Your Excellency, Alhaji (Dr) Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana, The Honourable Minister of State at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, The Honourable Regional Minister of the Northern Region,
Distinguished Guests, The Media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I deem it a great pleasure and honour to welcome all of you here to the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium today for the opening of arguably the largest gathering of value chain actors in agriculture and agribusinesses in Ghana.
Your Excellency, the Pre-harvest Agribusiness Exhibition and Conference is an interventional forum that presents realistic opportunities for various value chain actors in the agric sector to meet, discuss business, contracts and work together as a coherent team whose goal is to ensure that enough produce is available locally for consumption; thereby mitigating the risks associated with excessive importation. This landmark event is made up of farmers, public and private sector business officials and other stakeholders who collectively share an innate desire to see an improved agricultural sector.
Spread across three (3) days, this event has been structured into a platform where diverse services linked to the agric sector, such as seed production, fertilizer, finance, fisheries, storage, machinery, livestock, and packaging & processing, ICT among others will interact for mutually beneficial ends. In the next three days, participants will be taken through practical and engaging sessions at the conference to enable them gain deeper insights into best practices as well as how to take full advantage of the numerous opportunities in the agric sector for growth.
It is becoming increasingly clear your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen that sooner or later, agriculture will take over the reins of the economy of Ghana. While this assertion stirs confidence, our affinity to traditionally crude agricultural systems must be jettisoned in favour of advanced techniques that guarantees results.
Contemporary technology application in our agriculture sector is limited and requires a swift reversal if the positive projections for agriculture will come to fruition in our lifetime.
At a time when climate change is testing the very core of agriculture all over the world, we owe ourselves a binding responsibility to ensure that we choose the path of expansive technology use. This is the only way we can inhibit the effects of climate change and sustain the ascent of our agriculture.
Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen, to reinstate agriculture as the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy, certain critical issues need to be addressed. Key among these is the prevalent inequalities that abound in the sector. It is an obvious reality that women for instance do not receive adequate support in their quest to compete with their male counterparts despite their immense contribution to the sector.
Statistics show that about 70% of agricultural workers, 80% of food producers and 15% of those who process basic food, are women. These women also undertake 70 to 85% of the rural marketing.
Aggregate data also shows that women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force globally, almost 50 percent in sub-Saharan Africa; and about 52 percent in Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is even more striking to note that, women contribute up to between 60 and 80 per cent of food consumed through the contribution of labour for weeding, planting, harvesting and processing of agro products that result in 70 per cent of food production.
Despite the high level of involvement, women are still hampered by the lack of key supporting factors such as proper education, improved technology, fair markets structures as well as other productive resources.
The 2012 World Development Report (WDR) of the World Bank (WB) for instance, estimated that if female farmers in Ghana had the same access to fertilizers and other agro inputs such as improved technology, education among others as their male counterparts, the overall maize yields for example in the country would increase by almost one-sixth.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, at Agrihouse Foundation, we are staunch believers in the capabilities of women in agriculture. We therefore strongly advocate that government pays serious attention to women in agriculture, so as to bridge the productivity gap that exists between them and their male counterparts.
Another critical area that needs attention is the involvement of the youth. We very much recognize government’s efforts at redirecting the passion and energies of the youth into agriculture. While we particularly want to laud the Youth in Agriculture policy, we will like to see more being done in this regard. The youth are the lifeblood of this country and the earlier we bequeath the future of agriculture to them, the better!
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the average farming age in Ghana is 55 years as against a life expectancy of 55 to 60 years. This is a clear indication that older men and women are the ones involved in agriculture. This situation Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, cannot sustain the sector.
A combination of strategies could be adopted to stem this challenge, including ensuring among others that it is possible for those interested in the vocation to easily acquire land for cultivation; have easy access to finance as well as access to markets. Education and training workshops on agribusiness are also assured ways of helping the youth in this regard.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, records show that about 90% of food produced for consumption in Ghana comes from small holder farmers. The question however is, ‘how much have we done to support the farmers in this category so as to enable them do even better? How much have we helped in moving these small holder farmers from their present small holder levels to higher levels from which the economy and the nation as a whole can benefit?
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to commend government for the various interventions being conceived and implemented. Interventions such the 4-year agricultural development programme that aims at adding value to our produce, the Planting for Food and Jobs programme that aims at increasing yields and creating job opportunities for youth are worthwhile initiatives that we shall all support to thrive . We look forward to government doing even more to attract a lot more of the educated middle class into the vocation to help boost production since they can easily adapt to innovations and technological trends.
Finally, Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to express my gratitude to all our sponsors and partners for seeing potential in this agenda and accepting to support us with their financial and technical resources.
I also would like to thank you all participants for your presence and readiness to interact and share ideas even as you engage in your business activities.
I wish you all very fruitful interactions and deliberations as we together march towards building a robust Ghanaian economy hinged on the core of a solid agriculture sector.
Thank you and God bless us all.