I am aware that GASIP is currently financed by both a loan and grant from IFAD and the Government of Ghana and I have also been informed by the Minister of Food and Agriculture that there are on-going discussions for co-financing by other development partners.
I hereby lend my support to the Minister’s effort in seeking the needed co-financing. This programme needs a bigger envelope for maximum impact on the ground.
Mr. Chairman, there is an urgent need today than ever before for governments to find pragmatic and innovative solutions to the problems of food insecurity and poverty, especially rural poverty as we are confronted with a growing population and worsening effects of climate change. It is gratifying to note that IFAD has provided a grant of US$10million to address the adverse effects of climate change on our already resource poor small farmers.
Mr. Chairman, let me highlight the huge employment opportunities that agriculture provides especially for the youth of today. The problem of unemployment will be history if the mind set of our young graduates shifts from gaining employment in the public sector to self-employment. Agriculture provides the best entry points for self-employment and it is in recognition of this that government has provided various funding and other supporting policies for the youth to engage in self-employment.
Mr. Chairman, the unemployment problem we have on hand today stems from the fact that our educational system in the past and even today, does not emphasize self-employment after school.
Mr. Chairman, employment in the agriculture will however not be attractive to the youth if living conditions in the rural areas where the farming takes place is not made attractive. This calls for a holistic rural transformation including good roads linking farming communities to the markets and urban centers, good health facilities, good schools and electricity. This is exactly why my government is focusing and giving priority to rural and agricultural transformation.
Again, our youth cannot be attracted to agriculture and inherit from their ageing parents if we expect them to go back to the hoe and cutlass methods of farming. It is for this reason that government is investing resources in facilitating the acquisition of productive equipment such as tractors and accessories especially for planting and harvesting. However, I have to caution that not everybody can own equipment. As a start, the youth should target renting. You don’t wait to get a tractor before enter into farming. That is why government is facilitating private sector operators to establish the Farm Service Centers especially in rural districts.
Mr. Chairman, I note that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has long adopted the Value Chain approach in promoting agribusiness. That is the right way to go. This makes the consumers and therefore the markets the driving force for increased agricultural production and ultimately increased incomes.
Mr. Chairman, access to finance often referred to as “working capital” is very necessary but it is not the first thing to seek when starting a business for first timers. As I said the other day, it is the idea of the business venture you want to embark on. Have you considered the expertise needed, the demand for the product or services and the correct location of your business etc. My government has provided several avenues for the youth to have easy access to working capital but innovative business ideas must come first.
I am also aware of the breakthrough in getting some Rural Banks to finance various value chain actors using their own funds. These banks I am told have adopted a value chain financing model introduced by the Northern Rural Growth Programme co-financed by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), African Development Bank (AFDB) and the Government of Ghana. I am also aware that some Commercial Banks are now partnering these Rural Banks to lend money to small farmers who were tagged as risky loan defaulters. This testifies that innovativeness is key to rural and agricultural development.
Mr. Chairman, the crops sub-sector often dominates many agricultural programmes but I am assured that the livestock and fisheries subsectors will receive the needed support under GASIP provided the activities to be funded make business sense to the key actors along the value chain.
In the livestock sector in particular, I will charge the Programme management to undertake analysis that will promote commercialization of small ruminants such as sheep and goats. In this way, livestock production will be taken as business where farmers will be producing for specified markets.
Mr. Chairman, I performed the launching ceremony of the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in April 2009, then as Vice President. I followed the implementation progress of that project with regular briefings from the Project Coordinator anytime I visited Tamale and so, it is gratifying to note that GASIP is designed to upscale the successes of this project as well as lessons from other MOFA projects. It is therefore my pleasure once again, to declare GASIP duly launched.