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Opinions of Friday, 27 July 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

The Plight Of The Rural Farmer

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

“Small-holder farmers have appealed to the government and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to come to their aid with funds and implements to enable them to produce more food to feed the nation”-Daily Graphic (Friday, July 20, 2012, pg.31).
Farmers deserve a big ayeeko for feeding us albeit some mishaps which confront them in their work. Human survival is enhanced through the hard work and benevolence of farmers. Unfortunately, it appears society cares not about the welfare of the farmer.
City dwellers are better consumers than being producers of foodstuffs. Farming, as a business, is common among rural populations. Only a few rural folk are into tailoring, hair dressing, masonry, carpentry, etc.
Ghanaian farmers usually produce crops like maize, millet, cassava, yam, potatoes, vegetables, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, pineapple, citrus, avocadoes, pawpaw and sugar cane. Some too are into animal rearing, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, grass cutters, rabbits, snails, fish and bees.
Crop and animal production is usually done on small parcels of land using rudimentary tools and technology. Available findings show that about 60% of small holders cultivate crops under 1.2 hectares (ha) of land; another 25% on 1.2-2ha and the remaining 15% on holdings at 2ha.
Some intrinsic and extrinsic factors try to emasculate farmers’ ability to produce more to feed the nation. Government and other stakeholders need to put in maximum intervention to enable them increase productivity.
The Daily Graphic of Friday, July 20, 2012 reported the Executive Director of the National Service Scheme, Mr. Vincent Kuagbenu, as saying, “As a country whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture, we cannot allow any impediment to come between our people and the major activity on which they survive” adding, “It is important to put our efforts where they are most needed, and it would give us the desired output.” I see these comments very inspiring!
Facts still remain that farmers’ concerns have not been sufficiently addressed. Many challenges continue to thwart their production fortunes, ranging from land acquisition to marketing and storage of produce.
As the saying goes a producer has no freedom until his/her commodity reaches the final consumer. Efforts are always made to ensure that the right quantity and quality of produce gets to the consumer. Farmers must strive to or be assisted to maintain high agronomic, husbandry and post-harvest standards.
This article seeks to dilate on some problems facing farmers in their farming activities. The first and foremost issue here is funding. A couple of months ago, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi dropped the government’s decision to stop funding small scale agriculture and provision of subsidies.
The move, he said, would be necessary in preventing government from further losing money resulting from nonpayment of loans by most beneficiary peasant farmers. Similar situation, I believe, may be one of the reasons why some banks are now reluctant to fund the operations of small-holder farmers. Even those banks willing to provide help sometimes present frightening payment terms and conditions. Farmers therefore do not have the appetite for such credit facilities.
I was therefore not surprised to hear the President of Emmanuel Sustainable Farmers Society, Mrs. Faustina Hayford remark: “The yields are good. We can produce more than we are doing now but we do not have the funds” (See July 20, 2012 issue of the Daily Graphic, p.31).
Funds enable farmers to procure farm inputs, such as fertilizers, improved planting materials, good farm structures, vaccines, good breeding stocks, farm tools and equipment.
For lack of funds, farmers most often use old, genetically impure seeds as planting materials. The extensive system of animal production is still in use. Reports indicate that the distribution of free fertilizers and mass spraying exercise of cocoa farms are facing some hiccups as a result of inadequate funding.
Can we have any improved productivity with this current hoe and cutlass system? Multilateral steps must be taken in educating farmers on the need for them to form farmer groups to enable them easily access the services of some machinery and implements, like tractors and ploughs. Programs like the NYEP, LESDEP and MARSLOC must be made beneficial to farmers also.
Should government, corporate bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders redouble their efforts at removing impediments from the way of farmers, issues of poverty and hunger will also be a thing of the past.
Agriculture extension, veterinary, quarantine, engineering, research and animal husbandry services should be effectively extended to farmers to enable them increase their lots.