It is a known fact that, Ghana’s agriculture sector has been the most dominant sector of the economy since independence. There have been varying reports which show that a greater population of the labour force of Ghana being engaged in the agricultural sector directly or indirectly along the various value chain in the sector.
Globally, the global food security challenge is straightforward. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) in 2018 projected the world’s population to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, thus increasing agricultural production and boosting agricultural productivity will tremendously reduce the pressure on food.
As a continent, the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwuni Adesina in 2020 stated that “the size of food and agriculture in Africa will rise to USD1 trillion by 2030. The population of Africa, now at 1.2 billion, will double to 2.5 billion by 2050. They must all eat and only through food and agribusiness can this be achieved.”
It is clear that, Ghana – a country with only 57.6 per cent of its arable land being currently used in production – there is the enormous potential for increased production and productivity to benefit from feeding the world in coming decades.
As a response to the above and other reasons, the Government of Ghana through its Ministry of Food and Jobs launched the Planting for Food and Job (PFJ) flagship agricultural campaign in 2017.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the food crop subsector of Ghana is dominated by smallholder farmers whose farming practices are characterised by inadequate use of productivity-enhancing technologies, low use of quality seeds and fertilizers, and weak market linkages. These have collectively hindered growth in farm productivity, thus PFJ was launched with the goal to modernise the agricultural sector of the economy in order to Improve food security, create employment opportunities, and reduce poverty.
The implementation approach of PFJ was aimed to motivate farmers to use inputs and output markets and create employment opportunities along the commodities’ value chains and the motivating tools have at providing subsidies of the cost of inputs (seeds and fertilizers) and complementary services such as Extension Services and Marketing of Outputs.
The PFJ through its five modules – Food Crops (PFJ), Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Greenhouse Technology Villages, Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), and Agricultural Mechanisation Services (AMSECs) – has been broadly beneficial to the agricultural sector of Ghana by the provision of on-farm production support in the form of improved extension services and subsidized seed and fertilizer, with the fertilizer subsidy component essentially replacing the longstanding national Fertilizer Subsidy Program (FSP) implemented between 2008 and 2017; investments in marketing and processing infrastructure, such as warehouses or processing plants, with a specific emphasis on private enterprise development; and improvements in market information systems to facilitate market access and strategic decision-making by actors in agri-food value chains.
The ministry expanded the distribution of improved inputs since the launch of the programme – 121,000MT and 4,400MT of fertilizer and seeds in 2017; 247,000MT and 6,821MT in 2018; 330,390MT and 18,330MT in 2019 and 412,000MT and 29,000MT of fertilizer and seeds in 2020 respectively. This created jobs in the distribution and marketing sector.
The interventions have resulted in food availability even with the outbreak of the Corona Virus Pandemic (COVID 19) threatening food security globally.
The Planting for Food and Jobs campaign has proved to be a blessing. All over, there is an abundance of foodstuff in the markets. A revival of the post-harvest value chain activities is also helping to process these perishable items into long lasting foods while the ingenuity of some Ghanaian traders has also resulted in an increase in their export to neighbouring countries.
Collectively, the PFJ campaign impacts are contributing to strengthened food security and employment in Ghana, in pursuit of SDG 1: No poverty, and SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth.
Challenges of PFJ
Just like all projects, PFJ has had its fair share of challenges. Critical of such challenges are conspicuous in the year 2021. Some of these challenges are shortage of inputs under the programme, smuggling of inputs under the programme to neighbouring countries, and the absence of targeted sub-programme for women.
The year 2021 saw a shortage of subsidised inputs specifically fertilizers across the country during the cropping seasons. A major cause of this issue was the global supply chain and natural gas supply issues which led to the frequent increase in the cost of products and raw materials for the fertilizers. However, the government varied the approved prices upwards to make up for the increasing cost.
Smuggling of subsidised inputs out to neighbouring countries is a menace that is gradually growing into an “industry”. This syndicate can only be curtailed if the state gives more attention to the security of our borders along with such border areas. Government cannot invest millions of dollars and relax the security of its investments.
Though some women are playing key roles in the PFJ, there is still more room for improvement. Encouraging women participation will contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of more homes in rural Ghana.
Recommendations for PFJ
The following are recommendations to make PFJ better and more impactful:
- Since women are integral to the economy, there should be a deliberate sub-programme to engage more women in agriculture.
Women are contributors to the domestic economy of the homes in Ghana. They also spend more time with the children who happen to be future labour of the country. There is no better way of inculcating the desire of seeing farming as a source of livelihood than the transmission of this desire from mother to child.
- All private companies who are appointed to supply inputs under PFJ must dedicate at least 10% of inputs into outgrower schemes or nucleus farms.
It should be part of the future government policy to make farming part of the operations of those who want to benefit from the subsidies. This will lead to the direct investment of a significant portion of subsidised inputs into farms under the management of businesses or firms. As private players, companies will ensure that due diligence is done to ensure actual productions are undertaken. This shall lead to the employment of agronomists and private extension agents.
- Input subsidies should be open and structured so as to allow the market forces to play out
As it is a known fact that input subsidies will not be forever. Input subsidies should be made open to all who import some selected products. These subsidies should be made automatic at the port. Afterwards, government can then allow those with the best marketing prowess win. This option has the tendency of reducing if not eradicate corruption in the current subsidy regime practice
- More attention be given to sustainable agricultural practices
Yes, fertilizers are good for crops. However, currently, global supply chain issues have exposed us to production challenges we may face should the situation not get better. It is time to inculcate sustainable agricultural practices like Integrated Fertilizer Management in the PFJ. This is the gradual shift from wholly depending on inorganic fertilizer to having an integration of organic fertilizers, compost and foliar supplement. This can immune farmers from the continuous increase of global inorganic fertilizers, thus making their production less costly yet more productive.