The Ghanaian farmer is a national asset, and the reason is not far-fetched. The role farmers play in national life is so important that there is hardly any area of life today that is not influenced by the farmer in one way or the other. While the importance of farmers is never in doubt, the complimentary effort of stakeholders has also been identified as a crucial cogwheel in efforts to improve productivity and general advancement in agriculture.
Agriculture in Ghana comprises a range of agricultural products and is a fundamental area that supports the economy through the provision of formal and informal employment for millions of Ghanaians.
With different climatic conditions that support the production of a variety of crops, Ghana liberally produces yams, grains, cocoa, oil palms, kola nuts, timber etc. This expansive spectrum means the sector has a hoard of stakeholders, many of whom have made commendable effort in propelling the sector to its present state.
Despite struggling for a consistent growth pattern in previous years, the agric sector is showing promising signs owing to stakeholder support and a renewed effort to propel the sector through a collective effort.
Training is crucial
The need for Training is a recurrent theme that has dominated conversations on farm productivity. Indeed without a conscious effort to adopt modern agricultural techniques, the potential for increased productivity will perpetually remain a mirage.
The outmoded farming practices that have become commonplace must give way to modern practices that will consequently lead to improved livelihood for farmers who have proven to be ambitious when provided with support. But how much can mere ambition do in the face of low productivity that has been further exacerbated by climate change?
The near-absence of training on how to mitigate or circumvent the threats of climate change is a plot that must give way .Mitigating the effects of climate change is a global project that must be localized , framed and passed on to farmers to ensure that farmers are forearmed to survive it’s marauding effects.
Training efforts should be backed by the provision of extension services, storage facilities, rural infrastructure (roads, electricity, and information and communication technologies), access to markets and access to credit, as well as supporting organizations and farmer cooperatives. This will ensure that the impact of training schemes is felt by the farmers- and in extension the society.
A modern training module that takes into account contemporary dynamics is a failsafe means of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that is often caused by low productivity.
Because of the pivotal role played by farmers in the country, any investment that seeks to improve their capacity for increased production goes a long way to help build the capacity of several individuals in society.
To help bridge the gap between agric and other sectors, capacity building presents a more realistic approach to better equip farmers.
Most of the farmers on whose shoulders the food basket of the nation rests are in the twilights of their vocations and will not fancy the idea of a more formal education module that may require a lot of their time. This therefore calls for occasionally structured capacity building forums will go quite some distance to improve the capacity of farmers to better appreciate where the future of agriculture is currently headed.
Capacity building efforts must be calculated rather than rushed; and must involve a lot of stakeholder engagement. This will guarantee positive results that will ultimately culminate in a general improvement in the ability of the farmer to rely on improved knowledge for better output.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The agric sector is one with diversity like no other .Because of its links to nearly every vital sector; there are a lot of stakeholders who are directly affected by the progress or retrogression of the sector.
This apparent interest from a wide range of stakeholders means support for an important task like farmer education and capacity improvement should never be far-fetched. If the entities who directly benefit from the farmers efforts are foresightedly enough to put in place measures that will ultimately see to an improvement in farmers then, we may well be on our way to improving our agric sector for the collective benefit of all.
Corporate social responsibility initiatives are effective avenues through which stakeholders can make indelible marks in the life of the farmer .Indeed, It is never enough to simply toast to an avalanche of profit as an agric-industry firm –the true test of success is measurable by the impact made in the life of the farmer through an effort like farmer-capacity building; which in any case is bound to ricochet with bountiful returns.
With the worldwide demand for food estimated to double by the year 2050, the need to prioritize the wellbeing of the farmer has become even more crucial.
A healthy farmer base equals a healthy, wealthy country. Ghana’s agriculture comprises millions of peasant farmers who together, contribute a colossal amount of the agricultural produce that make our budding agricultural industry tick.
Despite contributing so much, adequate healthcare remains a mirage to a significant section of farmers.
Indeed, if the people who break their backs to feed Ghana under the precarious working conditions are deprived adequate healthcare, it will only be a matter of time before the huge investments being sunk into our agric sector amounts to naught.
While every human endeavor has occupational health hazards of their own, the pivotal importance of agriculture to our economy coupled with the poor economic state of most farmers means there is a legitimate need to design and implement a sustainable health care policy that will seek to cater for the feeders of the nation.
Recently the Cocoa Board Senior Staff Association showed the way when they organized a free health screening exercise for cocoa farmers at Odeng Adeiso in the Eastern Region.
The exercise which was rolled out as part of the Association’s Corporate Social Responsibility saw about 1000 people from the community benefit from the exercise.
Beneficiaries were screened for blood pressure, sugar levels, malaria and breast cancer other related conditions.
Similarly the Community Empowerment and Development System (CEDS – Ghana), a civil society organization, with funding from Agri-Business and Development Service Company Limited (ADSEC) recently screened farmers in the Savelugu/Nanton Municipality for diabetes, hypertension and hepatitis B as part of its Smallholder Farmers Support Project.
This kind of gestures, no matter how small, goes great lengths to fuel the fading zest of our ever-committed farmers.
The role of stakeholders in the development of the agric sector is hugely important.
The efforts made by successive governments, donor agencies, NGOs and industry firms must be encouraged to grow in leaps and bounds. This will naturally boost the capacity of farmers and trigger an era of unprecedented productivity.
Agriculture is and looks poised to remain the bedrock of the Ghanaian economy-at least for the foreseeable future. This means that it’s most important resource – her personnel, must be protected, improved and better positioned to continually make impact. Failure at this will be catastrophic; so catastrophic that famine may replace politics as the most talked about theme in the vibrant local media space.
A renewed commitment by stakeholders to improve the capacity of farmers through sensitisation workshops and similar initiatives will go a long way to help our farmers –many of whom are illiterates by no fault of theirs. For the emerging breed of farmers who are blessed to have education also, we must strive to provide avenues that will ensure that they never stagnate in knowledge acquisition. Rather, they must be aided to rise and rise; to help Ghana climb high the ladder of global agricultural significance.