NewsWest AfricaGhana: Over 64 percent work in the agricultural sector

Fri,24Nov2017

Posted on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 15:32

Ghana: Over 64 percent work in the agricultural sector

By Khadija Sharife

Anthony Doku (AD), managing director of research, monitoring and planning at the Ghana Revenue Authority as well as MD of O.G Farms Limited, speaks about farming, inclusive financing, marketing mechanisms, and the importance of property rights to The Africa Report (TAR)on the sidelines of the EMRC Agribusiness Forum 2011 in Johannesburg.

Photo/ReutersTAR: As an entrepreneur who juggles both government and private business, what obstacles do you seeing facing Ghanaians who want to embrace and develop commercial agriculture?

AD : That is the good thing about this conference: we are here solely to discuss agriculture as a viable commercial reality in Africa.

But we need to get down to the nitty gritty of the issue which is that governments don't understand the issue of agriculture as a commercial enterprise.

Let me give you an example: I had to construct a 13km road, at the cost of $50,000, including electricity, at $5000, to make my farm accessible. If I had to wait for the government to do it, I would be waiting forever, possibly.

Water is a similar obstacle.

Structures need to be in place to ensure, for example, that farmers have access to irrigation.

We have a river that runs through Ghana and this could easily suffice for the farmers.


TAR: The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) advocates that agriculture should be spearheaded by the private sector. What is your take on this?

AD: Governments need to be removed from playing a critical role – in the sense that we cannot wait on them for this to happen.

But government must be involved on the frontline for the development and provision of constitutional rights, property rights and the creation of the right infrastructure.


TAR: Security of tenure is crucial for small and rural farmers, many of whom access land through shared or customary tenure. In Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Zambia, chiefs can sign away 50-99 years 'leasing' rights to foreign companies, for as little as $2 per hectare. What is the situation in Ghana?

AD: That is true and a terrible situation. Governments often appear only to be concerned about the rights of foreign companies, under the justification of developing agriculture.

But it is not real development and the legal, political and other framework has not been designed to enable this sector, which is a matter of real lives and sustainability.

In Ghana, it is easy enough to register the land.

The problem is that the formal institutions, including – and especially the banks, do not understand the needs of farmers and the practical issues involved.

Banks are still lending money at 25% or 30%. They don't understand the nature of agriculture – the time it takes to develop mangos (about three years) and the time frame required to gain volume (about 7-8 years).


TAR: How do you finance your farm operations?

AD: To engage the peasant farmers that live around the area, I established a training centre where they apprentice (through experience working on my farm) and learn the business of agriculture.

If they meet my standards, I will buy their produce to meet my volumes.

In the process, they sustain a viable business model and I obtain the volumes required for export.

 

TAR: How can the government alone, or in collaboration with development partners, give farmers the right structure and if possible, a guarantee for their produce?

AD: What these farmers need is a central institution that will act as a buyer, an immediate buyer, paying the farmers who bring their goods, for the price of the produce by weight.

Measure it, buy it and let them take their credit home.

This would provide a measure of security and guarantee to farmers, the kind of system that makes the difference.

It would be best if this were a private sector initiative – by this, I mean not necessarily corporate, but something operating independent of the government, which always takes too much time to get these initiatives off the ground.

In the same way, tying into the previous question, what would really help Ghanaians keen to get involved in the agricultural sector is a land registrar-type institution that would eliminate the issues related to multiple ownership of land and distribute the funds.

 

TAR: Many at this EMRC summit have suggested the mobile phone as a means of transmitting information. Is this viable for your farmers?

AD: Sure, it sounds good as a theory. But where is the electricity to charge the phone?

Where is the money to keep the phones going? I had to pay the equivalent of $5,000 just to get electricity to my farm.

And today, I struggled – in Johannesburg, to get my laptop charged because of plug difficulties.

Solutions need to work practically to be viable.

 

TAR: There has been much talk between corporate heads about seeds and the role of genetically modified crops, but small farmers say they cannot afford the costs of patented seeds.

AD: Seeds, for instance are a crucial concern. If I am to use patented seeds run by monopoly companies, I can consider it a cost.

But small farmers earn nothing, they are peasants. They cannot afford to pay a big multinational corporation fees year on year for use of seeds.

The issue of intellectual property needs to be properly-debated at all levels – just now, people are only focusing on science and environment.

But who sells seeds, how is this market controlled, is a very important issue. We must address it.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 16:03

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