Ghana’s Planting for Food and Jobs program and its allied modules like Rearing for Food and Jobs provides Ghana an interesting blueprint on which to raise and sustain the building blocks of a big, resilient and profitable agriculture for the benefit of all.
Already in its second year, the Planting for Food and Jobs policy has undeniably added significant steam to the growth of local agriculture.
Before the advent of the now fabled policy, the annual value of imported food into the country stood at a whopping US $2.4 billion. Today the programme continues to receive favorable reviews from authorities within and without the agric sector-with many pointing to a healthy reduction in Ghana’s food import bill.
At the recently concluded 9th Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Exhibitions and Conference Event held in Tamale from 25th -27th 2019, Minister of State in charge of Food and Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Gyiele Nurah delivered an entrancing keynote address to open the annual agric showpiece under the theme, “Market accessibility: The Structured and Sustainable Pathway”
In the introductory part of his remark, he extolled government’s efforts at restoring the agricultural sector through the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ initiatives and other allied interventions. He also highlighted a multiplicity of issues affecting the sector and called for a collective approach to end the many clogs that have perennially impeded the ascent of the local agric industry.
“At the beginning of our tenure, this government set a target for itself in the area of agriculture, and that target is to ‘modernize agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security, and profitability for our farmers, all aimed at significantly increasing agricultural productivity.’ Of course, not forgetting the value-addition that will ensure that we achieve our target of cutting down the importation of processed agricultural products.”
He spoke effusively about the government’s plan for agriculture and recalled some of the objectives the government set out to achieve in the agricultural sector once it assumed office in 2016.
“For instance, we said that we were going to work towards increasing subsidies on retail prices of seeds, fertilizers and other agrochemicals; pay special attention to selected products for accelerated development, including grains, fruits, vegetables, tubers, oil palm, cotton, shea, cashew, cocoa, horticulture, livestock, fisheries and poultry; and generally modernise agriculture in order to ensure efficient and reliable production of agricultural produce expedite our industrialisation, job creation and make achieving our export drive achievable. As a matter of fact, it is on these aspirations that our flagship agricultural programme, the Planting for Food and Jobs Programme; and others like the Rearing for Food and Jobs Programme; and Planting for Food and Exports are based.
Two years on, since the launch of our Planting for Food and Jobs Programme in 2017, I am happy to say that Ghana’s domestic food production has gone up impressively.
According to the latest statistics figures, rice production, since then, has gone up by 24 percent, Maize by 72 percent, soya bean by 39 percent and sorghum by 100 percent. Consequently, Ghana has, once more, started exporting maize to some of our neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Togo. Also, Ghana’s productions of yam, cowpea, cassava and plantain have significantly gone up, so much that exportation to other countries in the sub-region is ongoing now.”
On a collective approach to the agric-sectors growth the ministers applauded the benefit of initiatives like the Pre-Harvest event which he noted has become central to government’s efforts to have a more cohesive stakeholder base that understands and appreciates government’s policy direction for the growth and development of agriculture.
“The annual Pre-harvest event is contributing to the realization of our collective dream and aspiration for agriculture which, according to records, employs more than half of our population. I can assuredly tell you all that, within the 9 years the event was added to our national strategic efforts to increase our national yield and generally grow agriculture, the Pre-Harvest event has made its own significant contributions to what we have achieved so far, especially the perceptible turn-around we are experiencing in recent time in the northern regions. Agriculture is the largest source of employment here in the northern part of our country; and it is a well-known fact that our farmers here are challenged by poor soils, unpredictable rainy seasons, and consequent low agricultural output. However, what events like the Pre-Harvest does, with its unique congregation of farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, equipment dealers, financial institutions, telecom companies, policy makers, financial facilitators, etc., is to ensure that multiple solutions to challenges are, inevitably, made available in the way of providing information, business opportunities from networking/interaction, access to the latest machines/tools at competitive prices, and a host of opportunities. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no way that these would not have robbed off advantageously to the benefit of the fortunes of agriculture in the northern region of Ghana. Therefore, the decision to locate the event in the north is actually paying off. At this point, I urge the organizers to get us a survey that will give us a factual idea of the gains so far.”
He pledged government’s continued support for the event and indicated government’s willingness to partner similar ventures that seek to accelerate the growth and eventual development of agriculture.
“I wish to assure Ghana that this government will continue to prudently invest public resources into agriculture in order to achieve our target of creating food security and sufficiently produce raw materials to feed the agro-processing industries we are currently nurturing, while creating jobs.” He affirmed empathically.
The Pre-harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibition is deliberately designed to coincide with the pre-harvest period when farmers and other value chain actors are readying for the dynamics of the harvest season.
The platform presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders as it helps them to identify and take advantage of the stream of prospects offered by the local agricultural sector.
Just like last year, the event took a three-day dimension; with organizer’s structuring the event to reflect in-depth insights, actionable and practical tools of engagement models, methods and mechanisms for improved productivity by industry firms. Led by experienced resource persons, participants savoured riveting seminar sessions which had been deliberately structured to improve knowledge and stimulate a collective vision for a better agricultural sector.
The event drew key actors in the various sectors of the agricultural value chain such as farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, equipment dealers, and financial institutions, policy makers among others to interact and share knowledge.
Similarly government officials, international donor organizations, the Diplomatic Community among others took advantage of the event to promote knowledge exchange and incite a renewed drive for exploring practical ways through which the sector could become more attractive and profitable for industry players.
The Pre-harvest Agribusiness Exhibition and Conference is an interventional medium that offers practical prospects for value chain actors to meet, discuss business, contracts and work together as a coherent team to ensure that enough produce is available locally for consumption; thereby mitigating the risks associated with excessive importation. The annual agric showpiece 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 for Ghana.
The event also provides participants 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 can be assessed.
Partakers of the event equally benefitted from applied and engaging sessions designed to encourage deeper insights into best practices and how to take the most of the prevalent opportunities in the agric sector for progress and increase.
This year, the event recorded an impressive turnout of 2,937 participants and 150 exhibitors including farmers, traders, commodity brokers, input companies, machinery and equipment providers, transporters, financial institutions, ICT, Innovations, Poultry and Livestock companies, packaging and processing companies, development practitioners and government agencies, among others; and subsequently clinched the Agribusiness event of the Year award.
Organizers hope that the showpiece will ultimately help address and find lasting solutions to a myriad of challenges confronting the industry today by assisting farmers and agri-businesses expand their businesses before and after harvest and create an enabling environment for new partnerships to promote the growth of Ghana’s agricultural sector.
Introduced in October 2010 in Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana by the USAID ADVANCE, the Annual Pre-harvest Agribusiness Exhibitions and Conference event allows for further growth, sustainability and expansion. The USAID ADVANCE project has partnered with and subsequently handed over the organization of Pre-Harvest event to Agrihouse Foundation.
For optimum impact, organizers designed event sessions to give participants in-depth insight into the state of the industry today and the opportunities that lie ahead. Commodity Break-out session, Intensive and focused Training Programs, Farmer to Buyer Dialogue, Development Partner Forum are some of the sessions designed for the benefit of participants.
In the same strain, Panel Education sessions revolved around pertinent topics like Climate-smart agricultural approach and practices, Achieving an Innovative integrated food security & nutrition results, Market accessibility pathway, Production, process and export impact to Rural development and Food security .
Training Sessions designed to improve that capacity of participants for improved productivity bothered on Warehousing and Storage technologies for post-harvest losses, Basic-to-advanced Financial Literacy education for Farmer Groups, Improving high and quality yields through appropriate production practices, Branding for Marketing Commercial Impact, Going digital to promote and grow your market, Developing a Business plan and Negotiation Skills .
Other pertinent topics addressed included: How will Ghana’s Agric Sector look like in 2023? What collective role can stakeholders play to change the face of the Agricultural sector, with a focus on input, production, processing, finance, branding, packaging and market accessibility?, Together, what can Government and Corporate organizations do to support and bridge the gap of pricing and access?, How structured and competitive is Governments projects, subsidy and initiatives impacting on the markets and accessibility? What Technological Innovations in Agriculture can attract the Modern Youth? How do we breed the next generation of Agricultural Entrepreneurs? Etc.
There was also a Business-to-Business Matchmaking session, Educational Field Trips, Policy Dialogue: Fertilizer subsidy policy boost / Update on Export for rural development and Exhibitions.
The 9th Pre-harvest Agribusiness Exhibitions and Conference was organized by Agrihouse Foundation, A non-governmental agricultural social impact, capacity building, innovation and project management organization with a special focus on changing the perception of, and consciously shaping the conversation on agriculture through the promotion of people-impact initiatives and programs for students, women, farmers, farming associations, agribusinesses and the entire actors within the value chain.
The 9th Preharvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions was collectively sponsored by UKaid, The MADE Programme, Yara Ghana, Ecobank, Kosmos Energy, GCX, Chemico ltd with partnership support from the Northern Regional Coordinating Council, the Northern Development Authority and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.