While Ghana’s services sector continues to grow at a fast rate — the same cannot be said about the agricultural sector which employs about 44.7 percent of the working population.
Among one of the key factors militating against the growth of the sector as stakeholders have identified is the over-reliance on rain to cultivate crops which has resulted in lower yields in times of drought.
In 2015, whereas the services sector grew by 5.1 percent, it also increased in size to 54.4 percent in the same year, relative to the 51.9 percent size in the national economic basket it occupied in 2014. Agriculture sector on the other hand grew by 2.4 percent in 2015 and shrank in size to 20.3 percent, compared with the 21.5 percent size it recorded in the previous year.
To worsen an already bad situation, investment by government into the sector continues to dwindle in spite of the pledge by government to invest part of its petroleum revenue in agriculture modernization.
Ishmael Ackah, head of Policy Unit at the Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) said the misapplication of money meant for the agriculture sector is one of the factors leading to low performance in the sector.
In 2014, 170,62 million Ghana cedis or 43.91 million U.S. dollars was allocated to the agriculture sector from oil revenues.
“Out of this amount 69 percent went into sea defence projects,” Ackah disclosed during an Agricultural Policy Dialogue organized by ACEP with support from global charity Oxfam.
The forum was organized to analyse how much of oil revenue has so far been invested in agriculture and its impact on production in general. It was also aimed at making policy proposals to government and its stakeholders as to how to address challenges hampering the growth of the sector.
It is estimated that a little over half 51.5 percent of households in Ghana own or operate a farm, where faming is mostly rural, engaging about 83 percent of rural households.
Agriculture modernization has been one of the four priority areas selected by the Minister for Finance to invest the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) from the country’s oil revenue in.
Ackah lamented that whereas ABFA’s contribution was meant to complement other sources of financing, it is beginning to look like ABFA is the sole contributor to the financing of agriculture in the country.
The ACEP official urged that steps be taken to wean agriculture off its over-reliance on rain for cultivation, and rather shift into irrigation as the country’s food and agricultural needs are expanding beyond what rain-fed cultivation can provide.
“There is the need to provide farm credit at subsidized interest rate which will be easier if small holder database is built, and the selection of projects must be guided by investment plans and effective monitoring,” Ackah urged, adding that there was the need to retain agriculture as a priority area for 2016-2018 period for financing by ABFA.
He also called for effective monitoring and tracking of subsidized inputs and fertilizer while solar powered irrigation projects are established to minimise operational cost to farmers and enhance all-year round farming.
In its latest Ghana Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping, the World Food Program (WFP) warned; “Climate Change is creeping south from the Sahel into Ghana, causing unpredictable rainfall in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions.”
And in Ghana, much of the country’s grains, legumes and root crops come from the north where there is only one short raining season.
John Akaribo National Secretary of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) blamed all governments that ruled the West African country except first President Kwame Nkrumah for paying only lip service to developing irrigation.
According to him, each year governments capture the rehabilitation of the irrigation dams across the country, especially in the north for instance, as part of their annual expenditure on the sector, but each year they fail to carry out the rehabilitations.
Emmanuel Addo of the Policy Planning and Budget Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) pledged that the government will continue to support the small-holder and semi-commercial farmers to improve productivity and to integrate them into markets competitively.
“We are enhancing extension services through the usage of mass communication methods -( e extension). Over 50, 000 persons are now hooked onto the extension website and extension WhatsApp platform,” Addo disclosed.
The official conceded that the need for irrigation development was paramount and said the plans for irrigation investment in the budgets would be followed through as soon as the funds in the budget are disbursed. Enditem