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Opinions of Monday, 25 November 2013

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

As our politicians fail, the farmers bare their teeth

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, when the citizens of a country that is naturally endowed with arable land and a good rainfall pattern fail to produce food to feed themselves and others elsewhere (to earn foreign exchange as well), they deserve nothing but condemnation.
And when their various governments don’t help solve the problem, they deserve utter contempt.
Since 1983 when Ghana lost its prime position as the world’s number one cocoa producer, nothing has been done to put it back there. The problems besetting the cash crop sector are known but not tackled—only raised in useless arguments and dirty political rhetoric.
There has been too much infuriating talk of promoting shea-nut and cashew nut cultivation, not to mention other non-traditional crops with huge export potential. Something like sugarcane to revive the sugar industries at Asutsuare and Komenda is only good for hot-headed political manouevrings.
Yam and rice producers in the so-called bread basket of the country (Northern Ghana) are related to only for political leverage.
Don’t even talk about irrigation projects for the Accra and Afram Plains. It won’t happen because those in authority can’t think right and act decisively to change the paradigm away from rain-fed agriculture!!
Such is the case with Ghana, its citizens with access to the arable lands, its fisher-folks with access to the water resources, and their government that stands paralyzed and cannot help them produce food. Instead, the government delights in importing food with hard-earned foreign exchange and imposes stiff measures on farming and fishing, which further cripples the industry.
Take, for instance, the high cost of farming and fishing input in the country and the politics that is done with fishing gear (outboard motors, fishing nets, premix fuel, hoes and cutlasses, not to mention tractors, trailers, etc.) and you will know what I am talking about.
Then also, consider the nonavailability of silos for food storage or cold storage facilities. Don't even talk about factories for processing agricultural produce.
You don’t have to wonder why the local poultry industry has collapsed and those with political connections and access to the banks' vaults delight in importing poultry products (turkey tail and “akukor funu”) to sell at exorbitant prices.
Then, put together all that is done at the official level to frustrate the farmers and fisher-folks and you will have a perfect picture of the situation in Ghana.
Yet, every year, a so-called “Farmers’ Day” is celebrated and much hot air blown by the politicians to taunt the poor farmers and fisher-folks. Mere irritating lip-service!!
One may wonder why the situation is so; but the answer is not far-fetched: lack of commitment on the part of the government (that has a Ministry of Agriculture and one for Fisheries to thicken the bureaucracy only).
No incentive for anybody wishing to go into agriculture to do so. Meantime, the youth see no sense in farming and fishing and drift to the urban areas for non-existent jobs. Frustrated, they resort to social evils (armed robbery) and prostitution. Deplorable.
Under this circumstance, who will be surprised at what is in the news today?
Some aggrieved farmers in the country are threatening to boycott the 2013 edition of National Framers’ Day celebrations due to what they say, is the adverse conditions in which they live.
According to the group calling itself the Concerned Farmers Association, government has failed to live up to its responsibilities of providing farming communities with potable water, good roads and quality healthcare facilities.
This year’s Farmers’ Day, which will be the 29th edition, is slated for Saturday, December 7, at Sogakope in the South Tongu District of the Volta Region.
Nana Opambuor Boateng, President of the Concerned Farmers however, told that despite the recognition given to farmers in the country, many youths are leaving the communities to the big cities in search of greener pastures. He noted that some end up engaging in "prostitution and other ungodly behaviors", mainly due to unavailability of basic infrastructural facilities in farming communities.
“We will be getting the awards here and there but our problems will not be solved; we don't have potable water to drink, we don't have good roads... At Dafor-Nogokpe in the North Tongu district [Volta Region], some of our farmers drink from the same source with animals,” Nana Opambuor lamented.
“The award winners for 2011 and 2012 have not even received their awards, yet we are going to reward 2013 best farmers. We are telling all farmers not to attend this farmers day celebration,” claimed.
He further faulted government for failing to consult farmers before putting up market centres which are sometimes difficult to be accessed by the farmers.
“None of we the farmers was consulted before government took the decision to build two markets in the northern region”.
I support this agitation a zillion times and urge the farmers not to bow to any pressure. They should make their voices heard and do whatever they can to force the government to do what it is in office to do. The lying, thieving, and incompetence is too much!!
Our politicians have a “predatory cunning” that has been tolerated for far too long. It is time to take the fight to them.
I shall return…
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