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Opinions of Sunday, 31 May 2020

Columnist: Albert Kuzor

Raining season is here again, let's motivate farmers to increase produce to avert food insecurity

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Already, Food prices across our markets have increased for the past two months, farmers are finding it difficult to transport their produce harvested from the last season due to the various restrictions. Traders who struggle to get some of these food items have no option than to increase the prices to compensate for their toils.

In the local markets, one can barely get more than three pieces of tomatoes at an amount of Ghc2.00, most vegetables are now selling at a higher price as compared to the normal days before the pandemic, on cereals, prices keep increasing especially on beans, millet, soybeans, brown rice etc, the livestock has not been left out.

It has also been observed that, there is an increase in prices of imported goods on the markets including what the farmers need such as chemicals, seedlings among other framing inputs and equipment.

The situation is likely to affect farming especially farmers who largely depends on these inputs, and so, this are clear indication that, the situation may worsen if we do not invest into the agriculture industry as soon as possible. But how do we do that?

An aged proverb in my local dialect (Ewe) says that, "Ha dome sé ha kuati" which translates that, an empty stomach cannot uproot a tree, because once you have no food, you have less or no energy to work hence the need to support farmers in this season to increase produce.

The proverb, always give me reasons to obey Ghanaian farmers regardless the size of their cultivation, including my father, Kuzor John Ameto, a cash crop farmer in the Ho Municipality of the Volta region. Farmers in all sizes without their efforts, lives would have been lost to hunger especially in this trying time, and that is why it is necessary to recognize who plows the land to feed a nation.

Among the two main seasons in Ghana, (raining and harmattan), the raining season gives the room for farming and encourages afforestation which are all vital to human survival, then during the dry season when the lands are very hard to plow, when there is no water beneath the lands to grow plants, we depend on the outcome or product of the raining season while we await another raining season which comes after barely twelve months, to farm again.

Irrigation and applying of technology in farming which is most ideal during harmattan season but it is less among Ghanaian farmers, many Ghanaians depend on climate change or the traditional technics to cultivate. To many farmers especially those who do not apply any technology or irrigation, it's another season to grow foods again.

But unfortunately, there is a battle we are all fighting, the Coronavirus pandemic, and so, millions of people are sitting at home depending on the available products including some farmers since one major way not to get infected by the virus is limiting one's movement.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has warned that millions of people especially in Africa would be liable to food insecurity in this COVID-19 era. This should be a call on Ghana to take a swift response to the WFP's warning and initiate an Agriculture response plan to combat the foreseen danger.

What the Government should do to support farmers?

The government has initiated several interventions to ease challenges amidst the pandemic, stimulus package has been allocated to some sectors already. Therefore it is prudent to allocate similar support to encourage both local and national farmers to do more.

Farmers under the Planting for Food and Jobs and the Planting for Export and Rural Development should be identified and be funded to expand production.

Local or rural farmers should be given an interest-free loans to invest in the farms, and also government should subsidize prices of farming items to encourage farmers and others to embrace farming, although there has been a similar initiative, it should be properly conducted and review to ensure effectiveness.

The National Buffer Stock Company should initiate "community group farming" a program that will see community members in the group into large scale farming, and also accelerate the various programs by the National Food Buffer Stock Company.

If possible, the Ministry of Agriculture should plough the lands free of charge or on subsidization to farmers, this among other agricultural response plans should be observed to combat food insecurity during and after the pandemic.

Most importantly, the roads linking and leading to communities, urban and market areas should be constructed so that farm produce will not get damaged with the farmer after farming due to poor roads which will lead to the unavailability of transportation means to transport the items.

What should we be doing as individuals?

As we continue to observe the common protocols by washing hands, keeping social distance, using a face mask and the rest, it is also necessary to avoid unnecessary use of available amenities, such as wasting water and electricity and also proper food preservation and management of foods.

Parents and guardians should use the opportunity to educate their worlds on the advantages and disadvantages of Agriculture or food security.

Embrace home gardens to produce vegetables and fruits such as onions, watermelon, garden egg, carrot,tontomre, green pepper among the rest.

While we continue to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ghana, let's not forget that there will be an end of it when things will return to normalcy and food will be needed to give energy before grinding, take your hoe and cutlass, make a garden of some crops.

May the good Lord help mother Ghana, and lead us in this battle.