The Management of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) will no longer directly grant loans to individual farmers in its operational zone, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the authority, Dr. Charles Abugre, has said.
Instead, Dr. Abugre said the authority would sponsor financial institutions to provide financial assistance for farmers who were interested in using the zone’s vast arable lands to produce food for the local and international market.
The new measure is to help insulate SADA from heavy loan defaults, which it has suffered since in 2013.
In that year, poor harvest, resulting from bad weather, made it impossible for farmers to repay some GHCC21.8 million given to them by the authority.
Of the amount, only about GHC998,000, representing four per cent, was repaid.
Consequently, SADA wrote off the amount as bad debt, something the Auditor General flagged in its 2014 report.
Dr. Abugri, who revealed this to the Graphic Business at a workshop in Accra, indicated that the authority remained committed to developing the zone into a modern industrial hub.
“SADA will no longer give loans to farmers directly anymore; that is why we are trying to sponsor independent private-sector-driven financial institutions to solve the problem of financing agriculture. This decision emanates from the two years’ experiment we have had from providing assistance to farmers directly,” he said.
He explained that farmers who were provided with loans in 2013 were unable to repay them because most of them suffered poor harvest in the period under review.
Meanwhile, a three-day technical workshop on agricultural investment in the savannah zone has been held in Accra.
The workshop was organised on the theme: “Accelerated Transformation of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone through Agriculture.” It brought together policy makers and stakeholders to develop a strategy that will serve as a guide to accelerate developmental growth within the SADA zone.
The Minister of Finance, Mr. Seth Terkper, in his keynote address, said the zone was the economic reservoir in the country, but it had remained unexploited over the years.
The SADA zone has immense agricultural resources, with about eight million hectors of arable agricultural land that could trigger the economic transformation of Ghana and the sub-Saharan Africa.
According to him, the zone is fertile enough to produce abundant grain to feed the entire country and export to the rest of the sub-region.
“The zone has the potential to produce all the tomatoes needed in Ghana, and both the rice and tomatoes that would meet the country’s needs represents over US$400 million of annual savings to our foreign exchange reserves,” he said.
He said throughout the world, the savannah represented immense agricultural potential, the Brazilian Cerrados, and other Asian savannah areas testify this potential at the zone.
“We, therefore, need to take a critical look at the northern savannah ecological zone in order to realise similar benefits as a country,” the minister noted.
He said the government was deeply concerned about the way the SADA zone lagged behind the rest of the country on key areas of social-economic development, while the potential remained untapped.
“The government has been concerned with improving the life of every Ghanaian, spreading the growth in the south to other parts of the country and ensuring equity in the distribution of resources,” he said.
According to him, it is for this reason that the situation in the northern savannah zone deserves special continuous focus from government’s economic policies.
The government remains committed to supporting the development of the savannah zone within the context of the broader national policy and development goals.
SADA was set up in 2010 as an independent agency for coordinating a development agenda for the northern savannah ecological zone of Ghana, which consists of Upper East, Upper West, and the Northern Region, north of Brong-Ahafo, and north of the Volta Region
Source: Daily Graphic
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