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Farmers Day: But What Do We Have To Show For Them?   
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Today is Farmers’ Day. What a thought — that any country would institute a day to pay its debt of gratitude to farmers and fishermen!

The day was instituted by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) under Flt Lt J.J. Rawlings in 1985 to thank farmers and fishermen for the bailout package they handed this country by way of their highly commendable output in 1984 (achieving about 30 per cent  growth), after the bad agricultural years of 1982 and 1983.

I am old enough to remember the first National Farmers’ Day of December 1986 at Osino in the Eastern Region. 
I remember the package to the First Best Farmer: two machetes, a pair of Wellington boots and a preset radio.

This week, unable to recall the theme for the first Day, I sought help from the website of the Ministry of Agriculture. What I found there, a list of Farmers Day themes since 1990, would impress anybody in love with words and slogans.

Take a look: 1990 – ‘Increased Agricultural Production for a Better Tomorrow’; 1991-‘Sustained Agricultural Production, Hallmark of the 31st December Revolution’; ‘1992 – ‘Agriculture and the Ghanaian Economy, Eleven Years in Retrospect’; 1993– ‘An Efficient Marketing System, A Booster to Sustained Agricultural and Industrial Growth;’ 1994– ‘Food Preservation for Price Stability’; 1995– ‘Scientific Farming for Higher Productivity.’

Fast forward to 2001 - ‘Let Us Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow and Can What We Cannot’; 2006 – ‘The Youth Employment Programme: An Avenue for Sustaining Agricultural Development’; 2007– ‘Ghana @ 50: Progress and Challenges of Sustainable Agricultural Development’. In a particular year, our solution was “Grow more food: Research for Sustainable Agriculture Development”… on and on and on. This year’s theme is: “Transform Ghana: Invest in Agriculture.”

Trust me, Ghanaians would pick an award for sloganeering. We are so good with words! Professor P.A.V. Ansah used to say in class that Ghanaians suffer from “logorrhea”.  

I invite you to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture. It is there that you begin to ask yourself what could be wrong with Ghana. I was shocked how many irrigation schemes this country has, listed as ‘Achievements’ of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority:

Ashanti Region: Akumadan Irrigation Scheme, Anum Valley Irrigation Scheme, Sata Irrigation Scheme; Brong Ahafo Region: Subinja Irrigation Scheme, Tanoso Irrigation Scheme; Central Region: Mankessim Irrigation Scheme, Okyereko Irrigation Scheme; Eastern Region: Afram Plains Irrigation Scheme; Greater Accra: Ashaiman Irrigation Scheme, Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme, Kpong Irrigation Scheme, Weija Irrigation Scheme; Northern Region: Bontanga Irrigation Scheme, Golinga Irrigation Scheme, Libga Irrigation Scheme; Upper East: Tono Irrigation Scheme, Vea Irrigation Scheme; Volta  Region: Afife Irrigation Scheme, Aveyime Irrigation Scheme, Kpando-Torkor Scheme; Western Region: Kikam Irrigation Scheme.

Yet, with all these schemes, with all the Agriculture Research Stations of our universities, with the PhD and MPhil holders from and at the Agriculture Departments of our institutions of higher learning, why are we still importing food from Burkina Faso (of all deserts!), Cote d’Ivoire (I am told), tilapia from China and fruits/fruit drinks from South Africa?

Remember, General Acheampong had no higher academic background than commercial school (typing, shorthand, bookkeeping) qualification and the Military Academy. If this man led this country to food self-sufficiency, why are we so helpless with all the second and third degree holders parading in the latest four-wheel drives?

We killed Acheampong for nothing.

What accounts for the glut that drives down prices of crops at the farm gate, compelling the farmers to sell to the Market Queens at ridiculously low prices? Does it take rocket science to solve this problem? Am I wrong to think that all it takes is to get the farmer a guaranteed price (similar to what we do for cocoa, shea butter and coffee farmers) and an efficient system of transporting the produce to the market? We have abandoned Kwame Nkrumah’s silos – sold them to importers of Chinese goods to store their non-perishable imports.

What does it take to get our senior high schools to return to the days of General Acheampong when under the Operation Feed Yourself programme, schools competed in crop production, showing off their harvest with glee? If for nothing, schools didn’t have to wait for government subvention to put food on the table for students.

Surely, a government that provides free food, pampers and footwear to schoolchildren, and plans to buy digiboxes for the poor to access digital TV signals (O, my God!), should be able to get the poor to the land. The digiboxes and footwear could be one of the incentives for responding to the call. With General Acheampong, it took a powerful national call, “Operation feed yourself’. There were no Government Spokespersons!
Source: Enimil Ashong/Daily Graphic

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