Put in place incentive to attract youth into agriculture (Oct 18, 2016)
The Seventh National Food and Agricultural (FAGRO) has ended with a call on the government to put in place incentives to attract young people into agriculture.
The General Manager of FAGRO, Ms Alberta Akyaa Akosa, told the Daily Graphic that the country faced food insecurity in the near future if nothing was done to encourage young people to take over from the country’s ageing farmers.
“Let’s look at the age gap. I have been travelling around villages for weeks now, visiting small-scale farmers, you will be amazed to see people who are between 60-70 years still farming, while young people are moving to Accra.
“How do we make agriculture attractive? What policies are supporting innovation in agriculture? I have seen a lot of youth here who have amazing and innovative ideas to put together small-scale technology for farmers but they don’t have support,” she told the Daily Graphic.
She said some of those young people were being tossed around between Export Development and Agriculture Investment Fund (EDAIF) and banks because some of them lacked the capacity to develop business plans, although they had very good plans.
“We have to shape the discourse about the sector because agriculture was business and should be competitive,” she said.
Her remarks came on the heels of two researches commissioned by the Ministry of Finance that warned that the country’s agricultural output was likely to fall if measures were not instituted by the government to reverse the dwindling fortunes of the sector.
The two studies -- ” Inventory of post-harvest infrastructure in Ghana and “Ageing farmers— and youth in agriculture in Ghana,” conducted last year and released in August this year revealed that poor infrastructure and ageing farmers, whose average age was 55, were likely to affect the productivity of the agricultural sector, especially, cash crops such as cocoa.
With the country’s life expectancy a little above 60 years, she said there was a compelling reason to ensure that young people took over farming not just for food security but also to cut down the country’s rather high food import bill.
The three-day show attracted exhibitors of farm produce, health and nutrition vendors, fertiliser and seed dealers, tools and machinery and financial institutions.
Exhibitors and some members of the public benefitted from a business plan writing training, business-to-business meetings and a field trip to a greenhouse farm.
The show was on the theme: “Preparation, Knowledge and Training = Business”.
Started in 2009, the number of exhbibitors have dwindled significantly but Ms Akosa said part of the reason was because some exhibitors did not appreciate the fact that “exhibitions are not about sales but setting short and long term goals and networking. That is a perception we need to work at changing.”
She said patronage was high on the first two days but admitted that the numbers became very low on the last day but insisted that the organisers did their bit with publicity.
She, however, said the concerns of the exhibitors would be addressed.
Ms Akosa urged the government to see FAGRO as a practical arm for seven years, as it had been the sustainable platform for the gathering of agri-businesses.
“It is about time we change the conversation about agriculture. Going forward, that is what we will be doing to shift the discourse on agriculture, “she said.
“Agriculture needs support. Oil is good, oil has taken over the economy, but agriculture is the bedrock. We need to do something about our importation and people need to understand the whole concept of agriculture. It is not only about the farm. We have other actors when it comes to agriculture, we have seeds, engineering, manufacturing, financial companies, processing, packaging and the farmers themselves. They all play a role, “she said.
The Communication Officer of Africa Lead, Ms Eunice Adofo Boanya, said the training was to build the capacity of agriculture professionals for transformational agriculture in Africa.
“All Africa needs is to raise champions who think deep into the future, looking ahead , having in mind that they have a big role to play to scale up food security on the continent.
“Africa can feed the whole world and that is why it needs to build the capacity of leaders who will position themselves strategically to do all they could to ensure that the continent’s agriculture sector is better off,” she said.
A winner of a prize from the boot camp, Mr Sarpong Dwamena of the African Youth Network for Agriculture Transformation said, the fair and training programme had been extremely useful.
“As an upcoming entrepreneur in agicuture, I learnt how to write a very good business plan to attract investors. I learnt your plan shouldn’t just be good but it must show how the investor will get his or her money back. It has really shaped my idea as to how my start up can raise funds and be profitable,” he added.
This year’s event was also supported by Esoko Ghana, Stanbic Bank, Yara,and The Netherlands Embassy.