Factors that Ministry of Food and Agriculture must consider for sustainable agricultural policies

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An efficient conceptualization, formulation and implementation, of any agricultural policy, must consider the following questions: What are the policy objectives? Do current policies meet objectives? What are the characteristics of a new policy set? How to implement new policies? How to monitor and evaluate?

When quality answers are given to the above questions, the positive impact of the policy under consideration is expected to be felt.

A policy cycle mostly will start from an identification and mapping of policy issues or problems. This process usually involves mechanisms, largely, broad in nature: including the voice of concerned citizens and consumers, lobbying activities by interest groups or stakeholders, political pressures (from the Executive arm) and critical suggestions or inputs from the academia, and other experts. Ideally, this process results to a definition of broad policy objectives.

What do we want to achieve? Herein, political rhetoric or an impactful policy outcome? — This question is a follow up to my previous article: agricultural policies vs political rhetoric; a vicious cycle in the Ghanaian political environment.

 It is desirable that policy aims and targets are formulated in defined operational terms, so as to have an efficient basis for assessment and to facilitate accountability. Sustainable agricultural policy formulation and implementation must consider the following:

Gender disaggregate data: Unfortunately, the agriculture sector is mostly misunderstood to be for only the masculine, however, many activities in the agriculture chain include women. Manual planting, harvesting and processing are mostly done by women, especially in the rural areas of Ghana. It is therefore important to factor in the gender disaggregate data, when formulating agriculture policies in Ghana. This is because agricultural activities are still peasant in nature, though unfortunate, mechanization of the sector is still in the infant stage. The sex, number, and age bracket of labour in the sector must be delineated, to give a clear policy target.  

Agro ecological distribution: Fortunately, this factor has been considered in many of our policy implementation guidelines. In the current implementation of the planting for foods and jobs (PFFJ) several crops and animals have been earmarked for the different agro ecological zones in the country. However, when so many target crops are considered at a time for only 4 years ‘political policy cycle’, the intent verse the actuals, become vague: monitoring the actual production gains for several crops and different production locations and the economic impact becomes a problem for a sector where monitoring and evaluation, and extension services are limited. It is my candid opinion that, going forward, fewer crops should be considered. For instance, the staple foods: cereals (maize, guinea corn and rice) be considered for the Northern (Savannah), Transitional and Zones with wetlands or lowlands, for maize, guinea corn and rice respectively. The major tuber crop: yam, and root tuber: cassava, should also be considered in the Northern (Savannah) and Transitional zones, with Cashew as the only cash crop, to be considered in these zones. And, of course, Cocoa, oil palm, and Coconut being the main crops to be considered at the Coastal, Deciduousand Forest areas. The emphasis of fewer crops, herein (9) will enable easy allocation of limited resources, throughout the country, and also enabling easy monitoring and evaluation.

Possible aggregation of peasant farmers to farm cooperatives: It is my view that smaller farm units could be aggregated to form larger cooperatives with a specific crop and yield target. In that regard, MoFA, can easily offer support in finances, inputs, and consultancy services, which will yield positive outcome. Farmer groups which perform best in a season, should have a percentage increase in funding, as a motivation. The current wholesale service approach, where individual farmers receive incentives to work on small sized farms won’t yield significant impact, in my candid opinion. Large scale farmers can be left on the current support scheme. In the animal sector, this will enable efficient distribution of limited resources by applying the Livestock Unit (LSU): a reference unit which facilitates the aggregation of livestock from various species and age as per convention, via the use of specific coefficients established initially on the basis of the nutritional or feed requirement of each type of animal.       

Efficient consultancy services other than the farm visits by extension officers must be exploited in every agricultural policy: farm visits by extension officers is key in the production chain, however, technical advices in the form of export trade by individual large scale farmers becomes a challenge. Many farmers don’t know about latest phytosanitary regulations put in place by our trading partners, EU, US and China. The main reason why we get most of our vegetables rejected at export. It is therefore important to factor in such consultancy services in policy implementation. To a certain extent, the Ministry of Trade, is helpful in this aspect. What is the benefit of a ‘bumper harvest’ when the quality food harvested cannot meet export requirements?

Farm income objectives and welfare: This is obviously and directly related to farmers. The level and variability of farm income has long been a central concern of agricultural policies. The traditional policy instrument must set targets for income to be generated from each farmer or farm groups, using previous or current prices at the market for computation, depending on the inputs offered by the ministry. When farm income is well accounted for, the economic impact of their activities can be well established.

Objectives related to consumers:  Generally concern the volume and quality of the products produced by the agricultural sector, which is served to the consumer. Every agricultural policy targeted at significant produce sales, must factor in the consumer objective. The value addition and quality control measures, starting from the farm to the market must be considered, else, the produce will not attract significant demand in the competitive market. The integrity of the produce must meet the preference of consumers.

When these factors are carefully considered, the timeline for the policy should be clearly defined as well to measure targets.

It is my sincere hope that, GoG, through MoFA, will focus on agricultural policies that are based on market interventions, addressing specific economic using agriculture as the driving force, at the same time, considering social and environmental objectives, to ensure policy sustainability. When the above stated, are carefully considered in agricultural policy formulation, the vision of MoFA, can be achieved: “A modernized agriculture culminating in a structurally transformed economy and evident in food security, employment opportunities and reduced poverty.”

Haruna Gado Yakubu, Research Fellow at CEBSAR-AFRICA

Source: CEBSAR-Africa

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