Business News of Saturday, 8 December 2018
As Ghana remembers its farmers, and use the day to celebrate their efforts, the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has called for circumspection in introducing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in seeds.
According to the farmers, “the call for the introduction of GMOs to salvage the local seed industry is only a strategy by multi-national seed companies and their Ghanaian agents to control seed production and rip the patent right of a single seed purchased by farmers”.
In a statement, the farmers cautioned that accepting GMOs in Ghana is not only contrary to the President’s vision of developing Ghana Beyond Aid; but will further worsen the poverty level of smallholder farmers who will have to buy expensive seeds every year; killing infant seed industry and taking the progress chalked in the agriculture sector a step back.
Below is the full statement
Ghana Beyond Aid: Smallholder farmers, the game changers
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), wish to congratulate our indomitable farmers on the 34th National Farmers Day Celebration. Smallholder farmers work under difficult conditions to provide food and raw material for domestic consumption and export in the midst of escalating constraints. The Association is particularly grateful to women smallholder farmers who constitute majority of smallholder farmers and are in most occasions, sidelined in the area of agricultural support. To all award winners, we say ayekoo!!!
It is very refreshing to have this year’s Farmers Day themed around the President’s vision of Ghana beyond Aid “Agriculture, Moving Ghana Beyond Aid” and this is in line with our continuous call to use agriculture as the key to unlock the economic potentials of the nation and wean itself from the clutches of donor dependency. This theme is a wake-up call and to achieve this dream will depend on government response to the following issues:
First, we call on government to increase investment to Ghanaian seed growers and farmers. The local seed producers and farmers are plagued with numerous constraints ranging from poor resources for research institution, such as SARI to provide foundation seeds; limited irrigation facilities; poor transportation; storage facilities and difficulty in access to credit to support seed production and distribution.
The call for the introduction of GMOs to salvage the local seed industry is only a strategy by multi-national seed companies and their Ghanaian agents to control seed production and rip the patent right of a single seed purchased by farmers. Accepting GMOs in Ghana is not only contrary the President’s vision of developing Ghana Beyond Aid, but will further worsen the poverty level of smallholder farmers who will have to buy expensive seeds every year; kill our infant seed industry and take the progress chalked in the agriculture sector a step back.
Government, has over the years, focused on investment in food production with little investment to reduce postharvest losses (PHL). In moving Ghana beyond aid, we propose a concerted and deliberate effort to reduce PHL. Specifically, the provision of post-harvest management equipment such as small harvesters, processors, cold vans, mobile rice mills and appropriate storage and marketing facilities. Value addition such as processing and marketing should be pursued vigorously to create jobs for the youth.
We also call on government to review the fertilizer subsidy programme by reducing the amount of money put in subsidizing chemical fertilizer. The saved money should be used to support organic fertilizer and sustainable agriculture which is economically prudent, environmentally friendly, gender sensitive and climate resilient. Apart from cost to the taxpayer, there is evidence of the effect health of using too much chemical fertilizer. There is also environmental implications and economic consequences of over-reliance on importation since the manufacturing companies are outside Ghana.
Finally, we call on the organizers of Farmers’ Day celebration to reflect on the criteria for selecting award winners. The prestigious awards are mostly skewed in favour of large-scale farmers, especially at the national level. Smallholder farmers and women, who constitute majority of farmers in Ghana; providing over 80% of the food and raw materials are always awarded hoes, cutlasses, knapsack sprayers, fertilizer and at best, bicycles and motor cycles. Whiles their counterparts (large-scale farmers) who are the minority producing less than 10% of the food are awarded with packages such as: houses, pickups, tractors, combine harvesters etc. It must be noted that, whiles large scale farming is by choice in developed countries, in Ghana, it by privilege, gender and inheritance. For instance, most women have no choice of expanding their farm size due to land tenure system and difficulty accessing credit for being a woman. It would, therefore be unfair for such a woman who has a passion for agriculture to miss the opportunity of winning a house to a man who is privileged to inherit resources, land and also, has access to credit due to the availability of inherited collateral.
Long live Ghana, long live all those who genuinely fight for the people of Ghana
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), is an apex Farmer-Based Non-Governmental Organization in Ghana with the mandate to advocate for pro-poor agriculture and trade policies and other issues that affect the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.