Monday, 12 February 2018

Sanitize Planting for Food and Jobs programme - Economist

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Adnan Adams Mohammed

Courage Boti, an Economist, has advised government to correct all the wrongs in some of its social intervention programmes especially the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative.

Mr Boti believes measures should be put in place to address the challenges that confront the policy and to help sustain it so that efforts of farmers will not be in vain.

During an interview, he said: “They [Government] should correct some of the wrongs that happened in 2017. In the agricultural sector, you introduced Planting for Food and Jobs that is supposed to trigger higher productivity for at least the cereals, but you did that without making adequate provisions for things like pest invasion, without making adequate provision for warehouses to store some of the foods that will be produced so there were complaints in the media that some farmers don’t know where to sell their goods.

“The storage capacity of the Ghana Buffer Stock is actually less than the quantities that are produced and they are now looking for spaces to store them. Going forward, government should be proactive. Once you anticipate that this programme will lead to increase in productivity, you must provide the market for storage for those things going forward so that there will not be lags leading to people’s efforts going to waste.”

Armyworm infestation as well as storage capacity are some of the challenges that confronted the planting for food and jobs policy.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture recently announced that it has created about 745,000 jobs under the programme to help with a number of farming activities including the tilling of lands and the harvesting of crops.

However, some critics have argued that the number of jobs government claims to have created, were rather short-term ventures that would end after a few months.

Inusah Fuseini, Member of Parliament for Tamale Central, has urged Ghanaians to disregard claims by the Ministry of Agriculture that over 700,000 jobs have been created under the government’s planting for food and jobs programme.

According to him, extending services to already existing farmers cannot be considered as creating new jobs.

His comments follows the Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr. Afriyie Akoto’s announcement last week that 745,000 jobs had been created under the first phase of the programme with the caveat that the jobs were “unofficial jobs.”

The Minister explained to the media that, the jobs were created in rural areas, and were essentially not taxable, and did not contribute to pension funds following the earlier skepticism that met the announced figure.

The figures were based on the number of additional inputs as well as improved seeds and fertilizers supplied to participating farmers in 2017.

Inusah Fuseini in an interview said, he had not seen any strategic plan for the implantation yet, but the Minister is out there claiming provision of jobs that do not exist.

“As I have said, I have not seen any strategic blueprint for the planting for food and jobs, they went and assisted farmers who are already in the field, they didn’t create new farmers, all they did was extend facility to them, is that creation of new jobs?, ”he said.

According to him, as long as the government cannot provide concrete evidence of people that have benefited from the planting for food and jobs project, there is still no solution to unemployment which is causing the youth to resort to political vigilantism.

“The minister spoke about planting for food and jobs, can he give us evidence of people who were otherwise doing political vigilantism going to the farm?” he said.

Beyond Inusah Fuseini’s concerns, the General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU), also opined that government’s estimate of 745,000 jobs provided under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme might be exaggerated.

The Union’s General Secretary, Edward Kareweh, contended that the figure provided by the government would have to be scrutinized.

Apparently, despite the contentions with the figures from government, a Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sagre Bambangi, said those doubting the number of jobs created by the programme needed to acquaint themselves with the situation on the ground.

According to him, the skeptics “have not been able to take time to appreciate the process involved in agricultural production.”

“In the course of agricultural production, we have input delivery, and in the course of the input delivery, a lot of stakeholders are involved and all these create jobs. For instance, if you are going to procure seeds and fertilizer, you are creating jobs for people who will haul the seeds and fertilizer. If you are going to haul the seeds and fertilizer, you are creating jobs for transport owners and haulers,” he explained.

The ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme, which was launched in 2017, is expected to modernize agriculture, improve production, achieve food security and make Ghana more self-sufficient, whilst creating jobs for the youth.

The initiative is expected to increase the production of maize by 30%, rice by 49%, soyabean by 25% and sorghum by 28% for current production levels.

The first phase of the policy is expected to cost the government about GHC560 million.