Peasant farmers have called on Parliament to undertake proper consultation before passing the Plant Breeders Bill in order to ensure that the interests of farmers are considered.
Peasant farmers have called on Parliament to undertake proper consultation before passing the Plant Breeders Bill in order to ensure that the interests of farmers are considered. According to the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), the bill in its current state is detrimental to farmers as it will not allow them to save their own seeds Delivering a speech on the theme: “Agriculture for All: The Contribution of The Small-Scale Farmer” at the just ended Annual Meeting of the Association in Techiman on Friday, January 26, National President and Board Chairman of PFAG, Abdul-Rahman Mohammed, said there was a need to make agriculture attractive by allowing farmers to save, share and also trade in their own seeds.
“The bill rather allows foreign seed corporations to take control of the Ghana seed industry in the name of intellectual property right. Our agricultural sector cannot grow by relying on the importation of seeds from foreigners,” he added. Below is his full address;
On behalf of the board and management of Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, I wish to thank all of you for being with us since yesterday.
Mr Chairman, this Annual General Meeting gives an opportunity for we farmers in PFAG to reexamine our role as farmers, what we have been doing in the past years, what we couldn’t do and what we should be doing going forward.
As the Chairman of PFAG, I must admit that my term of office was not without challenges such as:
1. The fall armyworms that destroyed our farms in 2017
2. Climate change leading to low rainfall in most parts of Ghana
3. High cost of inputs and low prices for our farm produce
4. Dumping of highly subsidized food in Ghana
5. High cost of mechanization services including tractor services, harvesters, planters etc
6. Bad farm roads
7. Fulani herdsmen allegedly raping our women, destroying our farm and killing our youth
8. Difficulty in raising funds to support our activities
Despite the above challenges, we were still able to achieve some successes in the last 4 years:
1. We were instrumental in advocating for review of the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme to allow smallholder farmers to participate and benefit from the programme against the initial intention of targeting only large scale farmers
2. We were instrumental in advocating for the review of the “Plant Breeders Bill” to allow all smallholder farmers to save their own seeds in 2016
3. We advocated for government increase investment in the agricultural sector including fertilizer and seed subsidy programme
4. We advocated for increase extension officers. Government recruited 1,200 officers as part of the “Planting for Food and Jobs” At the organizational level:
– When I took over the board chairmanship of PFAG in 2014, there were only three office staff. However, today we have nine permanent staff, two national service persons and 2 volunteers
-We were able an office for PFAG in Techiman – We purchased 100 acres of farmland in Kintampo
– We purchased 1 tractor from SADA
– We are currently providing market access for sorghum farmers in the Upper East Region. I encourage other regions to also take advantage of this opportunity to boost their sorghum production
– We have registered business unit.
In going forward, PFAG envisions to go into the business of producing organic food for all Ghanaians; establish our own factories for processing food; have our own warehouses; our own mechanization centres to provide services for our members and our own farmers’ credit union to support farmers with financial services.
Mr Chairman, let me use the opportunity to also thank the government for supporting agriculture in recent times in the following areas:
1. The introduction of the “Planting for Food and Jobs” which brought fertilizer prices low to farmers. I call on all farmers who took the inputs to try and payback in order to sustain the programme
2. The intention to create “one district one dam” in northern Ghana is laudable
3. Building of one warehouse in every district is also good
4. The intention to build one factory in every district is a welcome idea.
We thank the government for these initiatives which will benefit most peasant farmers in Ghana. Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen; I will also like to use this opportunity to raise the following concerns and appeal for government attention:
1. In September 2017, PFAG members in all the 10 regions presented their monitoring report on the “Planting for Food and Jobs” and raised concerns about the delay in input distribution, poor quality inputs and bureaucracies in the distribution process. We call on government to do proper consultation in future programmes before the implementation in order to achieve maximum results.
2. Mr Chairman, 9 January 2018, the Daily Graphic carried a story titled “Parliament calls for re-introduction of Plant Breeders Bill”. This came to our attention when the bill was already at the Consideration Stage. Mr Chairman, we are calling on parliament to remember their role of representing the people of Ghana. They should do a proper consultation to ensure that the interests of farmers are considered in that bill. The bill in its current state is detrimental to farmers as it will not allow farmers to save their own seeds, share their seeds with other farmers and also trade in their own seeds. The bill rather allows foreign seed corporations to take control of the Ghana seed industry in the name of intellectual property right. Our agricultural sector cannot grow by relying on the importation of seeds from foreigners.
3. Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we are also alarmed by the influx of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)products into the Ghanaian market irrespective of the negative implications to health and the environment. GMOs are dangerous to health, they are the leading causes of cancer cases worldwide, and they are threat to the environment and threat to human survival. If GMO is good Mr Donald Trump, Bill Gate and their people will not be pushing it to Africa. I call on all farmers not to plant GMOs in Ghana and all Ghanaians should rise up against this killer food.We should be proud of our own food and it is the only way we can grow Ghana through agriculture.
4. I advised all Ghanaians to develop the taste for locally produced products such as local rice, fresh vegetables, TZ, Fufu, Banku, local poultry, Yam, Kenke and fish etc. Let’s all desist from consumption of imported carcasses especially red meat and chicken parts which are full of chemicals and detrimental to our health.
5. Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen; the activities of Fulani herdsmen are a threat to national security, food security, violate the rights of women, youth and children as alleged that they rape and kill some. They also destroy our water bodies, destroy our farms and cause serious damage to the environment. The recent cases in Kwahu, Agogo, Atebubu, Kintampo, Berekum and Afram Plains is a typical example. We call on the government to treat this as the state of emergency before it escalates into full war.
Mr Chairman, colleague gallant farmers; invited guests; I will like all of you to join me in giving special thanks to my secretariat led by Madam Hajia Sahada, popularly called “Aunty Vic” for their hard work in making PFAG strong and vibrant. Today there is no any other stronger farmer association in Ghana that is talking for farmers if not PFAG. I appreciate your efforts and wish to congratulate you for that.
Finally, I thank all our gallant farmers for their contribution to agricultural development in Ghana. I also thank TrustAfrica, Oxfam and Macro Fertil for supporting this AGM. I thank Valley View University for hosting us, God richly blesses you for your humanitarian work.
I wish everybody a successful stay in Techiman and your journey back.
Mr Abdul-Rahman Mohammed