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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 February 2005

Columnist: Acheampong, Osman

Hon. Ernest Debrah hit the nail right on the head

The vetting process of President Kufour?s nomination for ministerial positions is in full-fledge and a lot of us Ghanaians living abroad are keenly following it. This article is a reaction to the GNA article on the vetting of Mr. Ernest Akobouh Debra, the Minister of Food and Agriculture ?Designate. Thanks to Ghanaweb and the Internet that we are able to read about important issues going on in our motherland everyday.

Seven years ago, whilst a student at KNUST, I was charged by my senior brother to investigate a product, which he had read about in the newspaper. This was a ?Jute Sack? specially designed to store grains such as maize and rice for a long period of time and he thought he could go into the business of storing grains and selling in the lean season if such a facility existed. The paper directed people to contact a lecturer at the agric science department at Tech for this product.

At the department I met one Dr. Gyasi who would be capable of given me the contact information for the Dutch company that manufactured the sack. It turned out that it wasn?t at all very easy to get the product for an ordinary person considering the cost and the bureaucracy involved. Nevertheless, Dr. Gyasi was kind enough to take me for a tour of the U.S.T farms and it afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the Agriculture industry in Ghana and for me to ask more questions which had boggled my mind for long.

It is in this regard that I think Mr. Debrah hit the nail right on the head when he outlined his vision and plans to move agriculture forward in our country. I asked Dr. Gyasi why Ghana is described as agriculture-based economy and yet we import most of our food and how this can be curbed. He admitted that it is true that Ghana is agric-based economy and it was also true that we import most of our food. However, he was quick to affirm that the situation could easily be reversed. He identified as one of the biggest problems the country?s farmers are facing to be post harvest loses and the use of out-of-fashion tools. He also identified the failure of some state-owned institutions such as the Agricultural Development Bank and Ghana Food Distribution Corporation, as some of the agencies that authorities have to seriously examine their activities and re-organize them to bring them in line with the overall development of the industry.

Mr. Debra was right to point out that ADB is drifting into commercial banking. Dr. Gyasi said, but for this reason the country will be the largest producer of rice in the whole of Wet Africa. The bank was supposed to help agencies specializing in the processing of rice, through harvesting to the ?curing? period, which takes about four to six months. He said the poor farmers could not wait for all this time and that if ADB was extending grants to processing firms or even creating some of these agencies to do the job, Ghana could boast not only of abundant rice but perhaps the best African rice. Rather the bank has turned its attention to granting loans to big business and sponsoring beauty contest. We all remember the in infamous A-LIFE scandal involving the bank.

The Honorable Minister did very well to touch on all the aspect of agriculture that needs to be examined for accelerated development in the industry. He identified key problems facing the industry. He also did well to bring to bear the strategic areas around the country where efforts have to be channeled in order to realize a sustainable food security for Ghana. It was obvious that he used his stewardship as the Northern Regional Minister to bring to light the untapped resources that the region has to offer.

He emphasized cooperation with all relevant ministries and personalities will help the industry move forward. This together with the massive resources, both human and material available at the country?s universities should make the vision of the Minister feasible.

I hope that the Minister is honest about his intention and vision. And if he does, he will celebrate success just like Honorable Quashiga is doing now.


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