Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs Programme; All the Very Interesting Details…

Just like the 1 district-1 factory, Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs has already started receiving wide acceptance and support from both within and outside the country!

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, launched the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme at Goaso, in the Brong Ahafo Region. Speaking at the occasion, the President said that the programme is the basis of the answer to the twin-problem of the migration of youth to the urban areas in search of non-existent jobs, as well as an end to the disgraceful practice of Ghana importing foodstuffs from neighbouring countries.

Outlining the expectations of the programme, Nana Addo stated that it will increase the production of maize by 30 per cent; rice by 49 per cent; soybean by 25 per cent; and sorghum by 28 per cent from current production levels.

Speaking further, the President assured that all the necessary measures have been put in place to guarantee the success of the programme. He also indicated that government has reduced the prices of fertiliser by 50% to ensure that the products are readily available to farmers at affordable prices.

“A 50kg bag of NPK fertiliser, the fertiliser most used by farmers, up to now has been costing GH¢115. Under this government, farmers will only pay GH¢57.50 for it. Likewise, a 50kg bag of urea now sells at GH¢47.50, as opposed to GH¢80 last year,” he said.

Moreover, with a looming shortage of agricultural extension officers in the next two to three years, and largely as a result of the previous NDC administration’s decision not to employ any of the 3,200 graduates from the country’s five Colleges of Agriculture between 2011 and 2015, President Akufo-Addo revealed that his government has, in the last three months, employed 1,200 of these graduates. The President further assured that in 2018, more 2,000 extension officers will be employed. He also promised to keep employing more graduates from the country’s Colleges of Agriculture in subsequent years.

Commending the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, for originating this initiative, Nana Addo as well commended the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta for “recognising the critical importance of the project, and allocating GH¢370 million in the ‘Asempa Budget’ for it”.

The President, in reiterating his government’s commitment towards the revival of the country’s agriculture, noted that the Minister for Finance had increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture from 0.9% in the NDC era to 1.9%, with government targeting a 4.8% allocation to the Ministry by 2020, akin to the unprecedented feat recorded by the Kufuor era in 2008.

He also reassured farmers of the commitment of his government to expand the feeder road and farm track networks to mitigate post-harvest losses and also ensure foodstuffs are available to buyers and consumers.

Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs

The Planting for Food and Jobs which was initiated by the new Akufo-Addo led administration is an agricultural programme simultaneously aimed at achieving food sufficiency for Ghana, and providing jobs for the teeming unemployed youth in the country.

The programme is expected to be rolled out in all the 216 districts across the country, and will involve the supply of farm resources such as high yielding and improved seedlings to participating farmers. The pilot phase of Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs project is expected to create about 750,000 direct and indirect jobs.

President Nana Akufo-Addo has explained that the Planting for Food and Jobs will be anchored on the pillars that will transform Ghanaian agriculture which are: the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilisers, the provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy, and the use of e-agriculture.

The President indicated that the use of the technology in the Planting for Food and Jobs programme via the e-Agriculture platform, will ensure the effective distribution of improved seeds and fertilisers, as well as a significant improvement in extension service delivery to farmers.

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Also speaking at the launch of Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs, the Agriculture Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto said government has settled on five key crops for 2017 namely maize, rice, soya bean, sorghum, and selected vegetables. The programme, according to the government, would also motivate farmers to grow other staple foods such as millet and beans.

Dr Afriyie-Akoto said as part of the programme, government will provide improved seeds to farmers, supply fertilizers, provide dedicated extension services, marketing arrangement, as well as an electronic platform to monitor activities of participating farmers. The Agriculture Minister also  revealed that the programme will cover 2.5 million farmers nationwide after the pilot process; with about 200, 000 farmers in the Brong Ahafo region to benefit.

1 District-1 Warehouse

President Nana Akufo-Addo also announced government’s intention to construct a 1000 metric ton capacity warehouse in each of the country’s 216 districts. According to the President, the warehouses are meant to handle produce, as well as to store the anticipated surpluses under the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ campaign, thereby reducing post-harvest losses which may hamper the effort of farmers.

Agriculture, the Pillar for Ghana’s Economic Transformation

The President noted that if Ghana is to make any meaningful change in the lives of the people, her efforts must be directed at agriculture, as the majority of people can only feel a change in their lives when agriculture is developed.

With Ghana’s agriculture predominantly hinged on the production of cocoa, President Akufo-Addo noted that the country has not made much progress in the cultivation of staples, like rice, maize and soya, urging therefore, for a fundamental change in attitudes towards agriculture.

“Agriculture is not and cannot be a single-crop industry. Farming is a business and it is a profession that must be promoted and studied like all other professions. Ghana has the unique potential to feed its growing population, meet the raw material requirements of our processing industries, achieve food security, and compete successfully as a leading supplier to countries around us and beyond,” he said.

The vision of his government, he stressed, will be to encompass the full agricultural value chain and create additional businesses and job opportunities in the areas of storage, transport, processing, packaging and marketing of agricultural produce, all of which will ensure that farmers as well as the fisher folk earn higher incomes.

Support for Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs

Just like the 1 district-1 factory policy, Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs has already started receiving wide acceptance from both within and without the country.

From outside the country, the President indicated during the launch that the of government to Canada are supporting the programme with 125 million Canadian dollars over a five-year period. He said The World Bank has also pledged a support of $50 million for year 2017 alone. USAID, through its Feed-The-Future Initiative, have also indicated, despite their initial hesitation, their preparedness to support Planting for Food and Jobs.

From within, the President said the private sector as well as the Agricultural Development Bank have both indicated willingness to support the programme.

There are still much much to do

The Ghana Agriculture Chamber of Commerce and the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) have noted that although Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs is a promise initiative, there is still more to be done. This they said while speaking on Joy News’ PM Express on Wednesday evening.

Faulting the policy’s targeted beneficiaries, Programmes Officer of PFAG, Charles Nyaba, indicated that there are issues with the policy in its current state that needs urgent attention. He pointed out that the “at least five-acre land” requirement set for beneficiaries of the project as a major setback. According to him, over 80% of farmers in Ghana own less than five acres of land.

Also, President of the Ghana Agriculture Chamber of Commerce, Philip Abayori, recommends that just like the Operation Feed Yourself under the General Kutu Acheampong’s time, the government can legislate that a quota of the loan portfolio must go the agriculture sector. This, Mr Abayori said, will make private sector participation in the Planting for Food and Jobs truly competitive.

Seeing that Akufo-Addo’s Planting for Food and Jobs programme has emerged an initiative of nationwide importance, what is your own contribution to seeing that the project succeeds? Let’s have your views at the comment session, please.