The young, teenage African-American mother who, if memory serves yours truly right, had dropped out of school, was asked about the optimal amount of money required to eke a decent existence, or living, in the urban America of the late 1980s and early 1990s and answered pitifully that she could comfortably subsist on the piddling pittance of $ 5,000. At the time, the latter sum was considered to be the bottom fringe of the proverbial “Poverty Line.”
The program, as I now recall it, was anchored by legendary ABC-TV anchor Ted Koppel and formed a part of a week-long series which spotlighted racism and the social circumstance of the average African-American in the United States. The teen mother's answer, naturally, embarrassed almost every knowledgeable television viewer, particularly Americans of African descent. For in 1988, or thereabouts, it took at least $ 35,000, excluding the various forms of income tax, to “decently,” as opposed to “comfortably,” survive in urban America.
On May 8, 2007, the article titled “Calls for Early Activation [sic] of Aveyime Rice Project,” which was sourced to the controversial Ghanaian Chronicle newspaper, reported that two major rice-growing companies, one American and the other Ghanaian, were vying for a contract, I suppose from the Ghana Government, to develop 20 acres of paddy-conducive land into a major rice plantation that “when in full operation would prevent [sic] the importation of rice by 10 percent.”
Exactly how a 20-acre rice plantation could effectively reduce the country's importation of the same, annually, I suppose, by a whopping 10 percent, was not elucidated. Neither was the statistical total of rice importation into the country provided by the reporter. Not that I was in any way surprised by such amateurish plying of, perhaps, the most significant trade of the Information Age; for, after all, isn't it quite a common knowledge that the bane of Ghanaian journalism, by and large, is the abject lack of critical thinking among those especially trained to gather and disseminate the kind of information that is vital to the socio-cultural, political and economic development of our country. Needless to say, any mature or adult Ghanaian citizen or resident who actually believes that a 20-acre rice plantation could reduce Ghana's importation of the same by 10 percent must definitely be off his or her rockers, as Americans would say.
In sum, to mathematically, or geometrically, appreciate the piddling extent of a 20-acre rice plantation, one simply needs to imagine a piece of arable land eight times the size of either the Kumasi or Accra Sports Stadium (excluding the spectator stands or pavilion) in order to fully appreciate the epic hilarity of the scheme.
And on the latter score, we must hasten to point out that nobody is suggesting herein that the much-touted Aveyime Rice Project, in of itself, is less than significant. Rather, it is the wild, and almost hallucinatory, expectations of those with vested interest in the project that are being questioned. In fine, those who claim that the “reactivation” of the mini-plantation would decisively reduce Ghana's importation of rice by a humongous 10 percent, ought to have also supplied their audience, both supporters and opponent, with verifiable figures indicating that at an earlier time when the Aveyime Rice Plantation was in operation Ghana's importation of the same product had been reduced by at least 10 percent. And since at that earlier time the population of Ghana was significantly lower than the current estimate of 22 million, it logically follows that the country's rice importation at that earlier time ought to have been reduced by more than the now-projected 10 percent, assuming, of course, that the earlier operation of the Aveyime Rice Project (ARP) had been remarkably successful. Else, it would be far better for us to shelf it by chalking its failure as being integral to the myriad of white elephant projects of Ghana's pseudo-socialist yesteryear, and look for a more realistic as well as lucrative venture and approach instead.
Another aspect of the story that enthused yours truly, regarded the president of Integrated Rice Company Limited, the Ghanaian firm vying with the Texas Prairie Rice Company, the former's American competitor, for the contractual bid to reactivate the ARP. The anonymous Ghanaian Chronicle reporter tells readers that even though Dr. Amarnaih Kissie is “a full-time medical practitioner, he has the capability of marshalling expertise which he has already assembled” ( Ghanaweb.com 5/8/07).
Perhaps some level-headed elder from the North-Tongu District of the Volta Region had better tell Dr. Amarnaih Kissie that serious rice farming, or agriculture, is not a part-time job and then, much less, to speak of farming as a veritable adjunct to medical practice! Not only is Dr. Kissie's apparently cavalier attitude towards the respectable occupation that is farming patently objectionable, it also painfully highlights the problem with many a pathologically disoriented Ghanaian professional inadvisably placed in a significant position of trust. For not only is Dr. Kissie, by his flagrant attitude towards the noble profession of farming, making an unpardonable nuisance of himself, but even more significantly his kind of unenlightened attitude ought to be the source of a great embarrassment to both Dr. Amarnaih Kissie himself and Ghanaians at large; and the sooner he removes himself from the presidency of Integrated Rice Company Limited, the healthier that it would be for the august profession of agriculture and the economic development of Ghana at large.
With the preceding glaringly in view, we have no reservations, whatsoever, in exhorting the chiefs and people of the North-Tongu District to prioritize merit over kinship – or nepotism – in awarding the contractual bid for the reactivation of the Aveyime Rice Project. For nepotism never worked in the past, and it is not going to work now. Besides, the sacred law of professional competence, particularly the latter's commensuration with productivity, has never been effectively, or successfully, breached or contradicted.
Also, the rather quaint idea that somehow the reactivation of the Aveyime Rice Project would promptly stanch the urban drift of the able-bodied youth of Aveyime is exactly that, a quaint idea. A pipe-dream, that is. For ultimately, what is direly required is a far more sustained and holistic economic development program. For one cannot facilely suppose that all the young men and women of the Aveyime locality are wired for mini-plantation agriculture.
In the end, however, the most productive mode by which to reactivate the Aveyime Rice Project, is to lease it to a private entrepreneur on a mutually beneficial contractual basis. Run as a pseudo-socialist venture of the boondoggle sort which prevailed under the so-called Convention People's Party (CPP) regime, the reactivation of the Aveyime Rice Project (ARP) may yet witness another abysmal failure.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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