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23.05.2016 Opinion

How Germany Celebrates Its Agricultural Stakeholders – And Lessons For Ghana And Africa

By Stephen Hicks Acheampong
How Germany Celebrates Its Agricultural Stakeholders – And Lessons For Ghana And Africa
LISTEN MAY 23, 2016

“German Trade Fairs are the Market Places of the World” is a notice posted nicely and glaringly on one of the walls at the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Accra. I saw this, when I and my quartet delegation appeared at the Consular Section on the last but one day of year ending 2015; for our visa interviews, in order to enable us attend and participate in the international conference and trade fair in January 2016. It was around month ending of November 2015; when my company, the International Mindedness Front Ghana Limited (IMFG LTD) facilitated an industry-centered-travel-and-see opportunity for one of its major clients, the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union – the largest farmer-owned cocoa fair-trade cooperative in Ghana and the world.

As a corporate travel partner for this prominent organization and its subsidiaries, I led a delegation to Germany; with two officers of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union and its subsidiary company; Kuapa Kokoo Limited. Consequently, the Administrative Manager – Mr. Bernard Yaw Missedja and a Sector and District Manager – Mr. Eric Fiifi Cudjoe, of one of their cocoa growing districts in the Sefwi Akontombra area of the Western Region; were extended an invitation by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMEL) in cooperation with GFFA Berlin E.V., the Senate of Berlin and Messe Berlin GMBH to participate in the 8th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) conference, and subsequently in the 90th edition of the International Green Week (IGW).

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture is an international conference that focuses on the central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry. It is held during International Green Week (IGW); which was established in 1926 – International Green Week took place for the ninetieth (90th) time in 2016. The international Green Week is a one-of-a-kind international exhibition for the food, agricultural and horticultural industries. At the same time, the International Green Week is the point of origin for the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture with more than sixty (60) departmental ministers. Producers from all over the world come to the International Green Week to test market food and luxury items and reinforce their brand image. Following consumer trends, regional and global sourcing plays an increasingly important role. Renewable resources, organic agricultural, rural development and gardening continue to gain importance at International Green Week. All together, the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) and the International Green Week (IGW) was hosted from the 14th – 24th January 2016 at City Cube and Messe Berlin respectively, in the German Federal capital, Berlin.

It’s been a long time, since 2012, when I had the opportunity to travel to Germany for the first time. Ever since, procrastination – which is a thief of time – has not allowed me, in my daunting quest to find time and a recollective state of mind to write an op-ed piece on my thoughts, experiences and impressions on Germany and German examples, and the vital lessons and much more we could learn from; including how this great country has transitioned from her Prussian and Reich past into a major and matured democracy with some time tested institutions that are contributing immensely to global affairs.

Two years after 2012, I came so close in my quest to write an op-ed, when the German national men football team – Nationalelf (National Eleven) or Die Mannschaft (The Team) won the 20th edition of the quadrennial world football championship – the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. As someone who grew up with the then TransTel broadcast Football Made in Germany on Ghanaian television screens in the late eighties (80’s) and early nineties (90’s); I was filled with utmost euphoria and some nostalgic feelings in my front row seat at the Goethe Institute, Accra, where I watched all German matches of Brasil 2014; and thus the final match between Germany and Argentina, which brought me reminiscence of the Italia 90 FIFA World Cup. I remember I sent a mail to some contacts at the German embassy, Accra, and predicted a repetition of history albeit, Italia 90 final; and it came to pass!

Thus when the final whistle was sounded for the end of the match, in the final game of Brasil 2014; and having lived for the past twenty-four (24) years since Italia 90 to witness another great feat in German football history, my thought processes was flooded with emotions of utter gratefulness to my creator for the little mercies and grace he has bestowed upon my life, responsibility to myself for not making any bad choices and an abiding faith I have had in my country; and much, much more; in that, to me personally, the German victories at Italia 90 and Brasil 2014 evinces how far we have come as a people, the progress we have made both as individuals and as nations in the invariable struggle to better our personal lives and to build our nations with the understanding that nation building is and always would be a constant work in progress.

I remember vividly as a ten (10) year old boy then; sitting in between my grandfather’s legs and in front of a small black and white television, which a struggling civil servant with the then Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation in the Upper East regional capital, Bolgatanga; could afford to buy, as one of the most deluxe items owned by my grandparents, in the government owned estate house we used to stayed in – known as low cost housing. It was simply blissful, when Lothar Matthaus, the winning captain of Italia 90 lifted the trophy – the World Cup, to cheering supporters in the stadium and to millions around the world by means of sheer human technological ingenuity of television and radio. Thus when history repeated itself, in 2014, the lifting of the World Cup by the German Captain – Philip Lahm; signaled the top of our hour as a people, enlightened and empowered by our new media and technological prowess as the tournament was apart from the traditional broadcasting medium of radio and television, there was a broadcast on facebook, twitter, whatsapp and other social media platforms.

After the German victory at Brasil 2014 FIFA World Cup during the summer, I had very much wanted to visit Germany for a myriad of some personal reasons. Thus an opportunity came knocking later in the year, when my nonprofit organization – the Association of Global Citizens-Ghana (AGC-GHANA), a subsidiary of the Association of World Citizens (AWC), a Novato, California – based peace and human rights international organization with NGO consultative status with the United Nations and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council; was invited to an international conference from the 3rd to 6th December 2014, which was themed – Migrations of Knowledge: Potentials and Limits of Knowledge Production and Critique in Europe and Africa, organized by the European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations at the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg – Oldenburg Germany. After the German conference, I and my other colleagues also headed to Vienna, Austria as international delegates at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Civil Society Forum and the ensuing governmental conference – the 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons; which together with the civil society forum both happened within the period; 6th and 7th and from the 8th and 9th December 2014.

Since my first experience in 2012, which was in a way occasioned by the then, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy, Accra – Mr. Thomas Wimmer; when he requested that, my organization should consider, an extension of our United States program – the Holocaust and Human Rights Experiential Educational Journey Program to Places of Institutional Value in Germany as we have done in the past to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the United Nations and the Holocaust Outreach Division at the UN Headquarters in New York et al.

Through all my travels, in and out of Germany, I have experienced a lot, in terms of technological and cultural advancement, the social and economic well being of the German people; which reflects positively than negatively, in their people-to-people relationships with other people from different cultural backgrounds and persuasions….a conscious and strategic total new German face to the world, after the 2nd World War. All these experiences, opinions and much more I have been yearning to just find the motivation and time, and to dig deep into myself to write for the possible learning and the sharing value of whatever I could write for publication. I have been promising myself and others since 2012 that; my op-ed would be coming soon to, as they say; to a theater near you – that savvy marketing commercial employed for film adverts on television and radio in order to attract movie goers. In my instance it would thus come soon to a newspaper or an online news portal near you; in this era of a dominant media culture, and yes it has come!

Finally I found the much needed inspiration, in an Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) publication. It was in, an interesting and very well written book I have vowed before going to Germany to complete reading upon my return to Ghana; after the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) and the International Green Week (IGW). This abiding promise to self was made possible because, the delegation I traveled with to Germany returned to Ghana four days earlier than scheduled due to other equally vital work commitments. Accordingly, on my day of departure from Berlin’s Tegel airport, on a short transit through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport enroute to Ghana; and since I wasn’t with the delegation for any chit chats in the flight, I concentrated on enjoying my flight back home, by reading Justice Daniel Francis Annan’s memoir; In the Service of Democracy, written by two astute Ghanaian politicians and academics – Nana Ato Dadzie and Kwamena Ahwoi. In a part of the conclusion of the said book, the authors recounted Justice Annan’s believed in the ordinary Ghanaian and the African.

He believed in the commitment and dedication that the small-scale private farmer whose toil on the cocoa and food farm kept the nation going all these years. Again he believed if any one failed the nation, it was the educated intelligentsia who failed to apply their knowledge and education to the solution of the problems of the country and rather parroted and imposed theories and programs which were simply inapplicable and inappropriate to our social, political and economic circumstances. In the end, Justice Annan believed that education and agriculture held the key to the rapid growth of Ghana.

I very much afire and align my thinking to that of Justice Annan’s believe in education and agriculture holding the trump card for this country’s future. Thus again, my thought process had been penduluming back and forth trying to find a linkage, a connection and a somewhat common denominator, in order to be able to propose for the consideration of government and or the private sector, on how we as a people and a nation could creatively and catalytically in a possible public private partnership (PPP) commence a groundbreaking enterprise to restrategize and restructure our National Farmers’ Day commemoration, and include in addition to the current focus of the statusquo, a conscious and a well planned agricultural trade fair akin to the aims and objectives which the award winning International Green Week seeks to achieve.

In this era of mergers and takeovers in global economic circles, I trust it would cater to our sub regional interest if we could harness our brilliant annual National Farmers’ Day initiative together with others in West Africa with a view to expand to the rest of Africa in the future. West African governments and or the private sector could create and co-create a grand Agricultural Trade Fair with some measure of international repute and much more. I trust our Farmers’ Day has come of age, since its inception by the Government in 1985 in recognition of the vital role farmers and fishers play in the economy especially the highly commendable output of farmers and fishermen in 1984, (about 30% growth), after the bad agricultural years of 1982 and 1983. The day is celebrated to motivate them to produce more.

The first National Farmers’ Day was celebrated on Friday, December 1986, at Osino in the Eastern Region. It is time for a redirection and restructuring, a bold quest to broaden the larger vision, which should consciously and conscientiously include the citizens of the countries in the West African sub region – a strategic Peoples’ (Citizens) Agricultural Trade Fair. Gleaning for information from the website of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA-GHANA); the following were listed as the key players in the celebration of Farmers’ Day – farmers, fishermen, agro-processors, researchers, donors of awards, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Fisheries Commission and financial institutions, Agricultural Input distributors and other service providers. A correction of this, neglect of the citizens (we the people) as a key player in the celebration of Farmers’ Day; I firmly believe it’s a vital neglect that needs to be corrected, if we want to make something of an economic value out of our present Farmers’ Day celebration. More importantly so, if we want to lead as a country, in the organization of a sub-regional or continental version of our brilliant idea and blueprint, the Farmers’ Day. The citizens should be made to believe they own or co-own the celebrations.

Thus I propose that, the one or two week(s) leading to the celebration of the National Farmers’ Day holiday, should serve the purpose of a strategic sub-regional Agricultural Trade Fair, which could conclude on the day of the stipulated national holiday. Hence the proposed Agricultural Trade Fair could serve as a special herald of an event for the festive season, Christmas – where folks could shop for all their must haves and much more for Christians, everything agricultural produce whether raw or processed; in the end, the proposed model agricultural trade fair would help to make the Farmers’ Day holiday to be a Day On NOT a Day Off!!!

By now we all know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society. In the 21st Century we depend on each other. As Europe’s largest economic player; Germany, in consistence with its foreign policy objective, does not pursue any power politics in its relations with Africa, and for that matter Ghana. The Federal Republic of Germany has developed fruitful and long standing relations with Ghana, and has further demonstrated a lot of goodwill towards the country. To this end I hope a team of agricultural and agri-business policy specialists, trade and trade fair experts could be advanced to the next International Green Week and possibly the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin in January 2017 if all things being equal, to understudy these two international world food and agricultural trade fair and conference respectively for possible replication in the Ghanaian and or West African sub region.

Although economic co-operation between Germany and Ghana dates as far back as 1961, the legal basis for the co-operation between our two countries was the Technical and Economic Co-operation Agreement signed in 1975. In the 1990’s, it was estimated that there were between (2) Two and (4) Four million Ghanaians, representing 10-20 (%) percent of our national population, resident abroad. Out of that number, there were about Twenty-Two Thousand (22,000) Ghanaians including doctors, engineers, teachers and nurses, legally resident in Germany.

In fact, Ghanaians formed the largest group of immigrants from Africa south of the Sahara in Germany. They had established their own churches, shops, social and political organizations. Their remittances to relations in Ghana impacted positively on our economy. As Ghanaians go to Germany for varied reasons, so was ours, and as international delegates in Berlin in January; we well participated in and contributed meaningfully to the conference theme “How to Feed our Cities? Agriculture and Rural Areas in an Era of Urbanization”

Urbanization is one of the future challenges of humankind, and supplying people in growing urban areas is a particular challenge. If we are to cope with this, in addition to a modern sustainable farming sector, partnership-based cooperation is required, with rural and urban developments working hand in hand and building on one another. Agricultural policy – in cooperation with other policy fields – must take these aspects into account.

It must assume its responsibility in the global dialogue with science, industry and civil society in order to allow sustainable agriculture, vibrant rural areas and expanding towns and cities to develop together and complement one another. The GFFA 2016 provided fresh impetus in this process. How? With a host of events, ranging from expert panels, high level panels under the direction of international organizations and institutions, to the International GFFA Panel and an Agriculture Ministers’ Summit at the end, which was attended by Fiifi Fiavi Kwetey – Member of Ghana’s Parliament and Minister of the sector.

As a world food conference of international recognition, it now has a special place in the agenda of Agriculture Ministries around the globe. During the past years, more than 60 Ministers of Agriculture from all around the world have participated in this conference.

The main events of the GFFA include the International GFFA Panel and the BMEL’s Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Summit. The publicly-held International GFFA Panel Discussion took place on a Saturday morning in the City Cube Berlin. High-level representatives from politics, business, science and civil society discussed the topic in front of approximately one thousand (1,000) international guests. A Cooperation Workshop was held at the same time, offering associations, companies, universities and the BMEL the opportunity to present the activities they are carrying out in the agri-food sector. Following this, the agriculture ministers convened in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office for the Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Summit (not public). A final communiqué representing the common position of the ministers was drawn up for incorporation into the ongoing international discourse on agricultural policy.

The facts speak for themselves: more than half of the global population already live in urban areas today. Three-quarters of the global population, i.e. around 7 billion people, are expected to be living in urban agglomerations by 2050. Alongside globalization, urbanization is indisputably one of the main trends of our time. In view of rapidly growing conurbations, discussions are being conducted everywhere on how to supply urban residents with housing, water, energy, access to education, access to health care and income opportunities. The focus is on key issues relating to the economic, ecological and social development of a rapidly growing urban population. Urbanization also focuses on the question of how we can feed urban populations in the coming years. How can we ensure that the growing populations in cities are supplied with safe and healthy food? What impact will urbanization have on agriculture and rural areas in the different parts of the world and what role will agriculture and rural areas play?

The Forum established an international conference in recent years that provides politics, business, science and civil society with an opportunity to engage in an intensive debate on the future of the global agri-food sector. The outcome of the various GFFA events provided guidance for the Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Summit, the largest international conference of agriculture ministers in the world. A joint Communiqué was adopted at the end of the Forum that gave an impetus to international debates on agricultural policy and processes. For it is our joint aim to ensure food security in the growing cities of the future.

At the following Expert and High Level Panel Discussions – For the future of the city, the village has to survive! A strong rural area ensures food security for cities; which was organized by the Catholic Rural Movement in Germany and the German-African Business Association. Perspectives instead of Migration: Fair Trade as an Instrument against Rural Exodus; which was also organized by the Fair Trade Network Germany….the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Commission of the European Union (EU), were the conveners of the two individual choice sit-in High Level Panels.

At all these panel discussions, the Administrative Manager of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union – Mr. Bernard Yaw Missedja; made a strong case for farmer owned cooperatives or agricultural cooperatives in general citing the Kuapa Kokoo (good farming cocoa) model as a best practice for international emulation, and a well and assured means by which agricultural aid and other technical assistance to farmers, especially the rural farmer, is put into better and efficient use than in the hands of government bureaucrats. The Cooperation Market sessions, was fun and filled with a cabal of networking opportunities for business contacts making; as well as an avenue to discuss other future project endeavors with fellow delegates and other manufacturers of agriculture machinery and inputs from Germany and beyond.

After the GFFA events, our delegation was hosted together with the Food and Agriculture Minister of the Republic of Ghana, Fiifi Fiavi Kwetey; on a special guided tour of the International Green Week (IGW). On this tour of the ginormous grounds of the Messe Berlin, where the IGW was been hosted, we saw and experienced a lot which we believe if we could replicate a quarter or half of what the IGW offers; Ghana, the West African sub region and Africa at large would benefit a great deal and thus be a better place for her farmers and citizens alike.

We saw exhibitions by a lot of countries from around the world, but only three countries from Africa representing, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Morocco – I trust these three countries, are serious with their Agriculture and Tourism sectors. The Kingdom of Morocco was a partner country for the International Green Week 2016. We concluded our guided tour with a special lunch, hosted by a Bavarian Minister at the vast stance of the Bavarian Pavilion at the International Green Week. It was simply awesome an experience! Thanks to Mr. Hauke Plambeck, the Managing Director of Fairpros for making this guided tour arrangements possible. Fairpros is the official representative of five leading German trade fair organizers, the one-stop market access provider for Africa and its people. Expanding the reach of Africa is their goal.

The last schedule on our bill was a meeting with Sonia Lehmann of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa (GISCO) at the fair grounds of the International Green Week. The German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa’s secretariat is hosted by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH with an objective to promote sustainable cocoa farming with the aim of addressing economic and ecological aspects and, in particular, improving the lives of people involved in cocoa production, increasing the proportion of cocoa produced sustainably and thus satisfy the growing demand within the private sector for cocoa produced in this way. As Kuapa Kokoo shares in the larger vision of the GISCO and the above objectives, officers of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union and its subsidiary Kuapa Kokoo Limited; met and discussed the way forward as to how Kuapa Kokoo could take advantage of this opportunity to better their lot.

Since Berlin is such a historical city, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Berlin to the best of our abilities; the weather was unfriendly and crazily cold, it was such a bad wintery weather condition – we were told there isn’t a bad weather, but there are bad clothes. We were cautioned by Sonia of GISCO to be careful not to have cold feet when we intimated to her after our meeting that, we were visiting the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) and other places with the kind help of resident Ghanaian couples of Berlin for the past thirty five years. Thus they know their city inside out. I cannot conclude this op-ed without expressing my heartfelt appreciation to current and past folks at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Accra. They first requested I write my experiences and share with a wider public after I returned from my first visit.

In conclusion as we prepare to celebrate a continental holiday on 25th May (AU DAY); I hope we would reflect on the national, sub regional or continental level proposal of an Agricultural Trade Fair and a related conference series for all the stakeholders in the agriculture and agri-business sector in our part of the world; akin to the International Green Week and its related embryonic conference, the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture; the German answer to the central questions concerning the future of the global agri-food industry.

In the end let’s, resolve to use the best practices from around the world to catalytically better our countries, sub regions or continent. We should simply quicken our green revolution, in order to be in a better position to solve our welfare needs as a people and a country and or continent. Finally with all what I witnessed at the International Green Week and the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture; and I have recounted above, I trust I can unflinchingly confirm that, Yes, German trade fairs are the market places of the world…we went, and we bought a lot on our return!!!

*Stephen Hicks Acheampong; doubles as the Chief Executive Officer, of the International Mindedness Front Ghana Limited (IMFG LTD); and the Country Lead, for the Association of Global Citizens-Ghana (AGC-GHANA). He can be reached at the following corporate contact details: [email protected] and [email protected]

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