Agriculture should be moved from the usual supply-focused approach to a demand-driven one whereby the government works with farmers to identify readily available markets to inform what they produce, Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr. Kodjo Esseim Mensah-Abrampa, has advised.
“Traditionally, what we [government] do is to provide seedlings, fertilizers, and related support to farmers, telling them what to grow or produce. When their product is ready for the market, they are ignored, leaving them to struggle to sell what is produced.
“This has been the cyclical approach to agriculture, which ends up making the farmers even poorer as they produce more based on ‘cobweb theory’ because they cannot obtain markets to sell,” he said at a national dialogue on vegetables in Accra organized by the Agency for Health and Food Security (AHES).
The one-day forum was held on the theme “Systems approach to vegetable value chain policy, pandemic response and AfCFTA”.
According to the NDPC boss, it is only with demand-driven agriculture that farmers would be able to determine the volume of various crops to produce to curtail the perennial food glut and wastage across the value chain.
In Ghana, there are seasons when basic food items such as maize, rice, mango, avocado, and eggs flood various markets and food points across the country, after which they gradually disappear from the markets.
Dr. Mensah-Abrampa said the Covid-19 crisis calls for prioritizing and investing in areas where change is most needed, especially the dominant agricultural sector.
“If we want to modernize agriculture, this is the time to put the resources where agriculture can be modernized. If we want to modernize industrialization, this is the time; and the opportunities have been created,” he said.
“Governance elements of agriculture must be looked at—where are the policies, regulations, and road infrastructure? These are very important, and there must be a conscious effort to bring about these changes,” he added.
He said farming is a business and must be approached with entrepreneurial skills and effective training of farmers.
In the absence of such capacity building and empowerment, he said, most farmers just offer their labor in a very tedious way in order to get something out of it, instead of seeing farming as an entrepreneurial activity that they can invest in.
“Whenever there is a disaster, our farmers just throw their arms in the air and cry because we have not taught them the means to identify risks and adapt, and therefore, they are not entrepreneurs,” he noted.
Director-General of the NDPC, Dr. Kodjo Esseim Mensah-Abrampa, wants a new paradigm for the agricultural sector to help better the lives of farmers and other actors.