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28.07.2004 Regional News

Focus more on female farmers - Senior Minister

By GNA

Accra, July 28, GNA - Mr J. H. Mensah, Senior Minister, on Wednesday launched this year's National Farmers' Day with a call on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to focus more attention on the problems of very small-scale farmers, especially women.

He said this should be reflected in both the rewards and prizes on offer and the knowledgeable discussions that accompanied the festivities of Farmers' Day.

The day is the 20th in the series scheduled to take place in Ho, in the Volta Region on December 3, this year, under the theme: Food Safety and Improved Nutrition for a Healthy and Active Nation. Mr Mensah said "perhaps the voice of women farmers is not sufficiently heard in the places where official policy is made and apparently not even in the counsels of the voluntary farming associations where their numerical strength vis-vis the men ought to be giving them a much bigger voice".

He said it remained a regrettable fact that producers of basic food supplies in Ghana had for so long been stuck to low levels of productivity.

In a national social survey, the staple food farmers, especially the small-scale female farmers, were identified as the most economically deprived of all the disadvantaged segments of Ghanaian society. He said until the average level of productivity among Ghanaian farmers had increased many times over and their incomes had correspondingly improved far beyond the low subsistence levels of today. He said biological; mechanical; chemical and water management avenues could be explored to raise the standards of agricultural productivity and wealth in the farming population.

He said "too often our fascination with the mechanical aspects of agricultural productivity had tended to override the attention that we needed to pay to science and technology in the fields of both adaptive and fundamental research among the arsenal of supports which the nation must give to its farmers.

Mr Mensah said many observers have been taken aback by the increases in cocoa production because of practical new technologies developed by research scientist and imparted to them.

The advancement of knowledge and accumulation of human capital that manifested itself in modern farming skills among large numbers of farmers would always remain the most important propellers on the nation's progress towards increased productivity

He said strategically designed programme for the judicious application of farming chemicals to Ghanaian agriculture could pay great dividends as has been demonstrated for instance in the suppression of cocoa diseases with chemical agents.

The Senior Minister noted it was however worth while to call attention to the need for the greatest circumspection in the area. He said government had tried to multiply the volume of credit and other financial resources that were allocated to farmers by public and financial institutions.

He said the recent frightening epidemic of animal fevers entering into the human food chain through infected poultry in South and East Asia should be a warning signal on the issue of food security thereby making the theme for this year's farmers day most significant.

He said there was also the need to create awareness of the cost of poor nutrition to the overall productivity and wealth of the nation. Major Courage Quarshigah (Rtd), Minister of MOFA said some challenges facing food safety standards were the use and misuse of agro chemicals with their residual effects on human, crops and animals. The other challenge was also the mode of transportation of food stuffs, animals and vegetable products, from production point to the consumer.

"I am sure many of you are concerned when you see foodstuffs displayed on the bare dirty floor by the road side and in our markets for sale to the public."

He said a food safety committee for the Greater Accra region to ensure proper handle of food and others would soon be established. He said the Ministry was taking steps in collaboration with the Departments and Agencies to promote safe food.

The Ministry was working with Ghanaian exporters to establish a kind of clearing house where Ghanaian export product could be screened and commonly packaged and branded to ensure that food exports, among others met international standards.

Mr Eddie Martey Akita, Minister of State in --charge of Fisheries, in an appeal for funds said the Ministry needed between six and eight billion cedis to adequately honour the farmers.

Various organisations pledged to support the Day with the sector Ministry pledging one outboard motor, ten fishing nets and thirty million cedis valued at one hundred million cedis.

Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority also pledged one outboard motor, ten boxes of matchets, a tour of Tema and cruise on Atlantic Ocean, valued at 105 million cedis.

Others are Wienco Ghana Limited, a brochure, various fertilizers, and spray machines estimated at 105 million cedis and Agricultural Development Bank pledged a house, well furnished and a generator.

An Indian Company, Dunkwa Continental Goldfields Limited owner of African Machine Tools, a manufacturing company pledged one horsepower tractor to be named Quashigah Tractor.

Mr Kris Kapoor, Resident Director of the Company, said the implements would be assembled locally.

He said in the next four years the Company would begin to manufacture tractors locally.

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