'Lift ban on recruitment of extension agents'
Peasant farmers in the three northern regions have called for the ban on the employment of new agricultural extension officers to be lifted.
They noted that 'poor access to extension services has led to poor agronomic practices, post-harvest management, inefficient use of inputs, overuse of pesticides, low adaptive capacity for use of research and technology and other information that could help increase productivity'.
The farmers made the call in Tamale during a sensitisation workshop jointly organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) and SEND-Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, to get the concerns of the farmers for input into the review of extension policy in Ghana.
According to the farmers, graduates from the various agricultural colleges were only allowed to do their national service with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), 'but after that MoFA is not allowed to employ any of them'.
'Their only chance of employment with the ministry is when somebody dies or retires, after which they can be considered to replace the dead or retired employee,' they stated.
They noted that most of the time the vacancies created by retired or dead employees were not filled by technical people such as extension or veterinary officers.
'At times, we the farmers have to provide fuel for extension agents to visit our farms and advise us, as they complain that their offices do not provide them with fuel', one of the farmers said.
After listening to the concerns of the farmers, the Programmes Manager of SEND-Ghana, Mr Daniel Adotey Akai, said the decision by the government to ban the recruitment of agricultural extension agents was very unfortunate, in view of the critical role that they play in agricultural development.
He said current statistics available indicated that the extension agent to farmer ratio was 1:3,000, while the target ratio for MoFA was 1:1,200.
'From the statistics available, it is clear that MoFA has not reached its threshold on recruitment. Therefore, why should it be denied from employing critical staff such as extension agents who play a vital role in our agricultural development?' he asked.
Mr Adotey said a group of civil society organisations expressed a similar concern when they met the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture.
Some of the farmers asked their colleague farmers to seek advice from other farmers in the interim, as some of the experienced farmers were knowledgeable enough to share information with their colleagues on best farming practices.