The Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) has announced a total of GH450 million to among other initiatives support the government’s ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.
The fund, according to Daniel Asiedu, Managing Director of the Bank, is expected to meet the payment requirements for the agro-inputs supplied to beneficiaries under the programme and also support viable agricultural initiatives in 2017.
He explained that GH150million is directly going to support the Planting for Food and Jobs programme with GH300 million serving as credit facility to support various viable projects in the agricultural value chain for the 2017 financial year.
Speaking at the recent launch of the initiative at Goaso, in the Brong Ahafo Region, Mr. Asiedu, pledged the unflinching support of the Bank in partnering the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to successfully implement the objectives of the policy.
“The Bank will assist the hard working farmers participating in the programme who intend to expand their operations to transit into successful commercial farmers by providing the necessary support needed,” he said.
Mr Asiedu added that ADB intended to pre-finance a number of agro-input suppliers selected by the MoFA under the programme.
“We at ADB endorse this great initiative and would like to use this opportunity to call on other financial institutions to do likewise by allocating funds for agricultural financing,” he added.
Launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo, the programme is designed to increase agricultural production, ensure a sustainable supply of food at cheaper cost and create about 750,000 direct and indirect jobs for farmers and the youth.
Additionally, it is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 percent, rice by 49 percent, soybean by 25 percent and sorghum by 28 percent from the current production levels.
It also seeks to create general awareness and encourage workers in both the formal and the informal sectors and the unemployed to grow grain crops and vegetables in open spaces, including backyards in urban areas.
The Canadian Government is supporting the programme with $125million over five years, while the World Bank has pledged $50million to support it this year, with the Korean government pledging $9million.
President Akufo-Addo declared that ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ was the answer to the modernisation of agriculture, which was expected to end the migration of the youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs.
“Food is unnecessarily expensive in the country that is blessed with fertile land. Our production methods are not modern and income levels of farmers and fisher folk remain low, making the sector unattractive to the youth as a viable means of livelihood,” he said.
He stated that the government’s aim was to modernise agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security and increase profitability for farmers in a bid to significantly raise agricultural productivity.
“We need to pursue value-addition strategy, aimed at rapidly ramping up agro-processing and developing new and stable markets for our products,” he stated.
Outlining the focus of the programme, the Minister of MoFA, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, stated that this year’s campaign would focus on a selected target group of up to 200,000 farmers in all the 216 districts of the country.
The number increasing steadily to reach at least half of the farming population of five million by 2020.
According to the Minister, the implementation of the programme was anchored on five pillars.
The provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilisers, the provision of dedicated extension services, marketing arrangements to ensure zero post-harvest losses and an electronic platform to capture and monitor the activities of participating farmers.
Dr Akoto said 1,200 unemployed graduates from the five colleges of agriculture had been recruited and trained.
Government has also resolved to construct 1,000-metric tonne warehouses in each of the 216 districts to provide handling and storage space for the expected surpluses which were anticipated under the programme.