Let’s focus on soil, not oil – Dr Abu Sakara

Agronomist and 2012 CPP Presidential candidate, Dr Abu Sakara Foster says Ghana seems to have lost focus in its development agenda with its new found love-oil, to the detriment of Agriculture, which should be the pivot for economic development. He adds that Ghana’s share of Agriculture in Global trade is insignificant with less impact on the economy.

He was joined by Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Director General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and Mr. Samuel Asante-Mensah, Director of Food Security at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) on Abu Sakara’s Take on Multi TV to discuss the role of agriculture in Ghana’s development.

According to the Agronomist, governments over the years have tried through many interventions to transform agric from subsistence to a modern business but with very little results.

From plantation farms, the farmers’ brigade, state farms, operation feed yourself programme and many other special Presidential initiatives, the block farms to the buffer stocks on agric, he questioned what the real concrete plan is, to move agric forward.

Dr Thompson mentioned that Ghana’s agric production been declining and currently hovering around 22 percent. Before cocoa, palm oil was a leading earner of foreign exchange in Ghana, but both crops have suffered declines.

He emphasised the need to grow the agric sector with focus on food and nutritional sufficiency, which requires more investment to increase yield and productivity.

The Economist made reference to late last year, when President Mahama presented a coordinated programme for the economic and social development policies of Ghana, which revolves around agric. It focuses on crops that can be used in the short term to transform the economy through agro processing and removing bottlenecks.

“The challenge is with investments. A disproportionate amount of the budget goes into recurrent expenditures like the wage bill, the administration and not too much going into the investment capital,” he pointed.

The NDPC Boss said, in developed countries, lots of major farms are situated close to highways to make transportation easy, reduce cost and losses, contrary to what exists in Ghana where farms are situated in forests; and where they are closer to settlements, there is no sanity in spatial planning.

Dr Nii Moi Thompson also talked about mechanisms to ensure that local governance structures develop infrastructure to boost agriculture.

“There are existing laws (Act 480) make it imperative for DCEs to involve the communities in planning and that the local plans should be aligned with the national development priorities. The only drawback which the NDPC is working on now, is a legal instrument, yet to go through cabinet to help NDPC monitor activities of DCEs and MCEs in this regard,” he stressed.

Dr Sakara questioned if donor funds to support agric are being used judiciously and whether these monies have a specific agenda, which results in general development of the economy.

“We need to turn our comparative advantage into a competitive advantage by focusing on the human resource capacity building, infrastructure, marketing strategies, packaging, the value addition before we can turn these productions into money in the market place, bearing in the competition,” he advised.

Samuel Asante-Mensah said land ownership affects agric in Ghana and that Government can only recommend through its agric research agencies, lands which are suitable for agric. This affects zoning of agric lands because land is owned by chiefs and their people.

He said Extension officers require logistics to make them efficient in reaching the remotest areas of the country because people farm where they live. In his view, there is a dichotomy between what the development plan is and what it translates on the ground based on constraints with land ownership.

The ADRA Boss emphasised the need to get the markets to drive production, as it applies to cocoa production. He believes Ghana can compete in rice production with Asia, as we spend heavily in importing rice with almost 40 percent deficit in consumption, with other food crops.

Access to credit, according to him, will enhance the value chain preposition and enough human resource capacity, plus a ready market which is demand driven.

He remarked that, “oil will not last forever but the land will. Oil revenue should be used to build infrastructure, upon which agric will be improved from the land, storage, processing, the value chain, irrigation and by the time the oil runs out, revenue accrued will be used to develop the basic infrastructure upon which we can build agriculture”.

source : myjoyonline.com