Food A-Plenty: Planting For Food And Jobs Not Digging For Gold

Feature Article Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto
DEC 13, 2018 LISTEN
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto

“Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, and there shall arise after them seven years of famine… And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” - Genesis Chapter 41

OWUSU AFRIYIE AKOTO may have put his academic knowledge as an agricultural economist to good use to prop up agriculture. Or he may have put his experience at the International Coffee Organisation London for almost two decades to effective use as the Minister of Food and Agriculture in the Akufo-Addo administration from February 2017. Where some people see arrogance in his mien, others rather see assertiveness. He may talk because he knows and he is convinced about his knowledge.

Depending on which side of the political divide you are on, you may appreciate or denounce his progenitor, Baffuor Osei Akoto, Asantehene's Chief Linguist. You may recall Baffuor Osei Akoto's fight for a fair price for cocoa to the farmers. He fought against Dr. Nkrumah's dictatorial policies, and got imprisoned without trial after being targeted with others and arrested without trial. Applications for habeas corpus would not work because he had been properly incarcerated under the Preventive Detention Act. You may listen to Re: Akoto and 7 others and learn how Article 13 of the 1960 Constitution requiring the President to proclaim, among others, “That… no person should be deprived of freedom of religion or speech…” was abused, blatantly and flagrantly,

Now, the focus is on Baffuor Akoto's son, Dr. Owusu – Afriyie Akoto, as the one whose magic wand has yielded food in abundance in Ghana. Some people thought 'Planting for Food and Jobs' was a hoax. The programme is structured around 5 pillars; seed, fertilisers, extension services, marketing and monitoring. The Minister is personally involved. You could see him all over the place – in Wellington boots and clothing well-suited for farm-work.

It is not surprising that plantain is overly abundant, to the extent that some are being exported to Togo and Burkina Faso. Go to Agogo and you will be assailed by the market-women with cheap plantain – a big bunch of plantains for only GH¢5 where a few months ago, the same bunch was selling for GH¢300! It is a bumper harvest for food and crops, and Dr. Afriyie Akoto has made it happen. In the past, plantain, cassava, yam and other food crops were being imported from neighbouring countries being Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso. Have you not heard of the criticism against the NPP government for claiming credit for this bumper harvest? Honourable Akandoh says it is the abundance of rain which has done the trick.

Should it surprise anyone? You may or may not have heard of the 'Columbus Egg' (an excellent idea or discovery may seem simple and easy after the fact). Girolamo Benzoni, in his book 'History of the New World' published in 1565, wrote: “Columbus being at a party with many noble Spaniards, where, as was customary, the subject of conversation was Indies: one of them undertook to say: 'Mr. Christopher, even if you had not found the Indies, we should not have been devoid of a man who would have attempted the same that you did, here in our own country of Spain, as it is full of great men clever in cosmography and literature'. Columbus said nothing in answer to these words, but having desired an egg to be brought to him, he placed it on the table saying: 'Gentlemen, I will wager with any of you, that you will not make this egg stand up as I will, naked and without anything at all.' They all tried, and no one succeeded in making it stand up. When the egg came round to the hands of Columbus, he beat it down on the table, he fixed it, having thus crushed a little of one end; wherefore all remained confused, understanding what he would have said: that after the deed is done, everybody knows how to do it; that they ought first to have sought for the Indies, and not laugh at him who had sought for it first, while they for some time had been laughing, and wondered at it as an impassibility.”

Those of us born before independence may have noticed the abundance of food in pre-independence times – ripe plantains were in abundance, and sometimes thrown away at the market-places; these were picked up and made into 'kelewele', 'akrakuro' and other tasty dishes eaten as desserts, in addition to the normal 'Kofi Brokeman', plus groundnuts.

We may also recall Kutu Acheampong's 'Operation Feed Yourself' which was championed by the late Colonel Frank George Bernasko in the 1970s, best remembered for what he did for agriculture. Col. Bernasko introduced the Dawhenya Irrigation Project as part of his agricultural revolution which culminated in the bumper harvests.

Dr. Bawumia is saying “…planting for Food and Jobs is a success. It testifies to our belief in taking bold decisions to transform the agricultural sector – that would attract private capital into large-scale commercial agriculture”. We may not have a perfect post-harvest culture, thereby losing more than 318,500 tonnes of maize. According to Mr. Christian Marfo, if he did not get maize “… for 150,000 birds, they will die.”

James Obeng Boateng was the proud winner of this year's 'Best Farmer'; he went home richer by GH¢480,000 – a far cry from the award of a cutlass and Wellington boots for the National Best Farmer in the past. However, some critics have argued against the selection criteria which tend to favour wealthy large-scale farmers to the detriment of the larger majority of small holder farmers. Some people think that government should focus on productivity in work and yield output rather than farm size.

Can you guess the secret behind this successful bumper harvest? Is there any link between the ban on 'galamsey' and the abundance of food? We are told that government may lift the ban on 'galamsey'. No, not 'galamsey' but registered legal mining. Should we pray that people do not take advantage of this lifting of the ban and uproot all the goodies on the land. Well…

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By Africanus Owusu-Ansah