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18.03.2009 Business & Finance

AGRA announces 25 million-dollar package for farmers


Ghanaian farmers have an opportunity to access a 25 million-dollar loan initiated by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an international non-governmental organization led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that advocates policies supporting key aspects of Africa's agriculture.

The amount, which is a loan aimed at providing credit at affordable rates to small holder farmers and agricultural producers, is expected to help expand opportunities for raising agricultural productivity, food security, incomes and employment in targeted countries.

Ghana is among four countries including Mozambique, Uganda and Tanzania selected for the project.

The programme is being carried out with the support of Standard Bank, Africa which is providing up to 100 million dollars over a period of three years.

Mr Kofi Annan, Chairman of AGRA, in a speech before the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project, noted that Africa can and should become self-sufficient in food production.

However, lack of access to finance was a major obstacle that prevented farmers from investing in basic inputs such as good seeds, fertilizers and small scale irrigation needed to raise farm productivity and generate profit, he said.

“Little or no commercial financing has been available to entrepreneurs seeking to build businesses that could boost Africa's food production and enable farmers to earn profit,” Mr Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, said.

Commenting on the global financial crisis, he said Africans cannot let the global financial crisis deter them from moving on as “life continues”.

He said such programmes as the AGRA-Standard Bank initiative would help increase productivity of small holder farmers in Africa and ultimately enable Africa to achieve food security and stability and also improve the entire global outlook.

Mr Annan expressed the hope that there would be insurance products that would help the farmers to do well.

Mr Kwasi Ahwoi, Minister of Agriculture, who expressed excitement about the programme, said Ghana and other African countries had not yet got all the components that went into making agriculture successful.

“In Ghana, we import almost everything we eat with the exception of roots and tubers,” he said, and expressed the hope that the programme would help Ghanaian farmers produce more.

Mr Namanga Ngongi, President of AGRA, said the programme intended to use structures like farmer-based organizations that already existed in the four countries to get to the local farmers.

Mr Jacko Maree, Chief Executive of the Standard Bank group, said the bank hoped to play a transformational role in the agriculture sector in Africa, pointing out; “transforming small scale farmers into medium sized enterprises is essential to address the food security situation and stimulate economic growth”.

Mr Martin Esoun-Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Development Authority, announced an additional two million dollars as the organization's contribution to the programme.