Govt unveils ambitious agric programme in Goaso tomorrow (April 18, FRONT)

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will, tomorrow, launch the government’s flagship agricultural programme, ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, in Goaso in the Asunafo municipality in the Brong Ahafo Region.
Modelled on the highly successful ‘Operation Feed Yourself (OFY)’ programme of the 1970s, the initiative is expected to be driven by 200,000 farmers to be selected nationwide and individuals willing to cultivate vegetables and other crops in their backyard.

President Akufo-Addo is expected to perform the official launch of the campaign, which is expected to revolutionise the country's agriculture.

The aim of the project is to ensure increased food production, while cutting down on the huge foreign exchange used in importing food items into the country annually.

This year, maize, rice, soybean, sorghum and vegetables, including tomato, onion and pepper, are the five main crops for concentration.

The campaign is expected to yield food valued at GH¢1.3 billion.

The concept also has tax incentives for companies, including the breweries and food processing companies, that are willing to go into farming to feed their factories.

Project targets
The project is targeted at creating over 750,000 direct jobs for Ghanaians who will be actively involved in the pilot phase of the project this year and are expected to, thereafter, spearhead the government's agricultural modernisation policy for the next five years.

Towards that end, a national organising committee was inaugurated in March in this year and tasked with the responsibility of engaging various stakeholders in preparation towards the launch.

In an interview in February this year, the Minister of  Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, told the Daily Graphic that  the campaign would make the country’s agriculture more productive at a time it was the lowest in productivity in terms of yield in West Africa.

Cost
The government has budgeted a little over GH¢560 million to cater for the five pillars of the campaign — seeds, fertiliser, extension services, marketing and e-monitoring.

According to a breakdown of the budget, GH¢74.7 million would go into the provision of seeds, GH¢238.7 million for fertiliser, GH¢32 million for extension services, GH¢200 million for marketing and GH¢15 for e-agriculture and monitoring. 

Apart from the hundreds of jobs it is expected to create, the campaign is also expected to guarantee food security and provide cheap food for the urban areas, raw materials for the livestock and the industrial sectors and surplus produce for export to the ECOWAS sub-region.

Funding
Dr Akoto said while funding would come from this year’s budget, the government was already soliciting funding from the country’s development partners.

“So far, we are getting some good responses. The Canadian government has offered 135 million Canadian dollars to support the programme. The Korean government is supporting all the districts in the Central Region with $9 million and the Chinese government is planning on giving us fertiliser to support the programme. We are still talking to our development partners,” he explained.

He said the plan was for households, schools and prisons to produce enough to feed themselves, while companies that depended on agricultural produce as raw materials were also expected to produce enough to meet their needs.

Operation Feed Yourself
The National Redemption Council (NRC) government launched the OFY, which turned out to be the country’s most popular food production campaign, in 1972 to enhance food sufficiency.
According to experts, what differentiated the OFY from previous food programmes was the initial enthusiasm the OFY created in the country, resulting in broad acceptance and participation by the Ghanaian population.

Thousands of Ghanaians took part in clearing land or helping harvest crops. Urban dwellers were drawn into backyard farming, while large-scale rice production in the northern regions increased substantially.

In the first three years of the OFY, the production of all key food and industrial crops went up. Ghana was officially declared self-sufficient in rice production in 1974.

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