He said the programme was hurriedly implemented without deeper consideration for wider publicity to whip up interest and get most citizens involved in such a national exercise that was beneficial and a means to drive the country’s development agenda.
Professor Fialor made the call in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Kumasi and said a mechanism should be put in place to ensure an effective value chain system where farm produce could be semi-processed on the farm before they are cart to a pool for marketing.
“We have not seen that preparation for people who will receive the produce from the farm, and take it along the value chain. This chain is what we expected that government would have taken time to do some visibility studies first, and then, the real planting which is quite straight forward.”
The Professor noted that the programme was not rolled out using the value chain approach, even though the implementing bodies announced that some feasibility studies were done, some farmers in most of the regions, especially the Western, Volta and Northern were not aware and did not show interest in the programme.
“You go to Northern Region which is the grain basket of the northern sector, a lot of farmers do not just care, which means that the period of training and sensitisation has not be done and therefore they have not really gasped it,” he observed.
He called on the government to give public education and sensitisation issues priority under the programme, even if it meant using two years of its four year mandate to get the citizenry and other stakeholders to appreciate the need to venture into farming and especially the benefits in enrolling onto the programme “so that when you roll it out, it picks up.”
Professor Fialor who is also a former Head of Department of Agriculture Economics, Agribusiness and Extension, at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), observed some anomalies in the criteria for the selection of farmers and said “The criterion is that you should have a certain minimum area under cultivation in order to qualify.
However most farmers “were not aware about the programme and are not interested”.
He said with such criteria in place, majority of small producers who do not satisfy the requirement would be left out, and “in terms of welfare, that is a disadvantage to the average farmer because in general terms the average farmer will cultivate less than one hector.”
He reiterated the need for government to find ways of mobilising farmers produce into a central pool and suggested that the programme could adopt the methodology used by some fruits exporting companies that do business in Europe and other parts of the world where they cultivate big farms with small satellite ones under them that supply their raw materials.
Professor Fialor enumerated the viability in publicity to ginger interest in every national programme and said “a good example was when Ghana was changing from right hand drive to left hand drive, Dr Busia’s government at that time made sure it used the media in every possible way to ensure that every rural person would understand it, so when 4th August came and they had to change, it went so smooth that we were surprised just because everybody was aware of what was happening.”
The Professor said the policy was good, however, the preparation, logistics and planning had “lots of potholes that need to be filled.”
According to him, the impact agriculture was supposed to make to the country as the backbone of the economy by now was less than what it was supposed to be, and the worst part was the subsequent change of governments which come with disjointed programmes.
Asked for his opinion on the celebration of Farmers Day, the Professor suggested that a policy should be put in place to ensure that once a best farmer is selected, he or she has a mandate to fulfil and that person could be given some number of years to raise some people to the level he or she was deemed to be good at doing.
“If we do not do it that way, then it will remain a celebration,” he said.
Professor Fialor added that since government emphasised on involving more youth into agriculture, it should be one of the factors linked to the farmers’ progress report to know how many youth have been trained or attached to the best farmer and to measure whether such farmer apprentices had become independent to pursue such goals.