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Govt asked to develop strategy for small-scale farmers

The Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC), a trade and agriculture advocacy, research and practice organisation, has called on government to develop a clear strategy of support for small scale farmers, especially women and the youth.

Such assistance should include land acquisition, skills development by government ministries and the Non-Formal Education Division, land preparation equipment like power tillers and animal traction equipment, and financial support from banks and government by way of annual budgetary allocation for small scale farmers.

The GTLC made the recommendation in its 2013 Agro-Policy Performance Barometer, using indicators provided by the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Policy (METASIP) to assess the impact of the policy on productivity and incomes of tomato and rice farmers.

The study covered 10 small-scale commercial rice and tomato production areas in nine administrative regions, seven of which gathered information on rice and four on tomato while one centre gathered data on both rice and tomato.

In all, 660 farmers participated in the study which looked at skills, land size cultivated, yield per acre, among others.

Presenting the findings and recommendations of the study, Theodore Antwi-Asare, a Senior Lecturer of the Department of Economics of the University of Ghana, said government-supported projects and programmes should consider facilitating better engagement with and support for small scale producers through the banks.

Besides, he said, lessons could pick from how and why microfinance institutions are able to attract many small scale farmer clientele event at high interest rates.

There is also the need for research institutions and CSOs to release data on the agriculture sector to facilitate policy implementation.

The study also found the lack of active participation by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in promoting agro-technology such as greenhouses for tomato farmers.

As a result, none of the major tomato producing communities around the Wenchi Tomato factory and the Northern Star Tomato Factory provided tomato for the factories in 2013.

GTLC believes that farmers are willing to adapt to new methods as the study also found that most small-scale farmers use certified seeds and many, especially rice farmers, used subsidized fertilizer.

Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, Executive Director for Abantu for Development and Board Chairperson of the Coalition, who launched the report said the report was a credible reflection of whether agriculture policy was helping to ensure food security.

She said every effort would be made to enhance the scope of future reports to ensure that the findings bring out the comparisons with other similar reports.

Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, the coordinator of GTLC, said the organisation was in the process of data collection for the 2014 report. He said the process of data gathering involved training and education of farmers in collecting the data.

GTLC initiated a Policy Monitoring and Evaluation system in 2009 to collect data on agriculture to assess the implementation of the agriculture sector policies and its impacts on incomes and livelihoods of small scale farmers.

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