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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Columnist: Rockson Adofo

Farmers National Holiday Taken With A Pinch Of Salt?

The old and popular adages of, "a soldier walks on his stomach" and " a hungry man is an angry man", go to confirm the pivotal role and importance of sustainable agriculture as the foundation for the advancement of any dynamic economy. The architects of agriculture in Ghana, thus the farmers of all categories, are then very grateful to have been accorded the requisite national recognition and importance, at long last.

It is a credit to the government to have had the materialised vision whereby the whole nation can join hands with our farmers, the backbone of the economy, the pivots on which the nation revolves, to celebrate their worth. At this juncture, I tip off my hat to them and say, bravo and more grease to their elbows.

However, much in practical terms is not being done to help their lot or alleviate their plight but the usual "fun fool" ways to camouflage the reality on the ground. It is a palatable idea from the point of view of non farmers to see the government nurture and implement tentative motivating ideas to help getting more people, especially the youths, into farming. The declaration of 1st December as National Farmers Holiday and handouts of a few material awards to a handful of qualifying and outstanding farmers, is not only insignificant and just a drop in the ocean to solving the insurmountable problems facing the farmers in Ghana but also, a far fetched dreamland efforts to realizing self-sufficiency in food production for Ghana.

What are the benefits for the subsistence farmers who form the bulk in the just declared Farmers National Holiday, most of whom cannot even afford to stay home for a day for the fear of not getting their daily meagre nature's reward from their toil on the land to keep them barely afloat in their precarious livelihood? What is their share in the national awards? Or, do we still expect most of these old people to continue feeding us until they drop dead from fatigue and pauperism before according them posthumous awards?

It is just unfortunate that the Ghanaian mindset is so shrouded and myopic that any intended step taken forward rather brings us two backwards. The Holiday is meaningless without the slightest improvements in the lives of those for whom it is intended, thus, the rural agrarians. What so far are the benefits to them? There is none, as far as the mind can stretch. It all goes to benefit the urban folks who can enjoy a day off work and get paid for, unlike the poor rural farmer.

Anything meant for the farmers is misapplied in implementation in Ghana. The setting up of hospitals to cater for the farmers by the Cocoa Marketing Board years back had the first of such hospitals built in Accra. The scheme for Scholarships for the children of cocoa farmers by the same Board is always hijacked by the rich urban corruptible folks in connivance with dishonest, selfish workers at the headquarters of Cocoa Marketing Board.

I suggest that for the intended recipients to really benefit from any relief and good intentions, farming inputs must be easily available to them at subsidised rate. In this case, irrespective of the abode and or status of the farmer, each will get their own meritable share of the cake. Most often, I read stupidity into the comments of some uninformed Ghanaian commentators when the need for government subsidization of agricultural inputs, the storage and assured minimum purchasing price for the produce of farmers are discussed. For the information of those insinuated, the rich countries even continue to give subsidies to their farmers, protect them by cleverly instituting tariffs and quotas against competitive foreign products. This is the Whiteman's intelligence to ensuring desirable results are obtained when ideas are implemented but not the theoretically surface-scratching policies of our African governments of which Ghana is a champion.

How justifiable and achievable are the government's attempts to woo the young ones into farming, guarantee the farmers welfare and then ensure self-sufficiency in food production for Ghana when genetically-engineered rotten food products (eg. rice) from the U.S.A., the non-stop advertised foreign peanuts (groundnuts) on Peace FM radio are allowed and encouraged to flood our market to the detriment of our organic home produced ones? What effort has the government made to ensure that the rice always brought to the attention of Parliament by one of the MPs for not getting market due to the acquired taste and preference of Ghanaians for foreign publicised rice, therefore discouraging and rendering the producers poor, gets the needed market? Both the government and people just don't want to hear. Therefore the Farmers National Holiday is not worth a fraction of the announcement and hullabaloo as seen in official circles.

I will entreat the government and all Ghanaians to be foresighted in our fight for self-sufficiency in food production by being proactive. Greater publicity must be given to our home produced food stuff and Ghanaians encouraged patronising them through making it detrimentally difficult and very expensive importing foreign products some of which are locally produced... It is about time we stopped feeding gluttonously on contaminated foreign food products laced with experimental chemicals, the secret cause of diabetes, cancer, and other prevalent ailments tormenting Ghanaians of late.

Many hands make light work. We must all therefore be on board through positive action to ensure the welfare of our farmers, without any underhand reversal pull on the strings through dubious sabotaging acts. There should no more be importation of foreign rice when our farmers cannot get market for their locally produced ones. Let us wise up as self-sufficiency in food is in itself a step towards our freedom from foreign constraints, dictation and subjugation.

Once more, my respect goes to the farmers of whom I am included. Food sufficiency for Ghana can only be a reality when the attitudinal foreign taste for Ghanaians is done away with.



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