and as a results we should be able to save money or create employment, so if you could recall the focus was on the grains- maize, rice, soya, sorghum, ”.
In what could be seen as a review of the agricultural policies of the last NDC government, Madam Hanna Tetteh recalled “there were number of efforts towards the establishment of cooperatives and supporting young farmers especially within the three Northern Regions.
She said Ghana was also luck to have benefited from a Millennium Challenge compact which also focused mainly on commercial agriculture with focus on areas that would improve the agricultural value chain.
“So if today you have new ferries across the Volta, which makes it easier to bring in produce from the Afram Plains to the Kwahu areas down that Accra-Kumasi main road into Accra and that it is not locked such that the products have to go all the way through the Volta Region and come through that long road, you should remember that it is because of initiatives like that.
Planting for Food and Jobs
Madam Hanna Tetteh’s concern comes as the NPP government strive to implement its flagship ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ program aimed at boosting the agric sector to help address the rising unemployment and also protect the country’s food security. Government has already pumped over 150 million cedis into the program to the chagrin of sceptics who argue that it lacks clarity in its current form.
“The Food and Jobs Programme is an interesting programme and I…listening to radio the other day I heard that there are quite a number of farmers that had signed up in the various communities, about half the farming population; now whether you would get more farmers signing onto it would depend on the experience the first batch of farmers who have signed up to it would have. Because they want to see that they would be given improved seeds, they want to see that they would be given improved fertilizers; they want to see that they would be given extension services. Its when they do that… and tangibly see that their productivity has improved that you would get others saying that this is what i want to do because I can see that it is working”; Madam Hanna Tetteh said while commenting on the NPP’s agricultural policy.
She added: “We have to remember that no matter what we do in terms of programmes, whether they would be popular and accepted by the people for whom they were intended, depends very much on how effective the outcome of those programmes are and that has everything to do with how it is implemented. And in order to be able to improve productivity in the food sector, what I think needs to be done is to ensure that we get the best extension officers and we make sure that the inputs really are there on time when they are required to be able to achieve the desired outcomes”; she concluded.
Africa’s Food Security
Delivery the main address at this year’s John Evans Atta Mills Commemorative Lecture, a member of the British House of Lords, Paul Boateng warned that Africa is sitting on a demographic “time bomb” with its projected population of 2 billion by 2050.
Even more worrying for Lord Boateng is that the continent’s agricultural population is ageing while the youth show little to no interest in taking it up. He expressed concern that Ghana like many other African countries has seen a departure from a self-sufficient country in the 1960s to a net importer and that is a threat to its food security.
He therefore charged the Akufo Addo government to prioritize agriculture and also make it attractive for the youth.
By: Joe Bright Nyarko