We are not paying attention to scientific breakthroughs to deal with food crisis – Prof Anamuah-Mensah
A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah has said the neglect of scientific breakthroughs has plunged Ghana into the ditch that could result in food crisis.
He said governments had offered negligible support to discoveries and innovations in the agriculture sector done by scientific institutions and universities which could resolve the country’s food challenges.
Prof Anamuah-Mensah who is a scientist, observed for instance, that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and scientists in various universities had invented many crop varieties that could be harvested in the shortest period.
“But it looks like we are not paying attention to scientific research breakthroughs. Some of them have developed varieties of certain crops like cowpeas and so on which can be produced all year round, but we are not supporting them.
“The University of Cape Coast has that kind of expertise but there is no support,” he told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview.
Prof Anamuah-Mensah was concerned that the country allotted less than one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Many experts have said the country is facing food crisis as food inflation bites hard on Ghanaians.
This is despite the government’s flagship agriculture programme, Planting for Food and Jobs.
Ghana’s food inflation rate rose by 3.5 per cent between April and May, from 26.6 percent to 30.1 percent, according to the Ghana Statistical Service.
The situation has been blamed on the Russia-Ukraine war which has resulted in a shortage of fertilizer and some food items.
To curtail the crisis, Prof Anamuah-Mensah held that the country must put premium on STEM education and offer adequate support to scientists to bolster the agriculture sector.
He proposed that STEM allocation should move up to 1.5 percent of GDP for research works to have greater benefits to the country.
“We need to go to the scientific bodies such as the CSIR that has done so much in this area. We should also go to the Agricultural Science faculties of the various universities who are also producing something.
“If these things are done, I believe we will be able to curtail the kind of problems that we are facing,” he said.
Prof Anamuah-Mensah further proposed that the creativity of Ghanaians must
be harnessed to develop homegrown mechanised agricultural devices to drive the sector.
He said the state must support such creative people with start-up funds to enable them build and expand their innovations for the benefit of the country.
“Our people are so creative, and they can come up with so many things. I saw a video from Takoradi in which a young man has made a machine for moving things in the farm. These are things that they have worked on. It works and they are using them.
“If we have these people making mechanised tools for us, I think the future will be bright for us because we need these to make our country better than what it is now,” he stressed.
On the argument of fertilizer, the former Vice-Chancellor said Ghana must work at producing its own organic fertilizer locally to feed the agriculture sector and gradually phase out the imported inorganic ones.
He argued that the dependency on foreign inorganic fertilizers was not only economically draining on the country, but also had grave implications on the quality of the soil and the health of the people.
“I know that the bodies that be would stand against it because they have to sell the fertilizer to you to get more money, so they will tell you stories,” he said.
Prof Anamuah-Mensah further observed that the systemic corruption in the food value was partly to blame for the food crisis in Ghana.
He said corrupt activities such as smuggling and price-bloating by government agencies and some middlemen, for instance, had shot the prices of fertilizer to alarming levels, making it difficult for farmers to afford.
“What happens is that the farmer is not able to buy the quantities that he needs and, therefore, will not be able to produce the amount that he normally would have produced,” he said.
He therefore urged government to devise “draconian tactics” to fight the canker.
“Somebody steals a goat, and he is put into prison, then somebody in the office steals big money and he goes scot-free. That must change,” he added.