Gov’t warned over moves to modernise agriculture

Agric minister, Dr Afriyie Akoto Osei[/caption] Government’s attempts to modernise agriculture in the country could have “disastrous consequences” for the sector and consumers, the General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) has warned. It argued the Plant Breeders Bill which is being pushed for passage under the guise of modernizing agriculture, could threaten smallholder farmers in the country as it will introduce Genetically Modified seeds and planting materials. “The Plant Breeders Bill if passed into law in its current form will undermine smallholder access and control over seeds and planning materials, threaten farmers indigenous food systems and production practices, put the health of consumers in danger with severe consequences for the development of the country,” it said. A statement issued by GAWU to commemorate the 33rd National Farmers’ Day celebration which falls on Friday December 1, it advised that attempts to support the sector through policies and investments should rather focus on addressing the challenges confronting smallholder farmers. “GAWU is also worried that the government’s unbridled importation of seed for the Planting for Food and Jobs program has a high chance of introducing GMO seed into the country,” it stated. It underscored the need for government and key stakeholders to recognise smallholder farmers, who are mostly women, as the main investors in the agricultural sector. GAWU observed the role of agriculture in supporting livelihoods of many families, guaranteeing food security, reducing poverty in rural areas, and promoting growth and national development has never been in doubt. The country’s farmers, it noted, remain the main pillar in this regard notwithstanding the myriad of challenges confronting them. “Sadly, farmers and their families, majority of who live in rural areas are among the poor and marginalized in the country,” it indicated. It said various stakeholders and governments have made efforts to address the many challenges confronting the agricultural sector, most of these challenges still persists and are widespread. GAWU mentioned issues of access to land and water resources, improved seeds, fertilizers, high levels of post-harvest loses, poor infrastructural development (road networks, irrigation. power and storage facilities), agricultural credit, effects of trade liberalization policies, and access to markets for agricultural produce as some of the key challenges facing farmers in Ghana. These challenges among others, it said, have been the main factors contributing to the declining fortune and share of agriculture to Ghana’s GDP in recent years. GAWU lauded the theme for this year’s celebration, Farming for Food and Jobs, primarly because it supports its advocacy for the consumption of locally produced agricultural products, especially local rice and poultry products. “We have no doubt that given the requisite attention and support, the hardworking farmers in Ghana can and will be able to produce to meet local demand, industry and for export,” it said. Government’s efforts ensure farmers produce sufficiently to meet domestic consumption, industrial needs and for export, it said, can only be attained by a strong pro-agriculture approach driven by productivity growth or yield growth, as well as public investments and market access. “Most significantly, this pro-agriculture approach can revolutionize rural Ghana and change the face of poverty in the country,” it said. It has meanwhile commended Ghana’s farmers and fishers for their hard work in the last year.

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By Stephen Kwabena Effah||Ghana]]>