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Friday, November 2, 2012

Interest groups call for reform of National Best Farmer Award Scheme

Farmers and other agricultural-based organizations are raising diverse concerns in the organization of the National Best Farmers Awards Scheme.

Agriculturists in Ghana are being honored on Friday at the national, regional and district levels for excelling in their farming and fishing businesses and contributing economic development.

Government is spending over 3.8 million Ghana Cedis to honour 74 farmers at this year’s National Best Farmers Awards ceremony.

But some interest groups say the scheme can be better organized to benefit majority of farmers.

The Agro Mindset Organization, an NGO, has acknowledged significant improvements in the scheme, but the group is worried the selection criteria favours wealthy large scale farmers to the detriment of the larger majority of small holder farmers.

It therefore wants government to implement a targeted screening regime, which focuses on quality of work than farm size to allow for small holder farm operators to also benefit from the goodies in National Farmer’s day award.

“We know there are District and Regional awards, but we think there should be a way to assess farmers, which could someday see smallholder farmers also winning the National Best Farmer award, thereby propelling them, higher up the wealth ladder, and it is only then that we would see the awards scheme promoting the agricultural sector as a whole, and not skewing solely for the benefit of already wealthy farmers” said a statement issued by the Organization.

Agro Mindset Organization has also called for a re-packaging of the award package “by scrapping the policy which allows for personal freebies such as houses and pick up vehicles worth thousands of Ghana cedis to be given, which does not in any way help improve upon the agriculture sector as a whole. And rather focus on giving out agricultural related sophisticated tools, equipments, and materials, which would in the end help further advance the agricultural sector as a whole”.

Meanwhile, a former District Best Farmer is advocating a review of processes in selection of district, regional and national best farmers.
According to Yaw Amankwah, the present arrangement leaves room for doubts and there wants the selection committee to promote fairness and transparency by publishing nominees and criteria for winners.

“After the select committee comes to your farm, I think it would be better for them to write back to you and tell you why you win or why you did not win”, he said.

Mr. Amankwah says this is important for the farmer to improve on farming practices to increase production.

The 28th National Best Farmers Awards Ceremony was under the theme: “Grow more food: Strengthening Farmer Based Organisations for Market Place Bargaining Power”.

Thirty-Eight year old Lemuel Kwashie Martey of Mannah Farms Limited in Accra was adjudged the 2012 National Best Farmer.

In the Ashanti region, Thirty-eight year old Samuel Kofi Tettey from Akomadan-Afrancho in the Offinso North District emerged overall regional best farmer for Ashanti.

He cultivates diverse crops on acres of land, including, tomatoes, corn, yam, cassava, cocoa, cowpea, teak and oil palm, in addition to rearing cattle, grasscutter, poultry and snail farming.

The young man perfected his agricultural practice under the tutelage of his father and today he is proud to be in the business of farming.

“I’ll tell the youth that farming is good business. Someone may have completed university or secondary school but can’t find job; he may be selling polythene bag in Accra without a place to sleep; but if he choose to come to the village to give it a try, things could be better”, he entreated.

Major challenges to farm productivity, according to Samuel, include the uncertainty in weather patterns, non-availability of credit facilities and delays in release of government’s subsidy on fertilizer.

“We would appeal to government to release the fertilizer on time to help in our farming”, he said.

The Regional Farmers’ Day event was commemorated at Nkawie, in the Atwima Nwabiagya District.

Ashanti Regional Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah spoke on national theme: “Grow More Food: Strengthening Farmer-based Organizations for Market Place Bargaining Power”.

He noted that mobilizing farmers through the FBOs to increase access to technology, inputs and market for their produce is key to modernizing agriculture and improving human capacity for increased production.

“Government in recognition of the immense contribution of FBOs to agriculture development has through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture put in place measures to develop policy strategies for improved access of smallholder farmers to services as emphasized in the phase two of Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II)”, the Minister noted.

Dr. Agyemang-Mensah added that the Ministry has outlined various policies for FBOs development including the setting up of FBO’s Secretariat at the MOFA, registration and monitoring of their activities and the establishment of FBO Development Fund.

Some of the FBOs presently operating in Ashanti region include the Pig Farmers Association, Cocoa Farmers Association, Rice Farmer Groups and Citrus Farmers Association.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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