Recently smallholder farmers met and came to the conclusion that, though government recognized the problems facing smallholder farmers, only limited steps have been taken to address the situation.
This conclusion by smallholder farmers was reached at a consultative meeting between the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), farmers and farmer networks organized by Actionaid Ghana to create a platform to discuss the main issues and concerns of the smallholder farmer.
Has Ghana indeed forsaken its smallholder and women farmers.
The importance of smallholders, men and women, for lasting food security in Ghana should be beyond doubt.
The world is home to 500 million smallholder farmers who support 2 billion people, account for 97 per cent of agricultural holdings, and produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population. Most of these people operate outside the formal business economy, farming to meet their own needs for food staples and selling small surpluses for extra cash.
According to the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr Kanayo Felix Nwanze, small farms accounted for 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa and in some regions they contributed up to 90 per cent of food production.
Ghanaian agriculture is overwhelmingly dominated by smallholders; many commodities, including cocoa, maize, and cassava, are produced predominantly on small farms. More than 70 percent of Ghanaian farms are 3 hectares (ha) or smaller in size.
Neglect By The Government of Ghana
In Ghana, however, it seems that the Government of Ghana (GoG) has turned a blind eye to this extremely important group of men and women. If this was not the case ActionAid Ghana (AAG) would surely not have issued a demand that the GoG should provide the needed resources to address the challenges articulated by women smallholder farmers on International Women’s Day 2012.
If the GoG has not forsaken its smallholder farmers and women the continuous complaints by smallholders about government support would not have emerged.
At the consultative meeting mentioned above the smallholders once again complained about delays by government in the supply of farm inputs (especially the late arrival of seeds), inadequate credit support, virtual absence of agricultural extension agents and insufficient support given to women farmers.
Not too long ago Mr. John Nkaw, Northern Regional Programmes Officer of SEND-Ghana, also called on the government to focus more on smallholder farmers, especially women, since they are the backbone to the sector. He added that farmers’ access to government’s agricultural inputs remained negligible and that, based on recent research, smallholder farmers and specifically women were still being marginalized in access to various farm inputs.
In a debate organised by Cambridge University on Monday 28th January 2013 titled 'Smallholder Farmers and the Future of Food' Professor Judi Wakhungu said that with 80% of staple crops being grown by women, the 'feminisation of farming' is crucial to consider in food security debates.
Why then did ActionAid Ghana issued the following demands to the GoG in 2012?
1. Access to land: - That government of Ghana as a matter of urgency develops and implements gender sensitive policies on land administration to ensure that stakeholders (especially landowners / indigenes, Tindanaas) improve women farmers’ secure access to fertile land for farming.
2. Access to water: - That government of Ghana as a matter of urgency initiates pragmatic policies to address inadequate year round water supply for both household use and for dry season farming.
3. Access to extension services: - That the government of Ghana as a matter of urgency re-visits the policy banning the recruitment of new Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs). The policy in its current form denies majority of women smallholder farmers, access to extension services which greatly affects the output of women and consequently food security. ActionAid Ghana proposes that, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture institutionalise a Women- only Extension Service Delivery to target women smallholder farmers in food crop and livestock production to redress their disadvantaged position when accessing extension services in competition with male farmers.
4. Access to financial support and credit:- That government of Ghana as a matter of urgency creates clear budget lines for women smallholder farmers, accompanied by awareness creation to address cultural sensitivities on issues on women’s access to credit.
5. Access to markets:- That government of Ghana as a matter of urgency decentralizes buffer stock warehousing at least to the regional level, so that in addition to creating market access for smallholder farmers, the poor and excluded can have enhanced access to such food stocks in times of emergencies.
During the visit of the President of IFAD the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Mr Kofi Humado, said “the country had developed several agricultural policies under which smallholders - particularly the youth and women - would be empowered to increase production and generate more income to improve their living standards.”
Why then is a pattern of complaints by smallholders over a long period of time emerging that speaks so loud that the blind can read it and the deaf can hear it?
Smallholders, both men and women, are at the core of food security in Ghana.
Has MOFA and the GoG forsaken them?
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