GA E: Farmers cannot be poor – Agric Minister declares
|Agric Minister|| |
Minister of Agriculture Kwesi Ahwoi has called for a change in the status quo, which currently sees farmers, who produce to feed the nation, as the poorest group of workers in the country.
“Many a time we tend to take our farmers for granted; we agitate for higher salaries all the time...but when we get those higher salaries we want to go and buy food very cheap, in other words, the farmer must produce food but sell very cheap and remain very poor.”
For that reason, Mr Ahwoi said, in addition to the many interventions being put in place by the government to mitigate the burden of farmers, he was personally ready to “mobilise my farmers to agitate for higher prices for their produce,” if any group of workers agitate for higher pay.
The Minister was speaking during a tour of the National Service Scheme’s agricultural projects in the Greater Accra region, namely Dawhenya Farms, the Nungua Livestock and the Haatso-Papao Farms.
“We cannot let our farmers stay poor just to feed us, and we are happy because we are living good. We want to see our farmers live as good as we in the public sector, just as we in civil service: that is how the equation must go, we balance each other,” he insisted.
“If you want to see poverty, you go to the farming communities of this country, that is where the poorest of poorest live, and they live there because we have decided to keep them poor, but that is not what it should be...if the farmers are poor, then this country has failed the farmers.”
Mr Kwesi Ahwoi said the Agric Ministry is working with the National Service Scheme, National Buffer Stock and the Export Development & Investment Fund (EDIF) to design strategies to promote agriculture and ensure that farmers reap the benefits of their own sweat.
He also said that his ministry has also reached an agreement with the Energy Ministry and a proposal has been sent to cabinet to ensure that farmers who use electricity to power their irrigation machines are given preferential treatment when it comes to pricing.
Mr Ahwoi again announced an $88 million partnership agreement between Ghana and Israel to give support to national service personnel who enter into agriculture. The programme starts in 2013.
Youth in Agric justified
The service personnel harvesting tilapia
Greater Accra Regional Minister Joseph Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo noted that Accra has always been associated with big institutions such as banks without much consideration for the fact that the region has arable lands for crop production and livestock rearing.
He was therefore excited that Greater Accra was selected for the youth in agriculture project and pledged to release 11 34-seater Yutong buses at a cost of GH¢3.5m for National Service Scheme.
He called on investors to divert attention to the region and invest in agriculture as well.
Mr Afotey Agbo echoed calls for national service personnel to undergo some level of security training because “it will bring back discipline; discipline is very important in our society. No matter how brilliant and intelligent we are without discipline, we would not achieve our aim as our country.”
Chief Executive of the National Service Scheme Vincent Kuagbenu decried the situation whereby graduates who study agriculture refuse to go into farming.
“We deployed an average of 2000 graduates who studied agriculture science annually on national service, but we don’t have record of even one percent that have gone into farming, so we have old people doing what we called smallholder farm that is not attractive to young people.”
Mr. Kuagbenu told Joy News that the service personnel have justified his decision to introduce the scheme.
About 800 bags of maize were sold to the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary School (CHASS) at a discounted price.