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Business News of Monday, 25 May 2015

Source: Anita Frimpong

Agricultural Extension Policy Review Forum Held

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), in collaboration with the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Project and the USAID/Ghana Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP), has held a two day Agricultural Extension policy review forum in Accra.
The Forum created a platform for stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors to come together and share their experiences and expertise towards efforts at improving agriculture extension delivery in Ghana.
Speaking at the forum in Accra, Deputy Director,DAES, Mr. Emmanuel Odame says the purpose of the Forum is to promote policy dialogue and conduct a stakeholder review of Ghana’s existing agricultural extension policy and its implementation.
He said results of the Forum will be used to inform the Government of Ghana and other stakeholders involved in policy decision-making and advocacy efforts.
The objective he said is to summarize and analyze key themes in the existing agricultural extension policy framework, to assess policy implementation progress, and to develop prioritized recommendations for implementation and policy framework improvements.
Dr. Paul McNamara MEAS, said the MEAS is operated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States of America with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He said MEAS seeks to improve and modernize rural extension and advisory service systems to promote agricultural development and enhance livelihoods of the rural poor.
Among its initiatives, the MEAS project has been approved for a multi-part workplan to work towards strengthening extension and advisory services for farmers in northern Ghana.
Mr. Walter Nunez-Rodriguez, Cop, APSP said the APSP aims to increase the capacity of the Government of Ghana, the private sector, and civil society organizations to implement evidence-based policy formation, implementation, research and advocacy and perform rigorous monitoring and evaluation of agricultural programs implemented under Ghana’s Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP).
Meanwhile the Director of DAES of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, at the occasion throw more light on the extension system in Ghana, indicating that Agriculture Extension activities were initiated in the country by the early European Missionaries and foreign owned companies involved in the export of cash crops such as Coffee, Cocoa and Rubber.

This he said after independence in 1957, Ghana tried various approaches including extension under the Farmers’ Cooperative Movement and several donor assisted approaches and projects. Agricultural extension at this time was therefore fragmented among the various departments within the ministry. In 1987 however, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) established the Directorate of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES) to bring the entire divisions of MoFA extension services (Crops, Livestock and Fisheries) under one umbrella.

Since then the DAES has played significant roles through various initiatives such as the 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. We are therefore encouraged to continue with such initiatives in order to empower farmers to make farming more productive and fulfilling thus leading to the development and advancement of agriculture along the agricultural value chain. he said.

According to him, the backbone of all agricultural extension endeavours is the dissemination of relevant agricultural information to enhance the capacity of all the actors along the agricultural value chain.

As a result of this most countries have established a agricultural extension service to promote the use of modern inputs to increase agricultural production, such as new and improved seed varieties, fertilizer use and pesticides use by training farmers, carry out method and result demonstrations, making extensive use of the mass media and the use of ICTs in agriculture.

The director said the adoption of new and improved technologies and production techniques in farming activities are crucial for Ghana to meet the challenges of rapidly expanding populations and economies. There is the need for the intensification of our agriculture in the face of these challenges with all the available resources and appropriate technology.

He said the subsistence nature of most Ghanaian and for that matter African farming and the cost of extension services leads to a much stronger case for State intervention in support of food production.

According to him 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 sector rests.

He added that, issues such as geographical coverage, target beneficiaries, staffing, funding and sustainability will be easy to examine and addressed if such a framework exists.

He said a well-organized extension system will no doubt guarantee an effective and efficient extension delivery in all aspects of sustainable agricultural and rural development to achieve Food Security, Poverty eradication, rural empowerment and environmental management. Sight must not however, be lost in making the extension agenda farmer-driven and participatory at all level of the decision making process. 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.

Considering our current decentralization system, steps must be taken and all the effort harnessed to ensure efficient coordination at all levels to ensure effectiveness and sustainability. It is thus believed that, if local governments take responsibility for extension as they are closest to the grass roots, farmers needs could be better met.

This is on the basis that the extension staff is localized, conversant with the farmers needs and they would be able to facilitate extension activities more effectively. he said.

He therefore acknowledges development partners and other stakeholders for their goodwill, support and involvement in contributing towards the achievements of Ghana’s agricultural sectors objectives.