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Lack Of Finance Hindering Agricultural Development
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Lack of access to finance in agricultural development and agribusiness is affecting agricultural innovation systems in Africa. Ms Riikka Rajalahti of the Agriculture and Rural Development at the World Bank said Ghana was particularly faced with financing difficulties and called for well organised small holder farmer groups to facilitate access to finance in agriculture.

She made the observation when answering questions at the first video conference on Agribusiness and Innovation Systems in Africa in Accra. It had participants from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as officials from the World Bank Head office in Washington.

The conference discussed findings from research undertaken in the four countries and implementation of the findings to improve agriculture in Africa. Ms Rajalahti stressed the need for innovations in agriculture and improved agribusiness, pointing out that the process of creating and implementing combinations of knowledge from many different sources was important to agricultural development in Africa.

Mr George Essegbey, Director of Science and Technology Policy and Research Institute, Ghana, who undertook the research on innovative systems in agriculture in Ghana, said lack of finance in the agricultural sector in terms of funding innovations was a problem.

He therefore called for supportive funding mechanisms to promote innovation in agriculture. The research was based on two crops; cassava, cocoa and poultry to establish whether there have been any innovation to production.

Mr Essegbey said there had been innovation in terms of production level, processing and marketing and organisational innovations, referring to products like the packaged fufu, gari mixed with soyabean and enhanced cocoa products. He urged government and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector to consider policy options that would enhance agribusiness in Ghana and Africa.

Ms Karen Brooks, Sector Manager in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, Africa Region, at the World Bank, said the project which sought research into agribusiness and innovation systems in Africa was instituted about 15 years ago, with emphasis on research for scientific knowledge in enhancing agriculture.

She noted that agricultural productivity was at the heart of development in Africa hence the need to promote innovation systems. Mr Philip Abayori, President of the National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana, and a participant, stressed the need for financing in the agricultural sector.

He said only three per cent of total credit given to small and medium scale enterprises and businesses were given to farmers and called for technological enhancement in agriculture especially in developing countries to realise agribusiness and innovation systems in Africa.

A compilation of the results from the four countries by Kurt Larsen, Co-ordinator, Skills and Innovation Cluster and Florian Theus, a Consultant, at the World Bank Institute, pointed out that liberalisation policies to open up markets of countries for trade on agricultural products had positive effects on innovation and competitiveness.

The report noted that in countries where liberalised policies are practiced the role of the state is to facilitate and co-ordinate the process. It called for a new approach in public policy towards the agricultural innovation system.


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