Performance of agriculture sector declining – Minister
For the past decade, performance of the agricultural sector in Ghana has been declining and the rural poor who constitute the chunk of the smallholder farmers are living below the poverty line.
It would therefore be a contradiction using agriculture as the backbone to the economic prosperity when those who are into agriculture are down-trodden.
“We cannot develop if we leave this group in their current unacceptable conditions”, Alhaji Sulemana Alhassan, Upper West Regional Minister made this statement at the National Smallholder Women Farmers conference held in Wa.
He said over the years, smallholder women farmers had been faced with serious constraints such as limited access to productive resources such as land , improved seeds and planting materials, agro-chemicals, credit, labour, information, technology, sustainable farming practices, access to markets and strong farmer based organisations, among others.
The Regional Minister said smallholder women farmers had been denied productive lands yet their contributions toward food security in the country was enormous.
The conference was to deliberate on policy issues in agriculture and gender mainstreaming on budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector.
Alhaji Alhassan said about 80 per cent of total agricultural production was attributed to smallholder farmers, including women who contributed to about 70 per cent of agricultural production.
He said the rural smallholder women farmers must be supported and opportunities expanded for them to join the crusade of “this new dawn of a non-rhetoric modernisation of agriculture”.
Government recognised the importance of smallholder farmers and its policies and programmes in agriculture were tailored towards them, mentioning “the Planting for Food and Jobs project” as one of them among others.
Alhaji Alhassan said budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector had increased from 0.9 per cent last year to 1.9 per cent this year, while government targeted 4.8 per cent allocation to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture by 2020.
Mr Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, Country Director of ActionAid Ghana who spoke on the objectives of the Conference, said due consideration should be given to women when recruiting agricultural extension officers and tractor operators to help facilitate interaction and access to extension officers and tractor services.
He explained that there had been “gender blind” on the agricultural policies and programmes on the part of government and the conference was organised to bring to fore some of the challenges and constraints smallholder women farmers face to policy makers to address.
Mr Sumaila said more 10,000 smallholder women farmers were operating with ActionAid Ghana in its operational regions and urged policymakers to women farmers groups as part of policy making processes.
He called for sustainable provision of resources and farm machinery to smallholder women farmers, through quota system and the management aspects should be left in the hands of women alone.
ActionAid Ghana organised the conference for smallholder women farmers with sponsorship from the Netherlands Foreign Affairs which was on the theme: “Influencing gender responsive budgets for agriculture: Time to increase investment in smallholder women farmers”.