Are these roasted bananas? I asked, as my colleague Ado looked on nodding against me. Let's ask her, he said. It's amazing! Many different types of fresh agriculture products are sold along the streets of Accra. All the lady could tell us was that the bananas like fruits are called plante according to her pronunciation.
One would wonder the destiny and mission of the seemingly unplanned walks by the two guys; Zambian and Ethiopian YPARDians. Less to the expectation of many, they are anxious and eager to learn how Ghana has managed to make it in agriculture; Are the young people involved in agriculture in Ghana? If so, is the government supporting them and how? Many such questions entangle them and they move around reflecting on the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week deliberations.
Walking few meters away from the Accra Art Centre, a medium size bill board shines with green writings. Our eyes caught in bliss, as we both shouted Youth in Agriculture Programme. Quickly we made a turnover to locate the offices so that we could learn more about the programme.
With our hearts beating with fear, as we were about to enter important offices without an appointment, we went straight to these beautiful wooden, well-structured and constructed offices. And quickly, we identified the secretariat of the Youth in Agriculture Program in Ghana. After getting permission from the registry, we moved on, knocked on the door and as soon as we introduced ourselves, the youthful man extended his hands and softly shouted, Akwaaba! (Akwaaba means Welcome in Ghanaian local language).
Mr. Gao Francis works as Coordinator of aquaculture/fisheries at the secretariat of the Youth in Agriculture program of the government of Ghana. He took his time to chat with us and explained an inspirational youth programme.
The Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) is a Government of Ghana (GOG) agricultural sector initiative with an objective of motivating the youth to accept and appreciate farming/food production as a commercial venture, thereby taking up farming as a life time vocation.
The YIAP has the task and responsibility of mobilizing the youth to take up farming and its other related activities as life time vocation. By so doing the following benefits will be derived from the employment for the youth, through the provision of tractor services and agro inputs;
The youth in Agriculture Programme has the objective of
Making youth accept farming as a commercial business venture;
Generate appreciable income to meet farmers domestic and personal needs;
Youth will improve their standard of living-through improved income.
Youth will be motivated to stay in rural areas, as inputs will be delivered at their farm gate, on credit basis and interest free,
Produce enough food crops, meat and fish using modem methods.
The Youth in Agriculture has four (4) components namely:
Crops / Block Farm
Livestock and Poultry
In his quick yet rich explanation, Francis narrated how beneficial the program is to engaging the youth in agriculture. He narrated that the youth are given inputs on credit and they are required to pay without interest, in kind or by cash. He said that, the government has also put in place a strategy to provide market for all the products which young farmers produce. However, this market is not a mandate that every young farmer has to sale to the government; the market is there to make sure that those who do not have market for their product can sale to the government.
The young farmers are organized in cooperatives through which they access input credit from the government. There is no collateral involved and all the youth have to do is work with necessary departments to arrange for land either from the government or from the village. The non -requirement of collateral to access input credit, enables more young farmers to engage in agriculture.
However, he narrated that it is difficult to convince young farmers who are based in mining areas to engage in farming, as they get more and quick money from mining activities.
It clearly stands, the programme is aimed at policy, strategy and sustainability. An enriched policy put in place, a workable strategy adopted and sustainability upheld. Its a great program which other countries can learn from.
Yes indeed, Ghana is able to achieve MDG1 before the deadline, it has more than halved the levels of hunger and stands as an example. It is important to note that it clearly stands that the youth play a big role in the development of agriculture and realization of food security. All governments and in particular ministries of agriculture are called to learn from the effective and successful Youth in Agriculture programme and set up policies, strategies, and budgets to support similar programmes in all African countries.
Yes indeed as there is need for action as the President of IFAD puts it To farm successfully, women need agricultural resources and inputs, as well as access to rural finance, education, and knowledge. They also need rights to the land they farm and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Higher productivity and income do not automatically lead to improved nutritional status.
IT IS TIME FOR AFRICA TO ACT SO THAT IT FEEDS ITSELF.