Gov’t blamed for poor agric performance as extension officers dwindle

Government has come under heavy attack for allegedly shirking its responsibility towards the agric sector and for making farmers even poorer.

Stakeholders who attended the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana-organised policy dialogue on the need to invest in extension services took turns to lambaste government for what they thought was the lackadaisical attitude towards the sector.

Edward Kareweh, Deputy General Secretary of Agricultural Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress said government is simply being lazy with its current policy posture which tends to promote the policy of importation rather than a policy of domestic production.

Imported food products are supposed to be the supplements of local production, not the other way round, he argued.

“Here is a country with massive agricultural potential. For many years we have got all the natural resources, the rivers, forests, minerals and land space yet we are unable to feed ourselves. We depend on imports. That is unacceptable. Government policy in agriculture has not been encouraging to the extent that it does not allow us to produce the type of food we want,” he told at the sidelines of the policy dialogue.

Kareweh rubbished assertions that international protocols have constrained government from implementing the right policies, saying no institution can dictate to a sovereign country the agricultural policy to adopt, except the government allows itself.

“There is no World Trade Organisation protocol that says you cannot provide subsidies for your farmers; there is no international organisation that says fertiliser subsidies are not good and must be removed,” he argued.

He said agriculture is in a precarious situation and unless urgent steps are taken the country will be in further crisis.

The President of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, Mohammed Adam Nasiru said it is about time for governmnent and stakeholders to walk the talk.

He said there has been a total lack of political will to implement what will change the fortunes of agriculture in the country.

He wondered why Ghana is trailing behind Burkina Faso in the production of cotton, when Ghana has better conditions.

He also lamented the farmer to extension officer ratio which is averagely quoted to be between 1,500:1 saying the issue about “extension officers is like providing a brand new bus but without a driver.”

“Agriculture in Ghana cannot function well without the extension officers,” he pointed out.

Queronica Quarter who is with Action Aid, said government has a social contract with the citizenry and must begin to live up to its responsibility of making Ghana a food secured country.

She said Ghana has many brilliant agricultural policies but lacked the power to implement them. She implored government to look at the current challenges such as lack of agric inputs, credit facilities, market, storage materials and address them.

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Food Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Gabriel Kodwo Essilfie came to the defence of government by insisting that government cannot be relied upon to do everything.

He said a country that has its budgets balanced by development partners cannot be expected to do everything.

“With a deficit budget how will we be able to handle all these things?” he questioned.

He admitted though that successive governments have failed to address the challenges facing the sector noting that many have not handled the sector as a business venture.

He called for a change in attitude and mindset towards improving upon the agricultural sector.

The policy dialogue was attended by stakeholders in the agric sector including farmers, extension officers, Members of Parliament as well as officials in other farmer based organisation.

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