A country which is not able to develop its agricultural sector very well is unlikely to successfully carry through her development agenda. All over the world, the state of any nation’s development is directly linked to the agricultural sector.
Currently, the local market is dominated by foreign imported rice to the detriment of our gallant farmers. The huge patronage and promotions of foreign food and imported agricultural produce have taken a centre stage in our media whiles local agricultural produce receive none or little such promotion. Ironically, this impedes the government’s initiative and our country’s agricultural drive. It is also having a toll on the incomes of our farmers and fishermen due to lack of capacity to compete fairly.
Business Day Ghana thinks that the appetite and continuous patronage of imported agricultural produce in our country is a disincentive to our national agricultural development.
Report says Rwanda had around 60 per cent of its masses living below the poverty line in the year 2000 but today, the poverty rate had been reduced to less than 45 per cent on the back of agricultural sector-driven accelerated economic growth. The same goes for China, Indonesia, and a host of other countries where agricultural sector-driven development created jobs, raised incomes, and reduced poverty levels.
However, in Ghana, the story is different. Poverty is invading the country like a swarm of locusts. Despite impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates in the last decade, the percentage of Ghanaians living in poverty has increased to the extent that some families in the country are forced to cut the amount and quality of food they eat each day. Meat, a source of protein, is no more an option on the menu of many families. People now opt for less nutritional meals – just to put something into the stomach— which has a bad effect on a child’s growth.
The Ghanaian farmer or fisherman is the most deprived in terms of living conditions. Nonetheless, the Ghanaian farmer or fisherman never embarks on any strike action but continues to toil to feed this nation even in very hard times.
Ghana, a middle-income country and a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, has up to 2015 to halve extreme poverty but conditions are still worst in the rural areas where a sizable number of Ghanaians still live on less than one dollar a day.
It is regrettable that the agricultural sector, which employs about 60 per cent of the Ghanaian workforce and possesses the highest potential for employment generation, is being neglected. Corruption, poor leadership and mismanagement of public resources provide the most convincing explanations for this ironic consequence.
The fact that agriculture has been a main contributor to poverty reduction in Rwanda is not a coincidence, considering the fact that the country is one of the few countries on the African continent that meet the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) recommended target of 10 per cent agriculture expenditure in the national budget.
Also, the clearly demonstrated commitment of Rwanda’s political leadership to a broad-based consultative and inclusive approach to its economic development agenda, enshrined in transparency and accountability to the citizens, is in no doubt.
Good enough, Ghana is rethinking and redefining agriculture. In Ghana now, agriculture is not farming – it is business. Agricultural activities now, according to the government’s agriculture transformation plan and many farmer-based organisations, cover the entire value chain. Even though the plan is on the ground and very robust, we are looking forward to a sincere execution of the stout plan.
Business Day Ghana therefore urges the Government of Ghana to take a cue from the Rwandan experience by demonstrating the required amount of political will and commitment to pursuing vigorously its current agricultural transformation programme. We believe doing so will create the jobs and income levels required to push more Ghanaians out of poverty, thereby ensuring that growth is pro-poor.
We are aware of the Government initiatives aimed at improving agriculture in the country, and we wish to acknowledge these efforts. Among them are the youth in agriculture programme that had created a number of job for the teeming Ghanaian youth.