Graduate extension officers to be used as change agents in agric sector

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is embarking on a programme to bring about agricultural revolution and ensure dynamism in the sector for improved yields and sustainable food security for the nation.

Consequently, it has taken a major policy decision to raise the qualification of agric extension officers to graduate level to equip them with the requisite and modern training for them to serve as agents for change on the field.

The Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, announced this when he commissioned a rehabilitated block of laboratory for the University of Cape Coast (UCC) School of Agriculture at UCC on Wednesday.

He said the development of the sector’s human resource base, should not be trivialized if the country would make any significant impact in socio-economic development.

The facility, which was completed within six months by Messrs Melgrep Company Limited, a Ghanaian contracting firm, was jointly funded by UCC, MoFA, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) at a cost of GH¢686,000.

The well-equipped laboratory among others, has, lecturers’ offices, store rooms for chemicals, rooms for technicians, engineering workshops and changing rooms. It was initially awarded on contract in 2003 to be completed within 18 months, but had to be terminated for non performance by the contractor.

Currently, Mr Ahwoi said the country is self sufficient in the production of staples and that for the first time the World Food Programme (WFP) had procured and exported 5,000 metric tons of maize from Ghana to famine stricken Niger and was in the process of sourcing an additional 5,000mt.

He announced that the agriculture sector was expected to grow at six to eight percent per annum and that when this national vision was achieved, it would support the attainment of the country’s desire of achieving a middle income status by 2010.

Mr Ahwoi said to further develop the sector, well trained agricultural degree holders, who are confident and knowledgeable, would be equipped and motivated to transfer technologies to a new crop of farmers.

Such farmers, he noted would be encouraged to take farming as a business to generate employment and to help to reduce poverty particularly in the rural areas.

Mr Ahwoi said to address the discrepancies in agric education; his outfit was in touch with the Ministry of Education to incorporate agriculture into schools’ curriculum from the Junior High School level to tertiary. He added that an ad hoc committee had been set up to deal with the issue.

Dr (Mrs.) Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, Deputy Director-General of the (CSIR), urged the School of Agric to collaborate with the Council to disseminate its research findings adding that fostering collaboration was very important in every educational institution.

The Vice Chancellor of UCC, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, thanked the donors as well as its partners for securing a well-equipped laboratory for the School and assured the public that UCC was committed to ensuring the training of quality human resources for the nation.

The Dean of the School of Agric, Professor J. A Kwarteng, said the Youth in Agric Programme would be made an integral part of its curriculum.

He said the School trains the majority of the middle career staff in Agric extension.

The Representative of CIDA, Jannie Croker said her outfit remained committed in ensuring that the sector developed.

Source: GNA

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