The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) and Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP) congratulates all smallholder farmers in Ghana, especially women who were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the country celebrates the 2020 National Farmers Day under the theme “Agribusiness Development under COVID-19 – Opportunities and Challenges”, it is imperative to recognize that, this stakeholder group continues to be the essential engine propelling the supply of raw materials for industry, while ensuring the availability of food commodities for the domestic and international markets. Crucial to the growth and sustenance of the activities of smallholder farmers, we acknowledge and commend the Government of Ghana, for its continuous implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme. It is our expectation that, continuous collaboration, and feedback provided by on strategies for improving the programme to enhance its efficiency in the strategic positioning of the agriculture sector are accorded utmost attention.
Again, on this national farmers day celebration, while the PFAG commends the national awards committee for their hard work in identifying the deserving farmers, the association is of the considered opinion that, as a crucial exercise, the process could be improved to ensure that it reflects the current needs and challenges of the sector while serving its utmost purpose of creating opportunities for all actors including smallholder farmers, fisherfolks, the youth and women. This will strengthen not only the raison d’etre of the awards but will also ensure it becomes an effective tool for driving national cohesion and inclusivity for the sector.
In the below, we set out the basis for the need to improve the process and use the same to drive inclusivity and create opportunities for marginalized groups in the sector.
THE OVERALL NATIONAL BEST FARMER
The PFAG fully supports the celebration of the national farmers day which was constituted in1986 to compensate Ghanaian farmers and fisherfolk for their contribution to food security in the country after the 1983 famine. However, given the skewness of the award system in favour of the minority large scale farmers, the association request for review of the selection criteria to make provision for smallholder farmers, fisherfolk, the youth and women who constitute majority of farmers in the country to reflect the diverse efforts which undergird the nation’s quest to build a just and inclusive society.
Our assessment of awardees over the last two decades founds farmers with large farm sizes as well as those with the capacity to invest in diversified agricultural commodities on a large scale emerging as overall award winners. A closer examination again suggests that, majority of women, youth, smallholder farmers and fisherfolk have been targeted for district level awards for specific commodities which are often associated with low returns and income. One woman winning the award over a 20-year period is incredibly worrying, and not reflective of the immense contribution of women in the development of agriculture and family food security in Ghana. This is a mere five percent recognition at the national level. Reviewing the award criteria to allow for equal competition between all category of farmers including women and fisherfolk will boost the morale of these marginalized groups and bring about competition and improved productivity in the sector, particularly as some smallholder farmers post high level of productive efficiencies per productive factors.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the youth (aged 15-35 years) constitute about 30 percent of the farmer population and are often the target for agricultural modernization and considered the future of the sector. However, they are also neglected from the overall national best farmer award due to the criteria that disadvantage them. This should be of concern to sector players.
Historically, medium and smallholder farmers and fisherfolk constitute about 83 percent of the 11.3 million farmers in Ghana; but these categories of farmers have never won the overall national best farmer award. The large-scale farmers with minimum farm size of not less than 100 acres who constitute about 17 percent of farmers are the recipients of all the overall national best awards. The neglect of smallholder farmers and women in the agenda setting of the national farmers’ day celebration and the national best farmers selection process undermines their role as key stakeholders contributing to the agricultural development in the country. This is exclusive at best, and outright discrimination at worst; a wrong which must be righted.
PFAG SUGGESTIONS ON THE NATIONAL AWARDS
- The use of scale of production as a key metric in selecting the overall best farmer, suffers the same curse as economic productivity as used in economic parlance, which has since evolved to be more inclusive, accounting for very important socio-cultural dynamics such as factors undergirding access to land for women, environmental awareness, innovation, contribution to poverty reduction and crucially reducing the inequality gap. It is important that the metrics for selecting the overall best farmer reflect all these dimensions of productivity and socio-cultural narratives while making room for exploring issues such as good agronomic practices and environmental awareness – two areas which are cardinal to sustainable food production.
- Low productivity, postharvest losses, processing and marketing are cardinal issues still plaguing the sector. Low levels of literacy associated with low technology adoption among smallholder farmers is a major concern which keeps the output gap of smallholder farmers at high levels. An award system that allows all categories of farmers to showcase their yields per acre, application of appropriate technology, value addition, adoption of agribusiness either in small, medium and large size, strategies to reduce postharvest losses, environmental friendliness in farming and novelty is one that is in tune with time and will consolidate the credentials of not only the scheme, but the sector as a whole.
- The incentives to the overall winner should also be reviewed to focus on giving out agriculture-related machinery of interest to farmers that can be of use to other farmers in the community. Provision of warehouses, processing equipment and other related incentives will contribute to the development of both the farmer and the sector as a whole. Building a house for a farmer in the urban area as part of the award system suggest resettling such farmers to those areas, which can be counter-intuitive to the rationale for the award scheme.
We take the opportunity to further highlight some constraints facing smallholder farmers in the country; positions we have expressed on several occasions to further remind the nation on this day, that our food is not secure until we have secured the worth of smallholder farmers.
PROBLEMS OF SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
- Impact of coronavirus – The coronavirus made it difficult for smallholder farmers to market their produce, especially during the lockdown period. This led to difficulty in accessing credit, high input cost, high postharvest losses, loss of incomes and inability to expand their farms. These constraints have not been completely dealt with and must be on the minds of all stakeholders as burning issues.
- Impact of climate change – Climate change variability such as rainfall patterns and changing temperatures are prevalent and expected to get worse in the immediate future. This condition is impacting negatively on the biodiversity, the forestry landscape, pest and diseases as well as quality of air. The development is beyond the control of smallholder farmers and fisherfolk and adversely impacting on their activities. The farmers in northern Ghana experienced the worse form of drought and floods in 2020 leading to loss of livelihoods, shelter and domestic water sources, challenges they are still grappling with. Additionally, the emergence of fall armyworm led to most farmers changing from maize farming to other staples that are less vulnerable to the armyworms which come with its own challenges. We are calling on government to institute policies that support the implementation of environment friendly farming techniques such as the agro-ecology that reduces the impact of climate change and promotes biodiversity.
- Limited support in the area of harvesting, storage, processing and marketing. This leads to high postharvest losses in all crops especially, perishable commodities such as tomatoes, garden eggs, watermelon, cabbage and roots and tubers. Rice is considered a staple crop and experienced high postharvest losses due to difficulty in accessing combine harvesters. In 2019, PFAG members and other rice farmers lost large acreages of farms to bushfires without appropriate support for them to deal with these losses. Any such support to these value chains must include considerations for the cottage industries to enable them process farm produce.
- Access to credit is a serious challenge as banks require collaterals, which for complex land systems and other issues associated with the economic rights, makes it impossible for women and other smallholder farmers. The situation is further complicated by the relatively high interest rates charged on loan facilities, which “chip farmers margins away”. We do acknowledge that cost of credit has moderated downwards in recent times (circa 24 percent per annum), but its sticky nature at current levels further indicate risks in the financial market (shallow savings profile, shorter term facilities among others) which spillover into the agricultural sector with implications for smallholder farmer incomes.
- High cost of mechanization services coupled with limited availability of appropriate machinery for certain commodities poses a major challenge. The local development of appropriate hand-held machinery which can serve smallholder farmers must be a front burning issue for government and other actors.
- Neglect of livestock industry, especially the rearing of ruminants such as goats, cattle and sheep in government support programmes poses a serious challenge to meat production and processing in Ghana leading to high importation of meat that could be produced by Ghanaian farmers. The Rearing for Food and Jobs programme (RFJ) seeks to address this constraint, but has not received same level of focus as the PFJ.
- While PFAG appreciates the efforts of government through the PFJ programme that support farmers with subsidized seeds and fertilizer, the institutionalization of a monitoring mechanism to ensure that quality seeds are supplied to farmers, smuggling and hoarding of subsidized fertilizer is stopped should be a non-negotiable issue of priority. Make special arrangement for smallholder women and youth farmers to access subsidized fertilizer as well as increase the subsidy component from the current about GHS 26.00 to an average of about GHS 50.00 for the 50kg bags.
- While PFAG acknowledges the effort of government for perfect conceptualization of the One Village One Dam (1V1D) initiative, PFAG will be glad for government to review the implementation to ensure expansion of the dam reservoir capacity, increase the embankment, reposition the faulty spillways, use rock boulders for lining to avoid spillage and plant the appropriate grass to hold the dam walls.
Finally, PFAG and GhaFFaP doors are widely open to collaborate with government to provide practical developmental issues bordering the sectors’ development for consideration.