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Opinions of Monday, 14 December 2015

Columnist: Daily Guide

If I were a farmhand

Yesterday something interesting happened whilst my family and I were returning from church along with my sister and her family who also spent some time with us.

We stopped to buy some ice cream. The ice cream man did not have what we wanted and just as we were about to move we spotted a coconut seller – a young man- close by.

We quickly turned our attention to him and asked him to serve us. The first coconut came without any hassle. I asked for another one and I told the coconut seller I wanted something close to what he gave my sister – sweet coconut water with medium texture food. When he broke the tip of the coconut we all shouted.

“Master why? This is not what I asked for. This is coconut “sakora”, I don’t want it,” I shouted.

The young man just smiled and he quietly put that one down and took another one. This time all of us watched him closely. He quickly said this is all I have. I don’t have any better ones. We said, “look through I am sure you will find something better than the last one.”

He went through the wheelbarrow containing a load of coconut and took another one.

My husband said, “That should do.” He attempted cutting it with great difficulty, with the coconut slipping in and out of his hands.

Eventually he put it on a heap of coconut and cut it. He whispered, “That man is not a coconut seller. “I am sure he just took some coconuts from the house and brought them here to make some money.”

The young man finally handed the coconut to me which I quickly gulped. It was very nice though. I asked him to cut it into two parts and give me a “spoon”. Every “professional” coconut seller knows how to cut a coconut open in his hand.

He smiled and I said, “I can see you are struggling. This must be your first day on the job”. It shows in the way you pick the coconut, the way you hold and cut it and fact that you can’t tell which one is matured or not.”

He admitted, “Yes Madam, I am not a coconut seller. This is my first time. I cut it from my house and decided to sell so I can make some small money.” We all laughed and left the scene.

Selling coconut is not an easy job. It requires some skills and even if you are the chief agronomist at the Ministry of Agriculture or a Professor of Crop Science you may not be able to cut coconut the way these boys do it. Try it and you will find yourself in the theater with hands chopped by the cutlass.

It made me remember my husband who also woke up early this morning to do some weeding in our little garden. We normally get some gardeners to help us and for some time they had not come around so my husband had to do it himself. He is in bed with a serious waist problem.

The lesson? Weeding may look like a menial job, but it may require certain skills that a city man may not have. Try it and you will end up with a broken crooked waist.

These two lessons made me think about the contributions of farmers and most importantly the role of farmhands in Ghana’s agricultural industry. Farmhands may not make prime news but their job is very important and not many farms can survive without them. Consider the work of farmers, cattle owners, poultry farmers and fishermen and look at the role of the farm labourer. Farmhands are very key in the growth and development of many farms and most of them perform many functions. They normally help in clearing the land (in the villages they are called “by day” laborers) and are also responsible for cultivating the soil. They sow crops and control weeds by slashing, hoeing or spraying. Sometimes they construct frames to support fruits or trees and take active part in harvesting. The farmhands do all these work either manually or using tractors, harvesters, forklifts and hand tools. For animal and bird keepers, farmhands are equally useful. They feed livestock and poultry, undertake milking operations, clean and sterilize farm equipment and clear animal waste. They also perform other more complicated tasks such as shearing, dipping, branding, crutching, gelding, marking and assisting in breeding and raising of livestock. The list goes on and on. During Farmer’s Day, many stakeholders gather to celebrate farmers, fishers and their stakeholders including agro-processors, researchers, sponsors and donors of the awards day, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Fisheries Commission and financial institutions, Agricultural Input distributors and other service providers. Are farmhands also awarded or recognized? Who celebrates the farmhand? Where is his honour? How does the farmhand grow in his job? How does he own property himself and how does he also turnaround from being a farmhand to a farm owner and an award winner? Without farmhands, many farmers in Ghana will not be able to do much. We have to find a way of elevating the role and issues of farmhands and most importantly appreciate their efforts during Farmers’ Day. If I were a farmhand, my greatest wish will be to become a large scale owner who can also cultivate several hectares of land to feed my family and the nation.