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Business News of Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Source: B&FT

Farmers cut farm sizes

Farmers in the Northern Region of Ghana are reportedly reducing the sizes of their farms as incentives to engage in agricultural activities wane.

At a forum organised and sponsored by STAR-Ghana it emerged that most of the farmers in the region are challenged by inadequate agricultural inputs, which has made it difficult for them to maintain and expand their farmlands.

The forum, organised on the theme “Tackling Bottlenecks to the Development of Rural Agriculture in the Northern Region: Improving Farmers’ Access to Agricultural Input Supplies”, was intended to highlight and find solutions to the challenges of smallholder farmers in the region.

According to the farmers, delays in supply and distribution of various agric-inputs have affected attempts made to improve and sustain agriculture in one of the farming-dependent regions of the country.

“Fertilisers often arrive when the farming season is over. High cost of agricultural inputs with little or no subsidies, and in some cases unavailable tractor services; and the weaknesses in the regime of seed distribution have all affected farming activities.

“We want to see fairness, whereby gender barriers are broken as well as access to services such as tractors, extension and training and credit facilities; as well as social interventions such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty amongst others,” they contended.

Madam Rabi Adam, a farmer from the Bamvim community, called for the fair distribution of agricultural input supplies to farmers engaged in commercial activities and not those in subsistence farming.

She said the current situation will affect crop yields and have an impact not only on the livelihoods of the affected farmers but also the country’s food security situation.

Iddrisu Abdul Rashid, the General Manager of Diamond FM -- which collaborated with STAR-Ghana to organise the forum -- appealed for government to create a funding pool for research dissemination on new technologies in order to improve agric extension and irrigation schemes, and also address market access.

He added that extending the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programme to include many farmers will help boost access to and distribution of agricultural inputs.

“To ensure sustainability in food and income security, government and other stakeholders need to come to the aid of the farmers who mostly find it difficult to earn a living to improve their livelihoods.”

The Northern Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, William Boakye-Acheampong, reiterated government’s commitment to providing the farmers with more inputs to enable them continue to improve agric production in the country.

He assured that efforts have been made to expedite action on the distribution of fertiliser to the farmers in time for the farming season.

He urged the farmers to collaborate and pool resources to acquire tractors for their farming activities, since the machines will not be distributed to them on credit.

Mr. Boakye-Acheampong explained that the inability of some farmers to settle their debts to suppliers of inputs has made it difficult for government to supply them with additional farming inputs.

He nonetheless assured that government will by the end of this year procure tractors from Brazil to aid ploughing, and encouraged the farmers to be creditworthy.

The president of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, Mohammed Adam Nashiru, said the delays in commencing the fertiliser subsidy programme are a setback to growth in the agric sector.

“It is a drawback to efforts at improving food production in the country,” he said.