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Business News of Saturday, 16 May 2015

Source: B&FT

Agric extension policy framework under review

Dr. Kwame Amezah, Director, Directorate Agriculture Extension Services (DAES), has observed that considering the current decentralisation system of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), steps must be taken and all efforts harnessed to ensure efficient coordination at all levels and ensure effectiveness and sustainability.

“It is therefore believed that if local governments take responsibility for extension, as they are closest to the grassroots, farmers’ needs could be better met. This is on the basis that extension staff are localised, conversant with farmers’ needs, and will be able to facilitate extension activities more effectively.”

Dr. Amezah, who read the keynote address on behalf of the Chief Director of MOFA, Mr. Joseph Boamah, at a two-day Agriculture Extension Policy Forum this week in Accra, said DAES has played significant roles through various initiatives such as Training and Visits (T&V), Participatory Technology Development and extension (PTD&E) and Farmer Field Schools among others, in empowering farmers to carry out their farming activities in a more effective, business-like and sustainable manner.

He said the subsistence nature of most Ghanaian and African farming, and the cost of extension services, leads to a much stronger case for state intervention in support of food production. He stated that the need for a well-articulated and comprehensive Agricultural Extension Policy cannot be glossed over.

“It is the bedrock on which the development and advancement of the agricultural extension can be well defined, approaches and functions well spelt-out; and the importance of such a policy is further buttressed by a statement made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ (FAO) Consultation on Agricultural Extension (GCAE) held in Rome in December 1989, where it was recommended that all national governments should develop and periodically review their agricultural extension policy.”

Amezah noted that issues such as geographical coverage, target beneficiaries, staffing, funding and sustainability will be easy to examine and address if such a framework exists.

He however added that global and regional experiences suggest that extension services are demand-based and market-driven, incorporating private sector as well as government and non-governmental resources.

The forum was a collaboration of MOFA, the Modernising Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Project and the USAID/Ghana Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP), and was aimed at creating a platform for stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors to come together and share experiences and expertise toward making efforts at improving agricultural extension delivery in the country.

MEAS is operated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States of America, with funding from the USAID. The MEAS project has been approved for a multi-part work-plan to work toward strengthening extension and advisory services for farmers in northern Ghana.

APSP aims to increase capacity for the Government of Ghana, the private sector and civil society organisations to implement evidence-based policy formation, implementation, research and advocacy; and perform rigorous monitoring and evaluation of agricultural programmes implemented under the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP).

Dr. Paul McNamara, Director of MEAS, said before the break-up session that policy is central to extension and that MEAS has been working to strengthen agriculture extension services over the past five years in the country, and is consequently interested in the policy framework for extension services.