Dungu (N/R), April 18, GNA - Mr Mohammed Nashiru Adam, the National Secretary of the Ghana Cotton Farmers' Association, has said farmers in northern Ghana would be better off if the government subsidized agricultural inputs and machinery.
He said in the past, farming was a lucrative venture for most people especially the youth, who could produce sufficient food to feed themselves and the nation.
"Indeed farmers were the richest people in northern Ghana as they were able to raise sufficient money to pay their children's school fees and medical bills," he said.
Mr Adam was speaking at a weeklong forum on "Global Week of Action on Trade" at Dungu near Tamale.
ActionAid Ghana, in collaboration with other NGOs including the SEND Foundation, ISODEC and Oxfam, organized the forum that was on the theme: "Make trade work for the poor - It is a human right". The Week is to garner support for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (G-CAP).
The G-CAP is a broader campaign for the whole year to call on world leaders to do more to end poverty by fulfilling their commitments to trade, justice, more and better aid and full debt cancellation. Mr Adam called on the government, as a matter of urgency, to review all trade agreements that had impacted negatively on the lives of the people and the national economy.
"The restoration of subsidies will not only enable farmers to come out from the shackles of poverty but will also help improve their living standards," he said.
Mr Adam said in spite of government interventions, farmers and their families would continue to be poor if subsidies on agricultural inputs were not restored.
He urged the government to muster the political will and come out with pragmatic policies and programmes on agriculture that would promote the livelihoods of farmers.
Mr Abdul-Halim Abubakari, a lecturer at the University for Development Studies (UDS), said industrial countries had failed to implement key provisions of the existing World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements that benefited developing countries.
"What these countries rather did was to implement policies and programmes that eroded Africa's competitive advantage in such areas as agriculture, textiles and leather production".
Mr Abubakari was presenting a paper on: "How the World Trade Organisation Agreement is affecting Ghanaian farmers". He said one of the consequences of liberalisation was the promotion of certain agricultural commodities such as cotton, which only benefited developed countries in preference to staple crops.
Mr Abubakari said sub-Saharan Africa loses 20 billion dollars annually in export because of anti-dumping regulations, high tariffs and technical barriers to trade.
Mr Abubakari said duties on agricultural products such as cereals; sugar, fish, tobacco, rubber and wood often went as high as 100 per cent, which were beyond the financial capacity of developing countries. He mentioned the removal of subsidies on agricultural inputs and machinery, the dumping of products such as rice, meat and poultry products on the local market as some of the negative effects of WTO agreements on Ghanaian farmers.
''As a result of these agreements, local investment initiatives are being killed; income levels of farmers has remained low while unemployment among the youth is high.''
Mr Abubakari called on governments of developing countries, especially those in Africa, to fight for a just trading agreement to enhance their economies.
Mr. Mohammed Habib Abdulai, a Programme Manager of ActionAid Ghana, called for a firm resolution on the part of stakeholders, especially policy makers, to formulate and implement pro-poor trade policies to help reduce poverty in the country. 18 April 05