Acreages of Hope: Agriculture, Unemployment & Public Policy
Category : Rural Development
In the last five years (2011-2015) Ghana has spent a whopping GH¢34.1b (USD 8.7b) importing processed foods, vegetable products and live animals (and related products), as data from Ghana Statistical Service (DIMTS Report, 2015) Shows.
Our food import have increased progressively over the period (see Fig. 1) to compensate for supply deficits on the local market, compounding the already dire inflationary pressures that has become a bane for Ghana’s monetary authorities.
As of Q4 2015 Agriculture’s contribution to GDP was 28.3%, with Industry taking 22.1% and Services, 49.6%. Agriculture’s declining contribution (overall) to GDP over the last five years (See Fig. 2) has been occasioned by a complex interplay of factors; migration, policy inconsistency, insufficient forward integration and the lack of a comprehensive national agro-processing strategy, inter alia. As a result growth over the years has been dismal, at best. Declining fortunes in the agric. sector has also in turn impacted negatively on in-country migration patterns. According to Ghana Living Standards Survey 6, Greater Accra has the highest percentage of in-migrants (38.6%) compared to some regions within the agrarian belts such as Brong Ahafo (18.5) or Western (11.1%). In terms of age distribution of migrants 51.4% of persons aged 10-34yrs constitute the greater proportion. The implications are obvious. More youthful populations are migrating to urban centres away from the agrarian belts, leaving behind an aged population (majority of which are women) to feed the nation. This provides clear insight into some of the reasons behind Ghana’s high food import bill. Also, when one situates this within the context of increasing youth unemployment, it becomes very clear the urgent imperative to tackle the high unemployment and rural-urban migration with a deliberate policy that incentivize a renewed and popular interest (especially the youth) in agriculture.
So What Must We Do?
- Let’s go back to operation-feed-yourself and the nation, as was widely promoted during the second republic. Achieving food security is critical to avoiding macroeconomic imbalances associated with fiscal slippages.
- Ministry of Agriculture must lead an effort to aggregate arable lands and engage stakeholders within districts on modalities for private participation. This would help address the land tenure risks that increase entry barriers for persons interested in commercial-scale farming.
- The policy proposal to create district-based industrial hubs as key agro-processing centres is a welcome idea. It will enable sufficient forward integration and help reduce the market risks faced by farmers. Program particulars must be tabled for public scrutiny.
- Specialty funding and youth development schemes must scale up its portfolio allocation for agriculture investments and focus on building youth capacity at the district levels. The program’s portfolio allocation must be structured to incentivize production for both local consumption and export, with a greater bias towards the former.
- There is an apparent duplication of programs focused on youth development and financing. For instance, there is the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) on the one hand and Youth Enterprise Support (YES) on the other, all seeking to address youth development and entrepreneurial issues. It may be cost-effective to integrate around a clear agenda that is aligned with improving output within the agricultural space.
- Cabinet must consider offering tax incentives to local retail companies (supermarkets, hotels, et.) that purchase local farm output.
Training New ‘Agripreneurs’
On 25.06.2016 Rural Heights Foundation engaged over 150 students from Gomoa Senior High Technical School in a training workshop on how to manage the supply chain risks in agriculture. The workshop was facilitated by Nana Kwaku Dua, an experienced farmer and retired extension officer in Gomoa Pinanko. This project forms part of the Foundation’s effort to make entrepreneurship relevant to students in areas where opportunities for economic advancement exists within their resource-rich environment. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to provoke a policy conversation on how to engage and involve the youth in agriculture in order to spur growth and reduce unemployment.
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