Agric support must target farmers — Prez

President John Dramani Mahama has taken a strong position against agricultural programmes that are packaged to benefit technocrats, at the expense of farmers.

"The direct benefits should go to farmers," he said, insisting that his government would not hesitate to reject any agricultural programme that took away the direct benefits from farmers and gave them to technocrats.

"Technocrats in developing countries and mission support staff are happy to package programmes like these because of who the benefits go to," he said.

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the 38th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, Italy, yesterday, the President indicated that he had kept a close eye on his Cabinet to ensure that the benefits of various agricultural programmes were not taken away from farmers, so that the agenda to transform the rural areas of Ghana became a reality.

"Our rural households need affordable microfinance, improved seeds, extension advice, tractors to till their lands, reapers and threshers. They need a marketing system that allows them to cover their costs and earn a decent living.

"They do not need workshops, consultancies, four-wheel vehicles and the endless reports that are churned out and gather dusts on shelves," he said.

Focus of meeting 
Development leaders and representatives of Heads of State and Government gathered for the opening ceremony, which focused on: "Rural transformation as a key to sustainable development."

The IFAD, an international financial institution and specialised United Nations (UN) agency, has been investing in rural people and empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.

Since 1978, it has provided over US$16.3 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached more than 438 million people.

President Mahama said when he was Vice-President, he was excited when the government rejected a $40-million agricultural support programme because only $5 million was supposed to go to farmers, saying it was not until the programme was repackaged in a reverse situation that the government accepted it.

It was in that context that he commended IFAD for staying on course to ensure that farmers got the most from its programmes, noting that "this is helping to pull many rural Ghanaian families out of poverty".

President Mahama said his vision was to transform the rural areas of Ghana in order to create a more diversified, better integrated and modern rural economy.

"We are currently undertaking the approval process for a US$36 million Ghana Agriculture Sector Improvement Programme which will strengthen agriculture value chains in my country.”

Targeting the youth 
The driving force in promoting agricultural transformation is high on the agenda of the meeting in Rome and the President said he believed targeting the youth was crucial in that respect. He told the gathering that more progress was being made. "Increasingly, we are seeing a crop of young people taking over from their ageing parents," he added.

President Mahama said he was convinced that the transformation of rural agricultural communities could not be achieved without the direct involvement of the rural people.

Touching on the Ebola scourge, the President, who also chairs ECOWAS, said the disease continued to impact negatively on the rural areas of the three most affected countries and that neglecting the rural areas had accounted for the spread.

Tonga King
King Tupou VI of Tonga, an island in the Pacific region, welcomed the theme of the IFAD meeting, saying transformation could become a reality when there was an increased focus on building the risk management and resilience capacity of rural people to manage a changing environment.

IFAD President
The IFAD President, Mr Kanayo F. Nwanze, said the world was "paying the price of inaction" and for neglecting the rural areas. He cited the devastation caused by the Ebola viral disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a typical example. "Food insecurity and hunger are looming as a second crisis, all because for 40 years Ebola has been a disease of the forgotten world," he said.


By: Kwame Asare Boadu 

Date: Tuesday, 17 February 2015