Some Foodstuffs displayed at the Farmers Day celebration
President John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday saluted Ghanaian farmers for their positive response to the Government's agricultural policies, which have resulted in increased cocoa and food production.
It is this that has saved the nation from food shortages and its accompanying hardships including soaring prices that many countries across the world are currently experiencing.
Addressing the 24th National Farmers Day celebration at Techiman in the Brong-Ahafo Region, he declared: 'The nation cannot thank you enough. You remain, indeed, the backbone of the economy.'
The overall National Best Farmer Award went to 54-year old Dr Simon Saku, Managing Director of Emil Farms at Wenchi in Brong-Ahafo. For his prize, he received a GH¢ 40,000 three-bedroom house to be built at a place of his choice.
Dr Saku operates a private hospital at Wenchi and has farms at Amponsakrom, Wenchi, Subinso, Bedibinom, Abotareye and Aduana all in Brong-Ahafo. The first and second runners-up were Madam Janet Nyabase of Azugyire in the Builsa District of the Upper East Region and Mr Maurice Dery of the Upper West Region, respectively. They drove home a double cabin pickup each.
President Kufuor announced that six modern fishing harbours complete with cold stores and refrigeration facilities at strategic points on the nation's coast, are soon going to be constructed.
The Government has already secured funds for these projects. This, he said should help to reduce the level of post-harvest losses and assist fishers to market their catch in a regulated and commercial manner for higher returns.
The Agricultural Development Bank is also in partnership with the Government to modernise fisheries equipment and fishing vessels through the introduction of fiberglass in the construction of motorised canoes and fishing vessels.
Additionally, a number of alternative livelihood activities selected by the fishers themselves will be introduced in the fishing communities to enable the fishermen and fishmongers to earn incomes during the lean season.
President Kufuor urged the entire farming sector of the nation to show interest in the Millennium Challenge (MCA) Projects, which are being implemented in all the 30 selected districts of the country.
The vision, he said, is to transform the rural economy to support the nation's industrialisation drive. 'As 60 per cent of the country's population is rural, this agricultural modernisation programme provides the surest way to the ultimate prosperity of this country.'
President Kufuor made reference to the tractor assembling plants established at Tema and Kumasi within the past year and asked all stakeholders to take advantage of the emerging opportunities to mechanise Ghana's agriculture.
With barely two months left for his presidency, he said, he has enjoyed working with the farmers and fishers, adding that, they have been solid pillars behind his administration. He used the occasion to counsel them to show keen interest in Election 2008 and to play their respective roles to ensure credible elections.
This way, the stability of the country will be assured for them to continue their good work. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Ernest Akubour Debrah earlier outlined a number of interventions introduced by the Government within the past eight years to raise the level of agricultural production.
These included acquisition and distribution of tractors and other mechanisation equipment; the creation of mechanisation service centres, supply of quality seeds, rehabilitation and development of irrigation infrastructures, subsidy on fertilizers and the promotion of rice cultivation in the Upper East and Northern Regions.
He said the Ministry has intensified the dissemination of agricultural technologies to farmers and that about 2,500 Extension Agents have been empowered to conduct crop and livestock demonstrations in more than 12,500 communities, nationwide.
Apart from this, 2,000 motorbikes will be provided to the extension staff by March 2009. Beginning from next year, they will also be equipped to employ the use of audio-visual vans in agricultural technology dissemination in all the regions.
Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, called on all to be alert as the harmattan approached and to help to prevent bushfires.