The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, has urged the government to put more effort into equipping farmers with the needed skills to boost growth in the agriculture sector and improve its contribution to the GDP.
According to her, the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs Programme would be enhanced when farmers are equipped with business development skills and corporate governance strategies which would eventually move them to a position where they would be financially stable, and would no longer require subsidies.
She argued that given the limitations on the government’s purse and competing developmental challenges, it is evident that the Planting for Food and Jobs programme which is helping farmers enhance their production capacity by subsidising inputs and providing extension services, may not be sustainable.
“In fact, this year, there were concerns about delayed payments by the government to suppliers of fertilizer, with many of them threatening to withhold supplies if the government did not pay arrears owed. This is why we must adopt an all-round approach that will equip the famers to approach farming as a business that could offer them decent incomes and sustainable jobs,” she said.
She added that equipping farmers is the same as supporting the sector to make it attractive to capital as investors will be assured of a reasonable return on their investment.
“Some very educated people are venturing into agriculture and these are people that we can very easily work with and even if our farmers are not educated, it doesn’t mean they can’t be tutored. We first need to identify the kind of farmers we have and package training programs that will be suitable for them,” she said.
She was speaking at the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes’ (ReNAPRI) annual conference hosted by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) in Accra dubbed “Transform; Towards Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems in Africa”.
The conference seeks to generate ideas that will inform policy decisions in the agricultural sector. It would also engage in strategic dialogue with key stakeholders to provide evidence-based guidance to African governments.
“With Africa’s population projected to be 2 billion by 2050, agriculture will remain central to the survival and nourishment of the population. Agriculture can be transformed to become a mechanism for social cohesion and boosting intra-Africa trade with the inception of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it will allow the country to increase exports, create jobs and provide sustainable incomes for many, while drawing away from poverty and subsistence farming”.
Refocusing agriculture to achieve SDG one and two
Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo also said there’s the need to refocus agriculture, using it as a tool for poverty alleviation and wealth creation.
She said Sustainable Development Goal one – ‘End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere’ and goal two – ‘End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition and Promote Sustainable Agriculture’ can be achieved if Africa fully utilize its resources efficiently.
“We are all aware of the tag about Africa as the poorest continent of the world, yet, it is the most endowed in terms of natural resources and precious metals. According to the World Economic Forum, 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa yet the continent is a net importer of food,” she said.