2019 has been an amazing year for agriculture and science in Ghana. Government’s flagship ‘Planting for Food and Jobs Programme’ has not only made enormous impact in helping boost food security over the last 12 months. It has also evolved into other groundbreaking initiatives like the ‘Rearing for Food and Jobs Programme,’ even as the ‘Planting for Export and Rural Development Initiative’ continues to grow.
Parliament also passed into law the Tree Crop Development Bill that will allow for the establishment of a Tree Crop Development Authority to help boost the production of cash crops like cashew, oil palm, shea and rubber as COCOBOD has done for the cocoa sector over the years. Also, as announced by Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta when he delivered the 2020 budget statement to parliament, the house in July 2019 approved the Biosafety (Management of Biotechnology) Regulations 2019. The Legislative Instrument operationalizes the National Biosafety Act 2011 which legalizes the production of Genetically Modified crops in the country. State investment in science research also increased significantly.
All the above are major milestones for Ghana that we should all be proud of. Beyond the extra-ordinary support that the Planting for Food and Jobs Initiative has brought to farmers in the form of improved seeds, subsidized fertilizers, revitalized extension services and e-Agriculture platforms, all the above moves by government and parliament are setting the grounds for us to leapfrog going into the 2020.
For example, the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has successfully completed trials on the genetically modified Podborer Resistant Cowpea (Bt cowpea) which has the potential to cut insecticide use on our favourite beans by up to 70% and increase farmer profits by up to 50%. With the legislative framework now firmly in place, in the year 2020, we will want to encourage the CSIR and government to take the necessary steps to make this novel variety available to farmers.
Nigeria recently announced it has approved for release of Bt cowpea, the first such release anywhere in the world, after years of research. Ghana must endeavor to follow suit. The prospect of these new varieties helping increase protein content in the foods we consume and help deal with issues of malnutrition is enormous and Ghana must not delay. It will mean a positive shake up in the cowpea (beans) industry and contribute millions of cedis to the agriculture economy. We look forward to a great year of innovation and technological revolution where the country will finally follow the path of South Africa and commercialise genetically modified crops to help make Ghana a better place.
Moving into 2020, we encourage government to put more emphasis on developing science and innovation in agriculture at all levels to help create sustainable agricultural systems and help us survive the dilapidating impact of climate change and increased pest and disease attacks. We need to see more investments in science and technology for the benefit of ordinary Ghanaians and particularly farmers.
We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2020.
Dennis Baffuor – Awuah (0276938495)
For Team Alliance for Science Ghana ( https://allianceforsciencegh.org )