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Citizen’s Advice to the Minister of Food and Agriculture

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, who served as MP of the Kwadaso Constituency has had an illustrious career as a politician and an economist. The honourable Minister was the deputy ranking member of the Committee on Food and Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs until he was rejected by the NPP delegates of Kwadaso Constituency. He holds a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics and a PhD from Cambridge. He had served as CEO of some agricultural businesses before stepping into politics. He, therefore, came to his current job well-groomed and prepared theoretically and practically. However, upon assuming office, he has needlessly exhibited one treat abundantly, love for fanfare, instead of cautious and consultative approach of solving the many problems that affect the agricultural sector. This fanfare approach of doing things may be good in energizing the masses into action to help achieve some desired results. On the other side, engaging in this fanfare without caution could eventually result in a disaster.

Key in the Honourable Minister of Agriculture’s so called creation is the much trumpeted planting for food and jobs. Within this flagship programme he promised to increase the percentage of farmers who use improved seeds for maize farming and instituted the national fertilizer subsidy program which slashed the cost of various chemical fertilizers by half. Indeed the planting for food and jobs policy/programme is basically fertilizer subsidy (Mahama’s administration distributed fertilizer free to cocoa farmers) and distribution of certified improved seed (which is the same as what the Mahama administration was already doing – see the National Seed Plan Policy). The latest add-on to the planting for food and jobs is intent to purchase tractors and hand-held implements suitable for smallholder farmers using a loan facility. As much as these policies and programmes seem to be the panacea for our problems, they could be injurious to our agricultural sector in the long-term if not handled properly. This article seeks to outline some of the pitfalls that could spell doom for the country long after Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto and his Cohorts leave office.

One of such mistakes is the government trying to modernize agriculture in the same old fashion. Successive governments in Ghana in several phases have attempted agricultural modernization. The first phase was when governments of the day simply importing tractors and other farm machinery and passing them to farmers through some hire purchase scheme. This phase of agricultural modernization failed miserably. The second phase was the establishment and operation of Agricultural Mechanization Services Centers (AMSECs). The AMSECs policy was supposed to raise the tractor‐to‐farmer ratio from 1:1800 to 1:500 by 2020 and to reduce the number of tractors older than 15 years in Ghana. The lifespan of tractors is averagely 15 years implying that this policy had the potential to revitalize the farm power availability of this country. This AMSECs programme garnered some successes but has been bedeviled by problems such inappropriate maintenance culture. In search of solutions to the problems of the AMSECs programme, the third phase of the conceptualization of modernization of agriculture which basically is an upgrade of the AMSECs programme was birthed by the Mahama administration during it last days in power. This third phase is called Establishment Agricultural Mechanization Training Centre (EAMTC) Project-Ghana, which has since being piloted at Adidome and Wenchi Farm Institutes. The EAMTC programme added maintenance and training specialists to the centers to ensure good maintenance culture and prolong the life of the machinery. It was against this backdrop that the former president in a statesmanlike fashion sounded a word of caution to President Nana Akuffo Addo and the Minister of Agricultural. His simple but critical advice to the current government was this; do not purchase tractors for farmers and expect modernization of the agricultural sector in return. At this point in the country where we are faced by a lot problems such as inadequate funds to support free senior high school, to buy fuel for our generators in the power sector and many others, the Minister of Agriculture and his team must take former President Mahama’s advice seriously. They need to heed to his advice in order not to import farm machinery which would breakdown beyond repair within a few years causing financial loss to our dear country. Apart from the economic value of his advice, it also holds the key to sustainability of all agricultural systems/policies including planting for food and jobs. According to Cossar and Gollin (2018), the improvement of the supply of agricultural mechanization services leads to increase in the access of farmers to machinery service and use. They also concluded that increase in the farm machinery use is associated with increased labour and fertilizer requirements and profit per hectare. What this means is that if agriculture mechanization is right, more jobs would be created and the fertilizer that is being subsided by the Minister and his team would be properly utilized instead of being smuggled. The increase in profit would improve the appeal of agriculture to a greater number of people especially the youth and the sustainability of farming systems.

I humbly recommend to the government to adopt the EAMTC and transform it into Agricultural Modernization Research and Development, Machinery Manufacturing and Training Centre (AMRDMMTC). These centres located in each of the ten regions of Ghana would house experts who would development and manufacture appropriate technology for the agricultural sector of Ghana and train farmers, artisans and users of these technologies. These would afford government the opportunity to use the 1D1F policy to help bring these AMRDMMTC into being. Development and manufacturing of some of the farm machinery and implement such thresher, Shellers, grain dryers, pumps, Harvester, power tillers is already being done at Ghanaian institutions such as University of Energy and Natural Resource, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Ghana and GRATIS foundation just to mention a few notably ones. The expertise from these institutions could form the foundation upon which these centres will be built.

Gilbert Ayine Akolgo
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

University of Energy and Natural Resource,
Sunyani

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Gilbert Ayine Akolgo and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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