Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC), a nationwide farmers' advocacy group, has urged government to review the mode of National Farmers' Day celebration to include implementation of clear cut policies that will guarantee livelihood of farmers.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra on Friday, Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, Coordinator of GTLC, expressed worry about the current trend of rewarding a few hard working farmers on National Farmers' day with implements and household electrical equipment, saying these would not help solve the myriad of problems faced by farmers.
While the group believed that all the farmers who received awards deserve them, Mr Akalbila said the increasing proof was that the celebration over the years had not helped to develop agriculture in the way that would ensure sustainable development.
He said the best way to make the celebration more relevant was to link the awards to productivity and infrastructure development benchmarks, devoid of politics and to make government accountable and responsive to the needs of millions of food crop farmers.
"This, we believe, should bring to an end the lip service paid to farmers and usher in the next stage, in the over two decades of celebration of a Farmers' Day, that the overwhelming majority of farmers are worthy of and will be proud of," he said.
In reference to tomato, rice and poultry production, Mr Akalbila said government policies over the years had not helped to improve the livelihood of farmers in the sector.
Official data indicates that since 1998 there have been significant increases in the volume of imports of tomato paste.
While the production of fresh tomatoes locally has stagnated at about 200,000 metric tons per year since 2000, tomato paste imports increased sevenfold from 10,731 metric tons in 1998 to 80,455 metric tons in 2002.
He said despite the odds, food crop farmers continued to feed the nation every year and stressed that giving the appropriate support to local producers could enhance their capacity to meet the country's food needs.
"The resilience shown by the Ghanaian farmers has proven their ability to be competitive when given the right support and protection. The conditions for the implementation of these policies exist."
While admitting that government alone could not solve the problems of farmers, Mr Akalbila said the onus still rested on the Executive to ensure that the environment within which the farmers operated was not detrimental to their development.
According to Mr. Akalbila it was just not enough for government to make policy pronouncements, but it must also ensure effective implementation of those policy initiatives.
"The best way to reward farmers is for government to guarantee access to their national markets, to be given targeted investment, to ensure the strict implementation of policies, have access to favourable credit facilities and support farmers to add value to their produce to be competitive on the Ghanaian market."
Mr Akalbila said the group would celebrate its third parallel farmers' week on October 23, to draw government's attention to factors militating against peasant farmers and to impress on government to institute a better reward system for small-scale farmers.
It will be on the theme: "National Farmers' Day: Farmer Efficiency, Government Inefficiency. What Next?” he said.