Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy, providing employment for a large proportion of the population. Yet agricultural growth has been slow and sometimes negative and has not been accompanied by a growth in manufacturing industry.
So how does Ghana bring about agricultural transformation to power industrial growth and improve livelihoods?
This was the central question addressed at the Ghana Agricultural Transformation Forum held on Wednesday at the Economics Department of the University of Ghana. The event was jointly organized by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and moderated by Dr. Dede Amanor-Wilks, ACET’s Director of Communications and External Relations, who underscored the importance of linkages between agriculture and manufacturing.
In his welcome remarks, the Founder and President of ACET, Dr. K.Y. Amoako, noted that from the first African Transformation Report, it was clear that “real transformation can come from the agriculture sector”. He assured participants that the Forum was not just another talk shop and that its outcome would form part of larger discussions at the upcoming action-based dialogue, the second African Transformation Forum, scheduled to take place on 20-21 June in Accra.
The Regional Head of AGRA for West Africa, Dr. Fadel Ndiame stressed the importance of investing in human capital to produce seed systems for agricultural transformation. He also noted that AGRA is supporting agro-enterprises to improve supply systems.
The first session, chaired by Professor Peter Quartey, Head of Economics Department at the University of Ghana, began with a presentation of highlights from ACET’s second African Transformation Report, “Agriculture Powering Africa’s Economic Transformation”.
Presenting the report, ACET’s Senior Research and Policy Advisor, Dr. Julius Gatune, noted that agricultural transformation incorporates two main processes; the first being “transforming or modernizing farming by boosting productivity and running farms as modern businesses” and the second, “strengthening the links between farms and other economic sectors in a mutually beneficial process, whereby farm output supports manufacturing (through agroprocessing), and other sectors support farming by providing modern manufactured inputs and services.”
Four areas of the ACET report were probed in research papers on land, markets, agroprocessing and skills development. The presenters were, respectively, Dr. Victor Owusu, Professor Ramatu Alhassan, Dr. Francis Appiah and Dr. Yaw Osei-Asare.
While Dr. Owusu recommended the creation of “land banks” to provide, in his words, “one-stop land acquisition service”, Dr. Francis Appiah emphasized the support for small and medium scale enterprises to improve the processing of agricultural produce and meet international standards. With an export-oriented policy in place, meeting international standards are critical.
For her part, Professor Alhassan urged government to: “Harmonise policies and strategies for a holistic framework for Planting for Food and Jobs (internal & external marketing)” and to, “Assess the performance of Export Development Strategy and build on lessons”.
Dr. Osei-Asare highlighted the skills gaps within the agricultural value chains in Ghana, which is a major constraint to agricultural transformation. He recommended the development of a comprehensive Technical Vocational Education and Training national strategic policy document, which details the skills needs of the country.
Some of the solutions proposed by the participants included the establishment of a national price dashboard to inform farmers and consumers about prices of agricultural products, and provision of credit risk guarantee to improve access to credit for farmers. Capacity development was also needed for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, District Assemblies and the Standards Authority to develop agriculture-led industrial development policy to spur economic transformation.
It was also recommended that more community journalists should be engaged to improve extension services to rural farmers since farm management skills play a critical role in productivity increases and overall agricultural transformation. To harmonise agriculture-related regulation efforts, it was proposed that Ghana should establish an Agricultural Development Authority, which would not only be more effective in regulating the market but would also enable the Ministry of Agriculture to more effectively focus on forward-looking agriculture policy.
Participants identified certain areas that require more research and analytical work, including branding of local produce, use of blockchain technology to improve land administration and management and skills needs for the future.