Founding Director of the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement Prof. Eric Danquah is calling for the establishment of a National Agriculture Authority (NAA) to regulate and oversee the transformation of agriculture for socio-economic development under the Ghana Beyond Aid Initiative.
He also wants the government to establish a National Agriculture Development Fund into which funding to the tune of at least 1% of Ghana’s GDP will be invested to finance the development of the agricultural sector. Private sector will also be encouraged to contribute to the development of the nation through that fund.
The University of Ghana professor wants the fund and authority to be established by an act of parliament. The authority will be responsible for oversight of agricultural education, research, innovation, and development, as well as modernize agriculture through the development of commodity value chains.
Prof. Danquah is proposing that the fund to be established is managed by the National Agriculture Authority and a Scientific Advisory Committee with representation from various science organisations. “It is important that the composition of the NAA which should have representation from the sector Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Finance and Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation is carefully reasoned and should not sacrifice meritocracy,” he said.
Prof. Danquah was speaking during a webinar session organised by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector in Ghana. He observed food systems are highly susceptible to shocks and the Covid-19 pandemic is just another warning signal because there could be more devastating shocks in the future.
“These are not normal times. Given that the Covid-19 pandemic is just a warning signal and there could be more devastating future events, Ghana should take its future in its own hands and transform its agriculture to secure the future of the country as well as drive socio-economic development. A well-funded National Agriculture Authority to be established by law with independent powers is certainly the way to go,” he said.
“The agricultural sector should be the key driving force for national development and this pandemic clearly obligates us to take urgent action to improve efficiency in our commodity value chains. We cannot attain food and nutrition security by doing business as usual. We would be reckless to think so,” Prof. Danquah observed. “A struggling nation which spent over US$ 2.0 billion on food imports in 2019 alone should be very troubled about the future because challenging times lie ahead and the informal food systems and dependency on exports require that we think out of the box in proffering solutions,” he added.
The webinar by AGRA was under the theme; the impact of Covid-19 on Agriculture in Ghana: Response of the seed industry.
“We should develop strategies to be self-reliant in research, innovation, and development. We should ensure that our national research institutions including the universities (which should be hubs for innovation) and their partners are well set up to deliver an uninterrupted scheme to get improved, nutritious and resilient varieties to farmers and markets. Modern storage technologies to reduce food spoilage are also urgently needed to build reserves to ensure optimal long-term storage.
“Agriculture driven by science and technology should underpin our national development agenda. We cannot await the passage of the Plant Breeders Bill to drive a more competitive seed industry for food and nutrition security,” he added.
He called for increased funding and public and private sector collaboration to accelerate the development of the country.
Executive Secretary of the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) Mrs. Augusta Nyamadi Clottey who participated in the webinar observed Covi-19 will push the players in the seed industry further to work harder towards encouraging local production of quality seeds.
Dr. Solomon Gyan Ansah who is a Deputy Director of Agriculture and Head of the Seed Unit at the Directorate of Crop Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture noted agricultural extension is important if farmers can be encouraged to adopt improved seeds like hybrids. He called for smart methods of extension in the light of Covid-19 including electronic methods that uses tools like mobile phones.
Josiah Wobil who is chairman of the National Seed Council Ghana called for a re-positioning of the agricultural sector so it can play a better role in the development of the country. Mr. Benjamin Adjei who is Assistant Representative to Ghana for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said it is important that every nation works towards enhanced seed security. He called for the development of capacities and the establishment of more infrastructure locally to ensure a sustainable seed system in the country.