Feature Article of Sunday, 7 October 2012

Columnist: Bannor, Kwasi Richard

District Agricultural Workers To Boycott 2012 Farmers Day If

! By Bannor Kwasi Richard.

The benefits of agriculture in Ghana is a well articulated known fact and truth as about 60% of our workforce indirectly or directly is involve in agriculture. The GDP contribution by agriculture alone is phenomenal. President Mahama his Excellency also has reiterated the importance of agriculture by alluding to the fact that Ghana’s unprecedented single digit inflation rate is as a result of agricultural production in the country. It is also a known fact Ghana is comparatively advantage in most agricultural crops production compared to some African countries and the world over. One may think that, a sector with such enormous benefits and potential is worth to undertake a course in and working for.

However in Ghana, the agriculture sector is one of the relegated and neglected sectors especially the human resource in the sector. When read political manifestos you only see something scanty on agriculture especially for farmers and agricultural extension officers who work in unfriendly conditions aside other occupational hazards attributed with the work. That notwithstanding some people have the courage to stand on platforms in various forums to talk of how they have better the lives of farmers.
Farmers most often than not, do not matter to these people yet they make it sound as if they are really taking care of them. They will rather undertake feasible construction works than investing massively in the very sector that we have comparative advantage in and has the potential to control inflation and transform our economy. Gradually with modernization farmers which have not been trained to adopt the current trends of agriculture are losing their jobs and interest in farming. It is not surprising that in the MEDIUM TERM AGRICULTURAL INVESTMENT PLAN, the framers indicated farmers are willing to invest cash credit given to them for agricultural purposes in off farm ventures, yet our policy makers say farmers are doing well. When farmers produce bountifully and there is abundant of food crops in the market at low cost which in effect impoverished the farmer more because he could not even meet the cost of his production from his sales not to talk of profit; policy makers are happy and boast of it and their honourable and have done well in agriculture sector. When the Agricultural Extension officer with no motivation at all from the policy makers yet thrive hard to make sure these farmers adopt the current technologies in agriculture, these same policy makers boast of it as if it is their doing and they are good policy makers.

Surprisingly, readers, our policy makers have cleverly been able to change agriculture for only Cocoa hence increase production in cocoa is tantamount to increase in agriculture production. Meanwhile the COCOBOD is not even under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Many Ghanaians seeing the investment in COCOA misinterpret it to be agriculture. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of our food crop farmers enter into COCOA production which off course will have serious consequences on us in future.
The attitude of the legislator and the Executive to these farmers has condescended to the MOFA professional and technical staff. We are in Ghana when most often than not public schools perform poor than their contemporaries in the private schools yet these same people who supervise and are part of the failures are rewarded every year for what we don’t know.

In the same way, every first Friday of December every year, farmers are rewarded at district, regional and National levels. The questions we have to ask ourselves are:

a. Why should the farmer be rewarded but not the teacher (Extension officer) even if we can reward people who have students that fail compared to their contemporaries?

b. How did the farmer in the remotest part of the country become the best farmer?

The answer to the questions is the agricultural extension worker did his work well amidst the neglect by policy makers, the poor conditions of service and the current state of 1 extension officer to 1500 farmers. As Schultz (1975) has argued, agriculture specific human capital is important in improving farm yields in changing environment because it enhances resource allocation of abilities of farmers.
Agric extension officers risk the upbringing of children in villages no one is willing to stay. He risks his life in entering in distant farms in villages where no one is willing to go to undertake any duty. He risks the betterment of his family in villages with no light and clean drinking water yet his work is not appreciated. District assemblies see it incumbent to build quarters for other professionals than the teacher of about 80% of workers (farmers) in their district. Governments have not even thought of given special allowances to such workers even in political parties’ manifestos. That notwithstanding these and other problems that will be spelt out in next article, agricultural workers do their job with much fortitude and empathy for our gallant farmers and mother Ghana.
Extension officers in Ghana have been slapped twice in the face in that, apart from not given Market Premium because we are not professionals because anyone could do our work with no training as indicated by FWSC under Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), we are also denied of our administrative and transportation allowances for every month since January of this year (2012) which help to travel to farms and villages to help the farmers policy makers award every farmers day in the remotest area of which the MP will not be willing to go unless in election time like this and yet is paid GH ¢7,200.00 every month.
Readers, if policy makers are unwilling to invest in agriculture should they have the courage to ask for data from the same people you don’t invest in? When government wanted to know just the number of Ghanaians in Ghana, how much did he invest in that? Yet when it comes to agriculture, they want agricultural data without investing? Well, I wonder where Statistical Research Department MOFA had had their data from throughout the whole year if the aggregators of data at the district level not given any money for data collection.

Ministry of Food and Agriculture technical workers have been quiet for very long and it is time we rose to tell our employers that, they cannot take us for granted because we are professionals and professionals of much importance to the country. We like to entreat GNATCA and all Disrtict agricultural officers and Agricultural extension officers across the country to boycott this year’s farmers day scheduled for November 2 if we are not paid our three quarters allowances.
If our policy makers will not give us market premium, we wouldn’t be insensitive as others but for our allowances, we will not beg for it. We will boycott this farmer’s day to announce our displeasure of the way human resource of the sector has been treated.
It is either we boycott it or they will forever take us for Granted. We will like to announce to all district DAOs and AEAs that without our three quarters allowances, we will not partake in the farm inspection not to talk of farmers Day. If our employers can have money to organize Farmers day just for the cameras and later neglect these same awarded farmers then they should be able to give us the unpaid allowances.


BY: Bannor Kwasi Richard (0243524843)