Micro-credit to farmers could ensure food security – Esson-Benjamin
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), Ghana, Mr Martin Eson-Benjamin on Thursday pointed out that achieving food security would continue to be an illusion if the country fails to offer the required financial and technical assistance needed by small scale farmers.
This is because small scale farmers continue to dominate the country’s agricultural sector and could therefore bring the desired increase in food production and its subsequent security with a careful and systematic programme to offer them such assistance. Mr Eson-Benjamin made the observation when he opened the 4th annual microfinance conference on the theme “microfinance and food security in Africa” at the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
He noted that microfinance has emerged as a powerful tool for accelerated rural development in several parts of the world in recent times and called on all stakeholders to offer support. The two-day conference organised annually by the faculty of Social Sciences is being attended by delegates from other African Countries.
He said the Millennium Development Account (MDA) Ghana Programme recognizes the linkage of success in agricultural transformation to credits for on-farm and agricultural value chain investment and had through the Agricultural Credit Programme under the 547 million US dollars Ghana Compact put in place a programme to achieve food security.
Mr Eson-Benjamin said under it an amount of 40.7 million US dollars revolving on-lending facility have been set up to support some targeted horticultural and staple food crops and related value-chain activities in 30 beneficiary districts in the country and that as at December 2008 GH¢5.3 million has been disbursed.
He said among others, 300 farmer based organisations have also commenced enterprise training in commercial agriculture to improve their skills to help accelerate development while financial institutions are also being mobilized to be trained to better appreciate the appraisal and management of agricultural credit and develop new products to promote better access.
Mrs Christy Ahenkora Banya, head of the sustainable livelihoods and employment creation unit of the UNDP expressed concern that only 4.6 percent of total credit from the country’s bank’s to the agricultural sector with Agricultural Development Bank also earmarking only 30 percent of its credit to the sector. She said as an agricultural country the bulk of employment was from that sector and therefore it was imperative to refocus on access to finance to help modernize it for the benefit of all Ghanaians.
Professor Naana Opoku-Agyemang, The Vice Chancellor of UCC in her welcoming address, said the UCC will continue to sustain dialogue with government on policy issues related to microfinance to help develop that sector.