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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Columnist: Abass Iddrisu

Ghana Prisons Agriculture; a tool for National Development

Agriculture production in Ghana continues to be a sustainable source of economic growth through the provision and attaining food security, jobs and wealth creation in the country.

With the enormous prospect of the Ghanaian agricultural sector, the Government of Ghana continues to initiate agricultural policy programmes to revive the sector to help in reducing the menace of unemployment among the youth and non-working age groups in the country. There are many opportunities existing in the agricultural value chain sector that all have to leverage on to be gainfully employed.

“The real task of making agriculture the pathfinder of ours nation’s development start with us, and it must begin with an important shift in attitude and mentality” – Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister-Food and Agriculture.

It behoves on us all as citizens to put our hands on deck. Agriculture is our national keystone, it is the reason we have the colour green in our national flag. Our agriculture tomorrow depends on our action today.

The key role plays by the agricultural sector for the advancement of Ghana’s economy independence attainment cannot be overemphasized without the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders in the country.

To achieve a sustainable agriculture production system in Ghana there is the need for the government and all other stakeholders to help revive and resource some key institutions for the agricultural growth in the country. With the recent initiatives in revamping the agricultural sector of the country, a key institution that can contribute significantly to the advancement of the sector is the Ghana Prisons Service.

The Ghana Prisons Service as a public institution mandated with the responsibility to ensuring the safe custody, reformation and the rehabilitation of offenders found guilty by the Laws of the country has the potentials to harness this opportunity. Commercialization of the agriculture in the Prisons Service will help ensure food sustainability in the service and help reduce the chunk of a burden on the government in the feeding of inmates and to boost the productivity of the Service.

With the support in expanding the agricultural operations of the Prisons Service is a step in harnessing the full benefits of the untapped resources in terms of land and labour and equipping the inmates with the modern knowledge and skills in agriculture and as an asset after their release from the prisons.

Requisite

There is the need for the support in the areas of production, logistics and supply chain, manufacturing or processing, training and skill development and many more that can be done to help the service generate a sustainable income to supplement the government in their operations.

Currently, the service undertake agricultural activities in the cultivation of maize, rice, cowpea, groundnuts, vegetables, yam, cassava, oil palm, coconut, acacia and teak production and animal husbandry in poultry, piggery and sheep production in most of their agricultural open camps across the country with all this scale of production on a smaller base. The service has the potentials to expand and grow it agricultural operations when the needed support is provided by all stakeholders in the country through the below highlights.

Production

The location of the Prison centres in the country is strategic and the agricultural settlement camps have all the resources and the potential to harness the agriculture benefits within their jurisdictions.

Some of these centres undertake the operation of crops and animals production on a small-scale as a result of operational constraints such as low level of mechanization, lack of irrigation facilities, lack of storage facilities, lack of veterinary service and many other pertinent factors dwindling the production potentials of the service.

Equipping the service in the agriculture production is a step towards the self-sufficiency in food production and income up-shot of the service and provision of jobs for inmates after their discharge from the prisons. With the numerous benefit that can be generated from the service agricultural sector.

The Service can be engaged in commercial production of maize, rice, sorghum, millet, sesame, soybean, vegetables (both local and exotic varieties) under irrigation or in greenhouses, plantain and banana, oil palm, coconut, shea-butter tree and cashew plantations, orange and mango orchards, passion fruits, pawpaw, sour-sop, cocoa, coffee, groundnut, cowpea, poultry, goat and sheep production, piggery, rabbit rearing, grass cutter rearing, cattle rearing and many other farming activities that has the strength of generating income in the shortest possible time.

The Service can lead in the production of medicinal herbs such as “moringa”, “Artemisia”, “mahogany”, “aloe vera” and many other crops which are in high demand on both the local and international markets. The strength of the service lies in the agriculture unit as to the availability of land resources, skilled personnel and human labour to manage the operational activities.

Logistics Supp

The cancerous effect of over-aged pieces of machinery in the service is a limitation to the advancement of the agriculture unit of the Service to achieving a food sufficiency and income generation power for the management of the institution.

There is the need for quick actions to equip the Prisons Service with commercial farm machinery such as tractors with full implements, power tillers, irrigation facilities, start-of-the-art storage facilities and cold vans, monitoring vehicles, processing and packaging plants and many other necessary materials for the operation of the agriculture unit of the service. Equipping the service with needed logistics is a diligent step towards the advancement of the agriculture sector of the service. A reliable marketing channel has to be made available for the marketing of the agricultural products produced by the Service.

Manufacturing and Processing of Farm Products

Manufacturing and processing of agriculture products is essential in the value chain management of agricultural operations. The Prisons Service has the potential and all the needed resources to lead in the processing, packaging and manufacturing of nutritious and hygienic food and other products from their production of crops and animals.

The Prisons Service can only derive a full benefit of their agricultural operation with the addition of value to their products for the market.

Many healthy products can be produced for the market to generate a considerable income for the Service in areas of processing oil palm fresh fruits into edible crude palm oil, palm kernel oil, palm kernel cakes (for the animal feed processing industries), palm kernel shells for fuel, palm fronds for the production of basket and brooms and many other artifacts, cassava for the production of cassava dough, biscuits, tapioca, cassava peels(for the production of animal feeds), high quality cassava flour (HQCF) , cassava chips, corn dough, corn flour and popcorns from maize, milk and edible oil from soybean, moringa seeds, groundnut and coconut, milk from goats, sheep and cattle, production and bagging of animal manure for organic vegetable growers, groundnut and tomatoes paste processing, plantain chips production, pomade making using shea butter, soap making, fruit drinks processing, moringa leaves production, yoghurt production, production of fruit salads, meat processing with all this done under a well hygienic and packaged under good conditions has the potential to drive the market in the demand for all these products and many other derivatives can be produced to generate income for the Service.

Training and Skill Development

Training as a tool for knowledge and skill upgrading to enhance productivity is also essential to achieve the agriculture advancement aim and to the development of agriculture in Ghana. There is the need to support a regular training for both Prisons Officer and inmates on production operations, farm management, the economic and business management of a farm business and business models, processing and manufacturing and marketing. Equipping the parties in these will help to ensure effective and efficient agriculture production in the Service.

Remedies

The Prisons Service can only leverage on this opportunities when the necessary support is provided from all angles spanning from the Central government, co-operate societies, groups, research institutions, agriculture firms, individuals, investors (local and foreign) and the Ghana Prisons Service itself as an institution to manage the affairs of the agricultural projects.

Provision of farm machineries and vehicles, artisanal or high-tech processing plants for oil and milk production, training and skill development of the prisons agriculture unit staffs, co-operation from the custodians of lands to release more tracts of lands when the need arise, effective co-operation and monitoring of prisons farm projects by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) within the catchment areas, provision of the state-of-the-art storage and irrigation facilities for an all year-round production, reliable market linkages for the products produced such as linking the Service to supplying food products to schools for the feeding programmes initiated by the government, development of road network within the prison locations to aid in the ease transportation and distribution of the farm and processed products to consumers is key in achieving the developmental goal.

With all this remedies adhere to, removal of unbearable taxes on Prisons agriculture projects, subsidies given on farm inputs by the government and with the provisions and removal of certain limitations have a greater value to making the Prisons Service a hub of agriculture development in Ghana and within the African continent and hence equipping the inmates with skills to act as agripreneurs after their discharge from the prisons. Partnership from the public and co-operate bodies can help establish some of this remedies to aid in the agricultural growth agenda.

The development of agriculture in Ghana has the potential to grow and add value to our economic gains when the necessary attention is paid to and by all individuals and institutions that can help in the growth and development mechanism of the agriculture sector in the country.