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Ghana seeks to become food basket of Africa

ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Ghana’s new agriculture policy to be launched next month will seek to make the country Africa’s food basket, Minister of Food and Agriculture Afriyie Osei Akoto disclosed here on Wednesday.

Speaking during the Agriculture Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) Summit, the minister said the pilot program would target 200,000 local farmers and five selected crops - soya, sorghum, maize, rice and vegetables.

“The program is expected to cost about 560 million Ghana cedis, which is something like 120 million dollars, and is expected to generate 1.3 billion Ghana cedis in gross revenue for the participating farmers and, more importantly, generate at least 750 000 jobs,” he said.

“In the first year, you can imagine, as we step up, the generation of jobs is going to be very great,” he added.

Osei Akoto announced that the government would select about 200,000 farmers within the next two months who will be assisted with improved seeds, fertilizers and extension services.

He said participation in the program would be expanded annually to ensure that at least half of the population of five million farmers was assisted at the end of the four-year period.

The challenge of the government, according to the minister, is how to maximize productivity among Ghanaian farmers to reach the levels that farmers supported under the ADVANCE program had reached.

“Ghana can produce not only for Ghana or West Africa or Africa, but we can be a big producer and supplier of maize across the world and that is a fact most of you will agree with,” he said.

The ADVANCE program is under the Feed The Future initiative put together by Development Partners and run in Ghana by the United States charity, USAID. It is in its second phase with 113,000 farmers in a targeted program to bring investments in specific regions for maximum impact.

The Deputy Head of Mission at USAID, Steven Hendrix, noted that Ghana had the potential to become Africa’s bread basket.

“I was previously in Nigeria and we had a massive food aid program in the Boko Haram affected areas. Just Maiduguri, a million people needed food assistance of some sort and we were importing food because Nigeria could not grow the food they needed. It could not get the food in the market for its citizens,” Hendrix said.

He added: “And I thought, where we can get this food; And it turns out that places like Ghana could be the bread basket, not only for West Africa, but for much of Africa.”

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