President J. A. Kufuor will leave Accra tonight for Washington DC, United States of America, for the historic signing of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which is designed to drive economic growth through the efforts of and for the benefit of some of the poorest farmers and farming communities in selected developing countries.
Ghana will be allowed to utilize about $10 million out of the $547 million to be accessed on preparatory work on the programme after the signing on August 1st. The Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has approved a five-year anti-poverty programme for Ghana with a support package of $547 million.
Ghana's participation in the MCC's programme is predicated on its dedication to three fundamental conditions for the assistance, namely, ruling justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom.
President Kufuor has already inaugurated a 13-member board of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which is chaired by Dr Paa Kwesi Ndom, the Minister for Public Sector Reforms, to oversee the smooth implementation of the compact.
The board was set up as an independent body by Act 702 to supervise the management and implementation of the programme. More than 550 applicants are vying for various positions at the MiDA as advertised by the authority recently.
The compact will benefit more than one million Ghanaians and will focus on rural agriculture, transportation and community development initiatives. It targets some of the poorest rural districts where poverty rates vary from 40 to 90 per cent and will raise the income potential of farmers through increased production of high-value cash and basic food crops, an improved transportation network and development of food processing industries and handling facilities.
Twenty-three districts in the country, including Savelugu-Nanton, Afram Plains, Awutu-Efutu-Senya, Akwapim South, Kpando, Hohoe, South Tongu and Ketu will implement the programme.
The programme's agriculture component – the largest, with an estimated five-year cost of $241 million – would enhance the profitability of commercial agriculture among small farmers, by improving business and farming skills, access to credit, land tenure and marketing services. A total of 135 irrigation ponds and nine weirs are to be constructed in the northern and southern parts of the country.
The transportation component, with an estimated five-year cost of $143 million, includes the rehabilitation of a 14-kilometre stretch of the major highway linking the international airport in Accra, the capital and the port city of Tema. This component also includes financing the rebuilding or construction of 230 kilometres of two-lane roads to improve access to agriculture markets and social services in the central Afram Basin area. Improvement in the Volta Lake ferry service to facilitate faster access to markets will also be supported.
A five-year $101 million rural development component will also aim at expanding access to community services and strengthening rural institutions by funding construction and rehabilitation of schools, water and sanitation facilities, electrification of rural areas, and providing capacity-building support to local government institutions.