President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday concretized his resolve to make agriculture a major source of employment for the youth by launching the Planting for Food and Jobs program at Goaso in the Brong-Ahafo Region.
The Agric flagship program being driven by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is aimed at food security and offer of jobs for the teeming unemployed youth. It is targeted at creating 750,000 jobs in the first year of its implementation.
Five crops; maize, rice, sorghum, soya beans and some selected vegetables will be given priority in the first year.
Speaking at the launch, President Akufo-Addo called on Ghanaians to embrace the program to transform the country’s economy through enhanced agriculture.
According to him, the program is the answer to the twin problem of migration of the youth to city centers in search of non-existent jobs, as well as the disgraceful spectacle of Ghana importing foodstuffs from neighboring countries.
Planting for Food and Jobs, he explained, will be anchored on the pillars that will transform Ghanaian agriculture the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilizers, provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture.
The Planting for Food and Jobs’ program is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 percent; rice by 49 percent; soya beans by 25 percent and sorghum by 28 per cent from current production levels. This program will create 750,000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment, he stressed.The president lamented the high cost of food and the high poverty level of the country’s farmers and hoped the program was going to improve farmers condition, ensure food security and make the country some foreign exchange through export of surplus foodstuffs.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the government’s vision is to modernize agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security and increase farmers’ profits.
He said the program would encompass full agricultural value chain where additional business and jobs will be created in the areas of storage, transport, processing, packaging and marketing. As such, the president said, 1,000 newly trained agricultural graduates are going to be employed as extension service officers to assist the farmers who will be engaged in the program.
He said a total of 390 metric tons of certified legume seeds would be produced and distributed to farmers.
According to him, the government has also reduced prices of fertilizers by 50 percent to make them affordable to more farmers.
A 50kg bag of NPK fertilizer – one most used by farmers till today has been costing GH¢115. Under this government, farmers will only pay GH¢57.50 for it. Likewise, a 50kg bag of urea now sells at GH¢47.50, as opposed to GH¢80 last year, he said.
Additionally, with imminent shortage of agricultural extension officers in the next two to three years, and largely as a result of the previous NDC administration’s decision not to employ any of the 3,200 graduates from the country’s five Colleges of Agriculture between 2011 and 2015, President Akufo-Addo revealed that his government has, in the last three months, employed 1,200 of these graduates.He assured, in 2018, we will employ 2,000 more extension officers, with the solemn pledge of employing more graduates from our Colleges of Agriculture in the following years.
He declared that the government would also expand and improve the feeder road network system in the country to improve the carting of foodstuffs from the farm gates to marketing centers and mitigate post-harvest losses.
One District One Warehouse
To reinforce the pledge made by the minister, government intends to construct a 1,000 metric tons’ capacity warehouse in each of the 216 districts. The purpose of these warehouses would be to handle produce, as well as to store the anticipated surpluses under the Planting for Food and Jobs campaign, he added.
While commending the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, for originating this initiative, President Akufo-Addo also commended the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, for recognizing the critical importance of the project, and allocating GH¢370 million in the ‘Asempa Budget’ for it.
He expressed the appreciation of his government to Canada, which is supporting the program with 125 million Canadian dollars over a 5-year period.
The World Bank has also pledged to support the program with $50 million for this year alone. USAID, through its Feed-The-Future initiative, has also indicated its preparation to support Planting for Food and Jobs.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto repeated that the overall objective of the program is to provide enough food to feed the nation, export and generate employment for the youth in agriculture. He said five
million farmers would be engaged by the end of the four-year tenure of the government.
The technical adviser to the agricultural minister, Asante Krobea, told DAILY GUIDE that GH¢560 million had been earmarked for the program.
The launch was well attended by ministers of state, traditional rulers, and farmers in and out of the Brong-Ahafo Region.