Ghana's current administration has shown commitment in the transformation of agriculture into a modern revenue generation machine capable of eliminating hunger, opening the way for export expansion and creating wealth for farmers and businessmen
The country's agriculture employs about 60 per cent of its workforce which is made up of predominantly smallholder production units, weak linkages to industry and the Service Sectors. The industry also has problems of low level of technology and productivity, low incomes, and undeveloped processing and distribution linkages.
Ghana was fortunate to have hosted the first in a series of agribusiness events, AGRITEC West Africa 2011, an International Exhibition and Conference on Agribusiness and Aquaculture, Agricultural and Horticultural Equipment, Systems and Technology together with Associated Infrastructure.
At the exhibition, there were state-of-the-art machines on display to enable Ghana to take advantage of the array of latest scientific developments to modernise its agriculture especially its agribusiness sub-sector.
AGRITEC West Africa 2011 brought together international manufacturers and suppliers and a West African audience to brainstorm and link up with buyers, investors, key decision makers, governmental authorities among others.
Six per cent growth
As part of the transformation of agriculture in Ghana, the Government is targeting within the next few years to improve the productivity of agriculture to attain an average annual growth rate of six per cent, prioritising small-scale farmers, with special emphasis on women.
It is also satisfying to note that Government wants to have dynamic agricultural markets within countries and between regions, integrate farmers into the market economy and have improved access to markets to become a net exporter of agriculture products, be a strategic player in agricultural science and technology development, and have a culture of sustainable management of the natural resource base.
It is unfortunate however that Ghana has for some time been a net importer of food items such as rice, fish and frozen meat and it has become a burden on the national economy.
But the Government is determined to reverse this trend by interventions that will accelerate the modernisation of the country's agriculture through the implementation of the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II).
The policy which aims at addressing the causes of low agricultural productivity include low level of mechanisation, inadequate post harvest infrastructure (storage processing, transport facilities), limited availability of improved technologies and planting materials, and limited access to guaranteed markets for farmers and producers, especially women. Indeed, addressing these challenges will help transform the economy through job creation, increased export earnings, food security and supply of raw materials for value addition and result in rural development and reduction in the incidence of poverty.
It is against this background that AGRITEC was organised to enable organisations in Ghana and around the world who are leading the way towards agricultural self sufficiency to share their experiences with their Ghanaian counterparts to enable them to increase their approach of science and technology to modernise agriculture.
The world's leading manufacturer of agricultural equipment, Illinois based John Deere and platinum sponsor of AGRITEC West Africa 2011 is already at work in the fields of Ghana and is performing extremely well. Non-profit and relief agencies, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) are working hard to retrain the farm workforce in sustainable agricultural practices.
Sampson Bediako Fordjour, Literacy and Numeracy Co-ordinator ADRA/MiDA Agric. Project told "African Farming" that food insecurity in Ghana is a serious problem and impacts greatly on poverty. According to him, "The problem is more severe in rural communities where over 60 per cent of the people reside and work. Poverty is noted to be a rural phenomenon in Ghana with the rural setting accounting for about 70 per cent of the poor.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food security "is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
Fordjour says the reason why ADRA introduced citrus intercropped with food crops in some rural communities in the forest areas in Ghana was to increase food production and income thereby reducing poverty in the communities.
Indeed, demonstration of the latest scientific developments in irrigation systems, horticulture, agricultural and garden tools, agrichemicals, cool-chain technology, pest control and biotechnologies and aquaculture at the Exhibition and Conference was a positive move to encourage Ghana to fast track its food security agenda by reducing its dependency on imported foodstuffs and promoting long-term, progressive and sustainable farming methods.
AFGRI from South Africa is a transforming force in the business of agriculture which offers a wide range of services, skills and expertise. It focuses on product development and specialised services. The company prides itself on its integrated approach to market needs, with the customer's profitability a priority.
Hercu Bloem and Lizelle Rykaart, Chief Risk Officer and Africa Business, and Africa Business Development Officer and Risk Support respectively told African Farming that AFGRI was working hard to secure partners and establish a branch in Ghana to enable them to transfer their expertise to Ghanaians for a massive transformation in Ghana's agricultural industry.
Nella Brak, Marketing Manager Europe of SBW International B.V. says her company is a market leader in plant tissue culture in the areas of propagation and research.
She says SBW International B.V.'s research department develops crop protocols, ensures crops are virus free, carries out (strategic) contract research and supports breeders with tissue culture techniques such as mutagenesis, embryo rescue among others. The Dutch company has laboratories in the Netherlands, Macedonia and Ghana, and can serve their customers worldwide.
Brak says "SBW International stands out as 'trustworthy partner' since we only work on behalf of third parties and do not carry out any breeding or trading activities for ourselves."
These agricultural companies among others interacted and brainstormed with their Ghanaian counterparts for the latter's agricultural advancement which yielded tremendous dividends as a result of the contacts and linkages established for continuous interactions.
By Emmanuel Yartey