VARIOUS governments and donor-funded programmes of intervention embarked upon by successive political administrations to narrow the socio-economic gap between the south and the dry, savannah north of the country have been fraught with difficulties that have limited their success or led to their failure to achieve their objectives.
The majority of the people of the north of the country are engaged in agriculture. These programmes of intervention were therefore intended to support agriculture as a way of raising incomes and improving the quality of life of the people of the north of the country.
The Upper Regional Agricultural Development Programme (URADEP) and the Northern Region Integrated Programme (NORIP) launched in the 1970s, had the ultimate objective of improving agricultural production by initiating various integrated rural development schemes in the two regions.
The Farmers’ Services Company (FASCOM) was set up as a commercial wing of URADEP to provide fertilizers, mechanized field services, farm tools and other inputs to farmers at designated service centres.
A compulsory 2.5 per cent mark-up on all goods and services sold at the farmers was charged and the levy held as shares by the BOG in trust for the farmers so that the farmers would own the company to make URADEP self-sustaining.
Poor management however led to the collapse of all these laudable initiatives to improve upon the lives of the people of the north and limit the migration of young people from the north to the south in pursuit of non-existent employment.
Between the collapse of these and other government- and donor-funded programmes of socio-economic intervention in the north, and the launch of the Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA), no programmes had been embarked upon on a major scale to bridge the development gap.
SADA’s mandate is to coordinate a comprehensive development agenda for the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions and promote the sustainable socio-economic development of the three regions, through afforestation to reverse the destructive impact of the encroachment of the Sahel and effects of climate change, and various other agriculture-based schemes to improve the livelihood of the people of northern Ghana.
Unfortunately, only a few years into SADA, the latest attempt to implement another national programme of accelerated development has run up against problems related to allegations of inefficient programme management, corruption and failure to achieve the objectives of various schemes in which substantial investments have been made.
These challenges have seen SADA caught up as much in the uphill task of ensuring the success of the programme as in political intrigue as political forces seek to use the weaknesses inherent in the programme to their advantage.
We at THE GENERAL TELEGRAPH believe it is not the feasibility of this latest programme of socio-economic intervention in the north of the country that is in doubt but the ability of the agency to ensure competent, efficient, transparent and accountable management is rather the challenge.
Fortunately, the Ghana Institution of Engineers has brought an encouraging and refreshing perspective to the issue of the challenges facing the programme with its announcement that it will be making the institution’s expertise available to SADA to enhance the success of the programme.
The recently sworn-in President of the Ghana Institution, Magnus Lincoln Quarshie, has rightly pointed out that engineering is crucial for the success of SADA and indeed the development of the country.
THE GENERAL TELEGRAPH thinks the advantages of correcting the key defects in the implementation of SADA and then taking steps to implement the programme more efficiently with its mandate and stated objectives and goals in view, far outweigh whatever benefits there may be in scrapping it.