Agric, game changer for Ghana’s economic devt
Agriculture, one of the backbones of the country’s economy, in the 2017 crop season contributed more than one-fifth, (21.2) per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Similarly, the sector employed 36.1 per cent of the workforce in 2016, being the largest employer of the workforce in the country.
A total of 3, 037,381 persons 15 years or older are engaged in agriculture of which 65.8 per cent are males and 76.6 per cent are in rural areas.
The aforementioned statistics are found in the latest Ghana Census of Agriculture (GCA) National Report.
It was developed by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, with sponsorship from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank.
This is the fourth GCA to be developed by the GSS, with the first one developed in 1950, second 1970 and third in 1984/85.
It is interesting to note that the 2017/18 was the first electronic census where Computer Assisted Personal Interview technique was developed in the collection of data on households and institutions engaged in agricultural activities nationwide.
Also, the current GCA done more than three decades after the third census of agriculture, is the first to include agricultural institutions.
Agricultural institution is defined by the GSS as institution engaged in agricultural activity.
The overall objective of the GCA, is to generate more current and reliable information on the structure of agriculture and benchmark data on crops, livestock, agriculture and tree planting in the 2017 crop season.
Specifically, the GCA, among others, is meant to provide data on the structure of agricultural holdings, provision of a wide range of data to strengthen the National Agricultural Information System, provision of indicators to facilitate evidence-based decision making, policy development and strategies for development and identification of spatial variations in agricultural productivity.
The 315-page report is organised in 14 chapters. Chapters one and two cover introduction and methodology, while chapter three looks at socio-demographic characteristics and agricultural activities of households, chapter four on land use with chapter five highlighting on ownership and use of agricultural equipment.
Also, chapter six covers aquaculture, chapter seven on fisheries, chapter eight dilates on arable crops, chapter nine elucidates on tree crops and chapter ten on livestock.
Finally, chapters eleven and twelve focus on forestry and agricultural institutions and chapters thirteen and fourteen concentrate on summary, findings, conclusions and recommendations.
Among the findings, the GCA revealed that agricultural activities in the country still remained rural and rudimentary with little innovation and modernisation.
It said most agricultural holders used traditional tools and equipment for production whereas the use of modern tools and equipment such as tractors, shellers, power tillers, hatchery/incubator, meat processing equipment and milking equipment were negligible.
Also, the report said crop production was predominantly dependent on rain and mortality in livestock was high with the sector being characterised by the consumption of own produce.
“Agriculture production is largely small-scale with the majority of parcels of land used for the cultivation of crops smaller than two acres,” the GCA, said.
The GCA said the level of education among agricultural holders was low with males dominating the sector.
Furthermore, the report indicated that the youth were shying away from agriculture because they did not see agriculture as a lucrative business.
The GCA disclosed that the over-dependence on rain farming and obsolete technology, lack of access to market and poor infrastructure, declining soil fertility, erratic rainfall, drought and prevalence of pest and diseases as some challenges facing the sector.
The challenges, according to the report, were negatively agricultural production.
In spite of the implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, fertiliser use among farmers were low.
Among a raft of recommendations, the GCA stressed that agriculture should be promoted as a viable business for the youth.
To this end, the report said the youth should be sensitised to appreciate the viability of agriculture as a source of employment and livelihoods.
The GCA highlighted that production efficiency should be enhanced to improve agriculture yields.
In this vein, the report suggested the establishment of mechanisation centres in all the major agricultural areas to ensure access to different equipment along the value chain.
The GCA argued that it would be critical for gender and disability issues to be properly mainstreamed in agriculture and that persons with disability should be targeted with special agricultural interventions to promote their wellbeing and livelihoods.
Deducing from the report, though agriculture continues to play a critical role to the development of the country, the contribution of the sector to GDP and employment was dwindling.
Agriculture which employed more than 60 per cent of the labour force in the past, currently employs about 36 per cent of the workforce.
The sector is no longer the biggest contribution to GDP as it used to be in the past.
In view of this, it would be suggested that efforts should be made to modernise agriculture, boost productivity and diversify the sector and place it as the backbone of the country’s economy as it used to be in the past.
Indeed, the sector can be the game changer for Ghana`s economic development and job creation.
Other countries have used agriculture to spur and accelerate their country’s economic development and growth and Ghana can pursue same.
The country’s arable lands, favourable weather conditions and active labour force and strategic location as the centre of the earth, place it in a better stead to reap enormously from agriculture.
BY KINGSLEY ASARE