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04.02.2006 Feature Article

Historical Odyssey: Agricultural Policies Chapter Two

Historical Odyssey: Agricultural Policies Chapter Two
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Chapter One of our Historical Odyssey was published Saturday, January 28, 2006 It laid the foundation for our onward quest into sustainable agricultural policies needed to propel our economy into the next level of development to help alleviate poverty and create the middle-in! come earning class of citizens that every Ghanaian Politician talks about on the political circuit.

Colin Leys in his work “Development in a Divided World” at page 125 observes that politicians and bureaucrats in most developing nations are not willing to take measures that would entail redistribution of wealth or any threat to their own status or prospects. As was previously argued in Historical Odyssey Chapter One, the unimodal strategy of agricultural development would be preferable to Ghana over the bimodal strategy. However, Leys cautions though that, the pre-occupation of the politician with staying in power trumps any call on them to focus on abstract goal of agricultural development such as push for unimodal strategy that may prove inimical to their self- interest. At page 137, Leys notes that 'the “process” of “choice” rarely consists of an explicit “moment” at which some appropriate person or committee reviews the alternatives and consciously selects one of them. It is generally, a continual process of options foregone, through the passage of time'. In other words, the masses should know that most politicians would do the right thing insofar as it would assure their political longevity. Not otherwise, except for the truly nationalistic or patriotic ones.

After 50-60 years of Colonial agricultural policies aimed at export crop strategy, (1890/1900-1951) followed by more than 50 years of Self-Rule agricultural policies still geared at export crop strategy (1951- present), is it not time to tell our politicians 'the hour is nigh, gird up thy loins' and make the difficult choice of unimodal all-comprehensive strategy for the sake of the nation, not for their own power aggrandizement?

Would Ghana not follow the lead of selfless politicians who will have the fortitude to apply Johnston & Kirby's unimodal precept “that avoid the polarization of agriculture into sub sectors using drastically different technologies”? In Ghana, policies affecting the forestry sub-sector are the responsibility of the Ministry of Forestry with a substantive Minister Prof. Dominick Fobih an! d his band of bureaucrats independent of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) under Mr. Ernest Debrah, who is the minister responsible for the management of the crop and livestock sub-sectors. There is a Ministry for Fisheries under another Minister with his battalion of policy makers. The status of the Ministry of Cocoa Affairs is lost upon this writer, as to whether or not that Ministry still exists in the wake of the 81 plus Ministers we boast of. And, yes, certainly, there are different people manning Ministries of Land and Rural Development. Agriculture in the unholy name of a hydra-headed political nomenclature!

The unimodal structure has a central element as described by Johnston & Kirby: It is “the development and diffusion of highly divisible innovations that promote output expansions within an Agrarian Structure made up of operational units relatively equal in size and necessarily small because of the large number of holdings relative to the cultivated area. The divisibility factor, by rendering new technology applicable to these small units, permits the progressive modernization of an increasing proportion of a country's farmers.” They continue: “Progressive modernization based on widespread adoption of a sequence of innovations compatible with the constraints imposed by structural-demographic characteristics makes it possible to exploit the large potential that exists for augmenting the productivity of the agricultural sector's internal resources of labour and land”. Investment in irrigation and the selling of tube-well water to near-by farmers made the input provided quite divisible in Pakistan and India. The institution of contract ploughing can make the services of tractors quite divisible. When a tractor is hired by a farmer operating a small unit of average size, the input of family members will ensure employment for them, which would not be the case when tractor mechanization is introduced in a large operational unit. Stretch this unimodal divisibility factor to forestry, fisheries and the equipments that may be put to greater use and efficiency. The dreaded land tenure reform can be managed by assuring property rights in private holdings.

What is the picture Ghana portrays? Smallholder farmers on family-operated farms using 'colonial' technology produce about 80 percent of the total agricultural production, insufficient to feed the nation as a whole. World Bank various documents and papers suggest that some of the industrial crops, such as oil palm, rubber, and pineapples are produced on large corporate-managed estates although smallholders also produce significant shares of these crops, especially palm oil. Ghanaian Agro-Economists such as Dapaah calculate that Over 60% of the 1.9 million farm holders in 1994 cultivated under 1.2 hectares, another 25% cultivated between 1.2 and 2.0 hectares while the remaining 15% had holdings over 2.0 hectares. Is this a progressive way to raise agricultural productivity?

Out of a total land area of 23,853,900 hectares, 13,628,179 hectares representing 57% of the total land area of Ghana is suitable for agricultural production. Ten years ago, the total area under cultivati! on was 5,300,000 hectares representing 39% of the total area suitable for cultivation; total area under irrigation was 10,000 hectares while the area under inland waters is 1,100,000 hectares. And today, the current total area under cultivation, is a 5, 809, 000 hectares.

There is an ominous warning from Agro Economists to Ghanaians for the need to rapidly transform agriculture in Ghana as underscored by the fact that Ghana's population is expected to increase to about 36 million by 2020 and thus reduce the agricultural land availability per capita from 0.80 hectares (1995) to 0.38 hectares (2020). This situation will make the traditional shifting cultivation and the limited use of improved technology undesirable from both economic and environmental points of view. Ghana must strive to transform its agriculture from virtual subsistence into a highly productive, efficient and responsive sector of the Ghanaian Economy.

Agro –Economists are united in their conclusion that agriculture is the dominant sector in the Ghanaian economy in terms of its share of GDP, employment and foreign exchange earnings. The sector employs about 70% of the labour force, contributes about 40% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for over 50% of foreign exchange earnings. In addition, it is an important source of raw materials for manufacturing, and finally the agriculturally dependent rural househ! olds (80% of the population) form the largest potential domestic market for textiles and other manufactured products made by agro-industries.

Dapaah, in particular provide statistics to show that in Ghana, the agricultural sector is made up of 5 sub-sectors namely: Crops other than cocoa (63% of agricultural GDP), cocoa (14%), livestock (5%), fisheries (7%), and forestry (11%).

The non-cocoa crop sub-sector includes: cereals (maize, rice, sorghum and millet); roots and tubers (cassava, yam and cocoyam);

Industria! l crops (tobacco, cotton, kola nuts, oil palm, rubber, groundnuts, copra and sugar cane); horticultural crops (pineapples, mangoes, chili peppers, ginger, lime and oranges) and other crops (plantain, banana, beans, tomatoes, etc.).

The fisheries sub-sector includes marine and fresh water products (tuna, shrimps, tilapia, mud fish, lobsters and herrings among others).

The forestry sub-sector includes well known tropical timber species such as Odum and Mahogany and hundreds of other well known and lesser known secondary species.

Are these artificial divisions the rationale for the many Ministries and different policy makers for branches of Agriculture that need a unimodal strategy for rapid growth? It is worrisome to Agro-Economists to find Ghana's agricultural economy shaky as a consequence of 90% of agricultural output going directly in the raw form to final sales and consumption which is at the expense of agro-industrial processing opportunities that offer the greatest prospects for rapid economic growth and prosperity. They fear the absence of an effective agro-industrial processing capability that should have constituted one of the major links in Ghana's quest for sustained agricultural growth and development. A unimodal strategy approach would encompass all this.

Studies have shown that agro-industrial activities have the highest potential in terms of forward and backward linkages. With regard to foreign exchange earnings, though cocoa still ranks high, processing of food crops (especially cassava, fish, fruits and vegetables can make significant contributions. Both the private sector and the government will need to allocate significant resources to distribution and by-product activities, as the former is a major bottle-neck to development whereas the latter is a serious loss to the economy. In addition to the above activities, for agriculture to grow at an annual rate of 3.7% it will also be necessary to establish internationally acceptable quality standards, including packaging, and product presentation.

The need for policy initiatives that may be taken to significantly transform the agricultural sector has been emphasized by scholars who study Ghana Agricultural Policies. A comprehensive unimodal strategy that would include informational, organizational, institutional, attitudinal changes, program initiative, program evaluation and revision is definitely the way to go. This requires a more deliberate and coordinated policy framework than currently exists if Ghanaian agriculture is to be transformed from the present virtual subsistence agriculture into a highly efficient sector capable of providing high quality products in the domestic and world markets at competitive prices on a sustainable basis. Yet, are the policy decision makers we know as politicians, ready to place the nation interest above their narrow political interests?

Dapaah tells that almost 11 years ago, September 6-8, 1995, after collating views from all the 10 Regions of Ghana, from people in all walks of life, in response to the recognition at the highest level of Government that the performance of the Agricultural Sector cannot be properly assessed in isolation, a Multi Disciplinary approach to the assessment of what needs to be done and by whom to transform Ghanaian Agriculture took place, with the following 7 broad themes identified:

1. Complete Review of the Macro-Economic environment as it has evolved during the Structural Adjustment Period to make it more "Agriculture Friendly"

2. The role the Financial Sector has to play in order to attract significant Investment into Agriculture as a safe and profit-generating sector

3. What it will take to attract educated people as well as private entrepreneurs whose ability to acquire and use technology, capital and management skills will bring about the critical mass of efficiency badly needed to transform the sector

4. The most efficient way of securing adequate Agricultural Infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, procurement and handling facilities, agro-processing and se! rviced agricultural estates, feeder roads, etc and the roles of the private sector and Government

5. The development of satisfactory arrangements for the timely procurement of appropriaten agricultural inputs by the private sector with the support of Government

6. Funding of relevant research to identify and eliminate factors that limit efficiency and productivity in the agricultural sector

7. How Ghana can best provide the ! impetus for agriculture to achieve a "quantum jump" aimed at increasing agricultural GDP from the 1994 level of US$3 billion to about $15 Billion in the shortest possible time.

The above themes are some promising steps in reorganizing the country's agricultural sector. These seven themes point to a step in the direction of encouraging a unimodal strategy to agricultural reform. It is a dramatic break from the past experiences of doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results. But the question is how have these 7 themes impacted agriculture? Are we closer today in implementing a unimodal strategy to agriculture? Those are topics for another day.

Historical Odyssey in search of sa! ne Agricultural Policies in Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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