Business News of Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Esoko, a private company that provides information and communication services to farmers, has called for the modernization of Ghana’s agricultural sector to make it more vibrant and productive.
Esoko Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Davis said Ghana was endowed with huge arable lands and human resources which could be tapped for the good of the nation and Africa.
He said Ghana possessed large stretches of arable lands which were being cultivated in an old fashioned manner and as a result, the yields being recognized from many of the farms and small holdings were below global standards.
“I think that there is no reason why we shouldn’t be meeting or exceeding anybody else’s standards; whether it is the Philippines or the United States,” Davis remarked in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra on the sideline of the launch of the Esoko’s Expert Network of agronomists.
The Expert Network is an addition to Esoko’s Farmer Helpline to boost operators’ ability to propel more complex issues straight to experts for solutions.
The CEO said mechanization, irrigation; education and skills training were all critical elements in enhancing Ghana’s agriculture productivity.
He said as part of efforts to fix the challenges facing the agricultural sector; stakeholders such as the government, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, development partners, civil society organizations (CSOs) and farmers all had critical roles to play.
Davis said CSOs need to work with communities to educate them about basic business principles – how to treat agriculture as a business.
He observed that savings and loans groups and other financial services companies need to play their role in enhancing productivity in agriculture.
He mentioned that information and communication technology companies and the information services companies like Esoko Farmers’ Helpline and others all had a pivotal role to play too.
“But I think in the end, market development always comes down to something very basic: ‘can I make money’?
“Nobody is going to do this because they think it is a good idea or because they are necessary to help somebody.
“Markets have developed because if you apply yourself and if you commit to it, you will get a reward, it will be predictable and you will be able to use that to feed your family, to provide the right education for your children, to provide the right opportunity and to provide medical care.”
The CEO said: “If you look at Europe and if you look at America, they went through huge subsidies: America in the 40s and 50s and Europe in the 60s and 70s with the common market.
“And they continued these enormous subsidies to strengthen and develop the farming communities. And we are expecting the farmers to do it all on their own.”
He urged the youth not to be prejudiced against agriculture as an old fashioned sector but to see it as a fundamental one that feeds us.
“The fact that you can play a role in the emergence of a much broader commercial sector within agriculture by transforming the image of farmers, the lives of farmers, and really putting agriculture as a modern business that young people recognize as a real opportunity.
“That is very exciting to me and I will say that is inspiring and keeps me going every day,” he stated.
He said government must continue to promote public private partnership in agriculture by aligning with private companies like Esoko to enable them fill their small niches.
Davis announced that this year, Esoko would be launching the National Farmers Club; which would be rolled out across the country in partnership with one of the mobile operators.