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03.09.2004 General News

ASTAG conference opens in Kumasi

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Kumasi, Sept 3, GNA- Government envisages that within the next five years, a minimum of 100,000 hectares of oil palm would be cultivated under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on oil palm, reaching one million hectares by 2015.

In order to achieve this target, the Oil Palm Research Institute (OPRI) has produced two million pre-germinated seedlings for distribution to nursery operators while 12 high-tech nurseries have also been set up.

Mr Ishmael Ashitey, Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and PSI, announced this at the 18th annual general conference of the Agricultural Science Teachers Association of Ghana (ASTAG) in Kumasi on Wednesday.

He said more than 100,000 farmers have so far been organised and provided with extension services, supplied with high-yielding planting materials and also offered financial support for the cultivation of cassava to feed the Ayensu Starch Factory at Awutu-Bawjiase.

Mr Ashitey said lack of qualified agricultural officers to ensure the success of the programme was affecting the project.

The Minister said it was regrettable that over the years, the country had depended on the export of few primary commodities for foreign exchange.

Mr Ashitey said there was, therefore, the need to diversify the country's production base to improve the economy.

Mr Lawrence Adu-Amoah, National President of ASTAG, expressed concern about non-existence of a comprehensive policy and legal framework on agricultural education, which had led to the frequent changes in second-cycle agricultural programmes.

He called for the re-introduction of the agricultural and environmental education division in the Ghana Education Service (GES), which was scrapped in 1994, to ensure effective administration, supervision, monitoring and co-ordination of agricultural programmes. Mr Adu-Amoah again called for the establishment of Vocational Agriculture and Agricultural Business Departments in the universities and polytechnics to take care of Senior Secondary School students in Agriculture.

Mr Kofi Britwum, Ashanti Regional Director of Education, asked the participants to come out with programmes and inputs that would move away from what he termed " examination and certificate conscious agricultural education" into a more practical aspect of producing abundant food and other cash crops.