Technology to make farming attractive – Brong Ahafo Best farmer
He expressed regret that though such tools and implements had become crude and primitive, a greater percentage of farmers in the country still relied on them.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Sunyani on Thursday, Mr Bennet said adequate land and funds coupled with the application of modern farming technologies were necessary to take national programmes such as the Youth in Agriculture Programme, to greater heights.
The dependency on the hoe and cutlass as main working tools are deterrent to the youth, both graduates and non-graduates, to take to farming, Mr Bennet observed.
He noted most of the youth involved in the programme were not necessarily interested in farming as a profession but rather in the wages or allowances they would collect at the end of the month.
Mr. Bennet, also a trader/fuel dealer and 2009 Sunyani Municipality best farmer, stressed the need for a national crusade of indoctrination of the populace, especially the youth, to accept farming as a profession.
He expressed concern that despite the existence of the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for some years now “we are still depending on the hoe and cutlass as the viable working tools for farming”.
Mr. Bennet, however, observed that the Faculty’s inability to come out with innovations for the needed transformation of the farming sector could be attributed to under-funding for research activities.
A greater governmental support to make farming more scientific and technological based, he said, would encourage the youth to passionately accept the programme not only a means to acquire employment but to give boost to sustainable agriculture and abundant food production.
Mr. Bennet who once worked in the United States of America (USA) for 12 years, alleged that the youth of today “want quick money”, saying that was a disincentive to sustainable agriculture because to guarantee success in farming, one required patience, passion and interest.
The selection of participants for the programme must therefore not be done wholesale for the sake of providing jobs for the unemployed youth, he suggested.
Mr. Bennet who graduated from KNUST in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science (BSc), said it would serve the country better if the criteria for selection of people for the programme among other factors could be based on love and interest for professional farming through interview.
He proposed that because of inadequate land for large scale commercial farming, the youth could be made to form co-operative groups for land allocation on a ratio of about 10 persons to 15 acres of land.
As co-operative farmers, they can engage in the cultivation of high yielding cash crops, depending on the area and environmental factors prevalent, the best farmer added.
Mr. Bennet cited the hybrid cocoa as a high yielding improved cash crop that matured within four years for harvesting, once the right farming methods and practices were followed.
He explained such crops guaranteed a quick but proper way of creating wealth through farming, particularly for those in tropical forest areas in the country.
He proposed, whilst not de-emphasizing the viability and economic importance of other cash and non-cash crops in tropical forest areas, the youth in cooperatives must be motivated to take to the cultivation of cocoa.
Mr. Bennet however stressed that the youth in other areas of the country should also be made to adopt other cash and non-cash crops that thrived well in such regions or localities on co-operative basis.
He indicated the need for diversification, explaining that beside cocoa cultivation, the farmer could plant food crops such as yam, cocoyam and plantain for both subsistence and commercial purposes.
According to Mr Bennet stressed the objective of the programme could not be achieved without the provision of logistics such as working-gear, spraying machines and quality seeds or seedlings for free or at subsidized price.
The solution to sustainable agriculture does not necessarily mean involvement of too many people in the sector, he said, mentioning that in the USA only 12.5 per cent of the population were farmers but they produced enough with surplus for export.
Despite about 6o-67 percent of Ghanaians working in the agriculture sector, the country supplements its food requirements with imports because majority of the farmers are engaged in subsistence and peasant farming, Mr Bennet added.