……As Consultative Workshop ends in Accra
Report: Mohammed Abu, Accra, ADM, Ghana
A two-day Technical Consultative Workshop on the Ghana Pilot Phase of the Transformation of the African Savannah Initiative (TASI), ended over the weekend in the country’s capital, Accra, with a call on Ghanaians not only to see agriculture as a business, but more so, as a science.
Pertinent issues brought to the fore, during panel discussions and technical presentations, for the day, were the deplorable seed situation in Ghana, need for an enabling environment via agriculture friendly policies, food quality, safety and nutrition standards , accessibility to finance at affordable cost, high energy cost that tends to erode profit of commercial farmers, lessons that could be learnt from Brazil and Argentina and replicated in Ghana for unlocking the full potential of her Northern Savannah Ecological Zone(NSEZ) that boast 8million hectares of arable land.
Others were, Ghana’s heavy annual food and agricultural products import bills amidst tremendous agro-ecological resources ,the worrying youth unemployment situation, the need for a paradigm shift from the old ways of doing agriculture or otherwise described as,” by the grace of God agriculture” to a modernized scientific knowledge and technology driven agriculture among others.
The all-important endeavor is being undertaken by the AfDB in collaboration with the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) another public sector institution, being the content provider and facilitator in the NSEZ or otherwise known as the SADA Zone.
The event which brought together local and foreign Agriculture science experts, inputs suppliers, prospective investors from Brazil and Argentina, Ghanaian Ministers, Parliamentarians, and commercial farmers both local and foreign ,is within the context of the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s “Feed Africa Strategy” .
TASI seeks to take concrete steps geared towards waking up Africa’s “Sleeping giant” or the African Guinea Savannah to take its proper position as not only the food basket of Africa but rest of the world. The zone possesses tremendous agro-ecological potentials, spans 25 countries and boasts 400 million hectares arable land. Above all, it also account for over 65 percent of global total arable land.
The expectant good results from Ghana Pilot Project that is to be underpinned by modernized scientific and technology driven commercial agricultures is to be replicated in the remaining 24 countries.
Ghana’s Minister for food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto lauded the AfDB’s TASI as “extraordinary” adding, “The transformation of the savanna regions is critical and long overdue”.
“The potentials of the area, he underscored, “have been under-exploited over the years and government is committed to implement the model put in place by the AfDB to the letter to realize the transformation of the savanna regions of the country”.
The transformation of the savannas in Africa, the Hon.Minister intimated, is a possibility as has been realized in Brazil and Argentina. The TASI he noted should be another pillar of success for the AfDB and the nation as a whole drawing from the inspiration that, if the Brazilians did it, Ghanaians can also transform our Savannahs
He was also pleased with the fact that in 6 months the bank has supported the initiation of a project and is currently at the Board of the Bank for deliberations.
Dr. Martin Fregene, Advisor to the Vice President for Agriculture, Social and Human Development of AfDB, presenting the workshop synthesis and next steps in summary noted that, Technologies and seed systems are critical for agricultural development in Ghana and as such, best technologies should be adopted and adapted to our national conditions. Seed systems should be developed.
On Policy issues, he said trade policies should be well aligned with that of agriculture and that t is contradictory to promote production and allow dumping on the market of the very commodities being promoted.
On farm management, Dr.Fregene, noted that the quality of commercial farms is crucial since they become breeding grounds for youth in agricultural activities and it is therefore critical to support these commercial farms in order to enable them thrive and support the youth.
On the ongoing government Youth in agriculture Programme, he placed emphasis on the need for TASI to focus on the youth to attract them into agricultural activities through training and access to credit.
With respect to access to finance for value chain operators he bemoaned the high interest rates associated with it as well as and short term for payback period and disclosed that, AfDB is discussing with the government of Ghana on how to de-risk the sector in Ghana .Dr.Fregene also disclosed that the AfDB in collaboration with government in Ghana is putting in place and agriculture sector financing facility to be known as Ghana indebted Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL) was to stem the tide.
Dr.Fregene hinted that there was dire need for Business plans to be well packaged for support from the AfDB in the future and called for Nutrition to be a focus especially for the vulnerable groups
On the next steps to be taken, TASI he said will work with MOFA and SADA to; develop a concept note for the public-private corporation to manage all the partnership of TASI, demonstrate in collaboration with Brazilian and Argentinian development partners, Embrapa, CAMPO, IITA and Nyanpkala Northern region based SARI, improved technologies in the field in the fields of farmers to prove that 8 tonnes/ha is possible in northern Ghana.
TASI he said, through the Innovation platform will work with existing commercial farmers to develop a business plan that can be financed while a clear and concise communication component of TASI will be developed to tell the story of TASI.
In his closing remarks, Naa Iddrisu Adjei, the Chief of Bima and landlord of Integrated Water and Development Ghana Ltd, observed that. There is no country that can grow without people who are committed to agricultural development and noted “that with the support of all stakeholders, we shall together develop the nation”.
Dr.Abu Sakara, Chairman of Sakfos Holdings Ghana, owners of Sakfos Farms speaking on behalf of commercial farmers noted the needs and interests of all farmers within the framework of TASI ,he cautioned should be seen as the same and as such, differentiating farmers into various categories is not beneficial.
“Farmers are stronger together and transaction costs are reduced for joint purchases and other activities. It should be recognized that they are at different scales of operations and their support to reflect such.
“The need for financing agriculture is critical. The need for differentiated products, as mentioned by ADB, is critical for farmers. Funds should be committed to enable sustainable production across all facets of the farmers groups. There should be a system that moves all farmers along as a whole.
“The priorities of the challenges farmers face should be known. Some issues are more important than others. The TASI platform should identify the hierarchy and commit resources to solve them in the order of priority.
“There is the need to determine what a private good is and what a public good is. This is with respect to building capacity of farmers. The profitability of service providers should be supported this benefits are very national in nature and sustainability of the TASI initiative is critical”.
Hon Alhassan Saeed the Upper West Minister speaking on behalf of his colleague Ministers of the Upper East and Northern regional Ministers,
The ministers he said,are committed to the course of the TASI initiative and shall organize a follow-up stakeholder meeting to ensure the success of the programme. They are committed to supporting any stakeholder who will support the process. The links in the value chain which are weak should be identified and strengthened to prevent the failure of the TASI initiative.
Ag. Chief Director, of MOFA, Robert Patrick Ankobea in his closing remarks noted that in order to transform the agricultural landscape in the savanna region, the trade policies and other factors which deter agricultural investments need to be reviewed.
Targeting the youth and women, he underscored, is critical for agricultural development and this should be kept in sight from the initial stages of TASI. This should be kept in mind in attracting investors into the agricultural sector. All sector stakeholders should pool resources together to unlock the potential of the savanna areas in Ghana.
Day one of the Technical Consultative Workshop, took the form of plenary session, Technical presentation and a working lunch.
The task for the opening day was,” Where should the TASI pilot be located?”,”How should the innovation platform be constituted and governed?”,” What is the process to secure enabling policies of land titles, registration of varieties and agro-inputs, IP protection, and input/output market policies?” and “What fiscal and agricultural policies should be provided as market incentives?”
The key deliverables were Identification of suitable locations in the country to conduct a feasibility study for the TASI pilot, Composition and governance of the innovation platform, enabling policies: land title, registration of varieties and agro-inputs, IP protection, and input/output market policies, and, market incentives for commercial farmers.
The sources of financing for the Pilot projects were identified as Private Sector Resources, AFDB Resources, Bilateral Cooperation Resources Innovation, and Platform as leverage mechanism Local Government Resources
In his welcome address, Yero Baldeh, Country Manager, AfDB Ghana Office, gave an overview of the banks activities in Ghana. He said AfDB has supported national development of Ghana for over 4 decades in the form of project financing, project support operations and various forms of technical assistance. It has provided over 3.3 billion USD mainly as concessionary loans and grants for all sectors of the national economy.
Infrastructure development and financing of agriculture and social sectors including health he said, have been undertaken by the Bank adding, “This has led to improved livelihoods and reduced poverty of citizens”.
“In the agriculture sector, the bank has provided over 700 USD as loans and grants to address challenges in modernization of agriculture, food security, and mechanization, increasing export earnings and developing breadbaskets of the nation.
“In the northern sector, the bank supported the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) with over 61million USD loan to improve agriculture and the on-going One District One Factory initiative of the government.
The bank looks forward to catalyzing the transformation of the uncoordinated agribusinesses into competitive entities in order to lead rural development.
In her welcome address, Dr. Jennifer Blanke, Vice President, Agriculture & Human Development Complex, AfDB noted that the African Savanna has a very big potential in the area of agriculture. Africa’s agricultural production potential in calories is actually consumed in Africa.
Dr.Blanke bemoaned Africa’s infamous net importer of food status and cautioned that the cost of imports will increase in the near future.
Africa has 400 million ha of savanna but only about 10% of that is used for agricultural production.
“The potential to produce all of the maize and livestock for the continent exists and even, some for exports. However, the continent is a net importer of food. This is happening because tropical agriculture is challenging and therefore low yielding and less attractive for commercial farmers”.
Recounting the Brazilian experience, she said the country had the support of Japan to enable her put its tropical areas to use in competitive agriculture. “This was done through deployment of production technologies, new varieties and low interest rates on loans. This transformed the savannas into a 54 billion USD/year business.
“The experiences of Brazil and Argentina can be drawn for the transformation of Ghana’s savanna.
As part of AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy, developing Africa’s savanna is a very crucial she said and dislcosed that 16 million ha of land is expected to be brought under cultivation by 2025 in Africa. Agripreneurs will also be trained in the process while about 1 million people are expected to be employed by 2025.
She said Parts of northern Ghana have been selected to pilot the initiative adding, “The initiative looks to make Africa the bread basket of the world”.
In his key note address, Dr. Segre Bambangi, Deputy Minister, MoFA said, government’s outlined vision and roadmap for agriculture transformation generally and in the Savanna regions in particular.
It is expected that the foundational work of SADA, he intimated, will contribute effectively to the development of agriculture in the region while also taking cognizance of the fact that,the savanna region in Ghana holds about 54% of the land mass in Ghana and unlocking the potential of this region will attract agribusinesses domestically and internationally.
Dr. Bambangi extolled the vital contribution of agriculture to the economy of the country as well its job creation potential and said that government envisages that a rapid transformation of agriculture would guarantee food security, employment for the youth in particular
To be able to achieve this, he noted, that would require collective efforts of all stakeholders while underscoring the fact that, the “transformation requires massive deployment of technologies across agricultural value chains, improve market performance and promote agro-processing”.
The government is pursuing these aggressively and looks forward to learning from the experience of Brazil and Argentina. The savanna region in Ghana holds about 54% of the land mass in Ghana. Unlocking the potential of this region will attract agribusinesses domestically and internationally.
Government is promoting and improving the seed industry in Ghana. Seed quality and quantity is a major challenge in the crop sub-sector.
The government’s planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) Campaign, Dr.Bambangi, disclosed, is expected to provide over 750000 jobs along the agricultural value chains.
The expected increase in production, Dr.Bambangi further noted, will promote trade in-country and for export adding, “There is the need for all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to form strong partnerships and join government to transform agriculture in Ghana”.
Roadshow to NSEZ
The workshop was preceded by a three-day Roadshow facilitated by SADA to the NSEZ over which it excersices its mandate of not only working to bridge the North-South development and poverty gap but also,to position it as a food basket for the nation so as to address the country’s over dependence of rice and general agricultural products to her economic detriment.
It took the form of field visits to major commercial farms in the Northern region by a team comprising Scientific experts from the US, Brazilian and Argentinian prospective investors/commercial farmers alongside their local Ghanaian counterparts including MOFA officials who were led by the Hon.Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr.Sagre Bambangi.
This enabled members of the team to have a first-hand impression of the situation on the ground ahead of the Technical Consultative workshop in Accra.