John Kufuor was President of the Republic of Ghana between 2001 and 2008, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) from 2003 to 2005 and Chairman of the African Union in 2007-2008. He is currently a Global Ambassador against hunger for the World Food Programme (WFP).
In an article published by the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI1
), of which we have published an excerpt below, the former Ghanaian President returns to the plan for agricultural and rural development which was initiated by his administration. Taking the example of cocoa, of which domestic production doubled between 2002 and 2005 and for which Ghana is the second largest exporter, it shows that yield and production can be significantly increased when the government invests in research and highlights policies favourable to agriculture: development in irrigation systems, educating producers, the free distribution of pesticides or facilitating access to credit.
Momagri Editorial Board
I have seen in Ghana and throughout Africa the scale of the challenge we face and also how governments can use science and technology to overcome it. More than any continent, Africa needs solutions for its myriad challenges in agriculture, nutrition, and health. Africa alone, of all the world’s continents, does not grow enough food to feed itself. This is not because of lack of will or shortage of land. In fact, around 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa. Rather, the devastating food deficit on the continent stems largely from a lack of knowledge, resources, and opportunity.
In 2000, agriculture, as it was practiced in Ghana, looked much the same as it had for decades and even centuries before. It was back-breaking, with little joy or reasonable reward to attract educated youth. The revolution that transformed agriculture around the world had largely bypassed Africa. The average farmer did not share in the advances in irrigation or improved crop varieties revolutionizing yields elsewhere. Our agriculture was overwhelmingly still rainfed. Extreme weather across Africa was becoming more regular and rains were becoming more unpredictable. If the rains failed, our crops failed. And even if the rains came at the time and intensity expected, pests and diseases could still destroy our crops because farmers rarely used pesticides and fertilizers. There was hardly any diversification, which, together with outdated farming practices, reduced the fertility and quality of the soil. It forced families to move on, slashing and burning, causing severe and lasting damage to our environment. The educated youth, therefore, escaped and drifted from rural areas into towns in search of nonexistent jobs.
The failure of agriculture forced Ghana to import food from outside our continent, stripping the country of resources needed for development. But too often this imported food itself was of dubious nutritional quality. Europe and Asia dumped inferior chicken parts and poor-quality rice in Africa, forcing down the prices of our home-grown crops. But the evidence shows that if our farmers gain the knowledge and resources their counterparts in other parts of the world take for granted, they can quickly increase yields. I have seen this in Ghana with important cash crops like cocoa and in food production.
As part of my administration’s rural redevelopment plan, reactivated agricultural extension services paid special attention to educating cocoa farmers on best practices. Ghana is the second largest exporter of cocoa in the world, but it was always clear that, with the right government support and the spread of best practices, yields could be increased.
My administration adapted the latest knowledge from universities, research institutes, experts, and farmers across the world. Farmers’ access to affordable credit underpinned our policy. The government sprayed cocoa farms with pesticides free of charge and provided fertilizers where needed. Importantly, the government gave farmers a major incentive to expand production by increasing their share of the international export price from 40 percent in 2002 to about 70 percent in 2004. The result was dramatic. Between 2002 and 2005, cocoa production in Ghana doubled—from 350,000 tons to 734,000 tons, an all-time record in more than a century of cocoa farming in the country. The government successfully used many of the same techniques to improve production for food crops such as maize, yams, and plantains, as well as livestock and fish. My administration also strengthened the Grains and Legumes Development Board to supply quality seeds and planting materials to farmers as a strategy to improve the quantity and quality of Ghana’s agriculture produce.
While increasing crop yields is vital, it is of little use if the product cannot be stored safely or transported to markets. Therefore, along with supporting irrigation, improved seeds, and crop diversification, the government pursued an integrated rural development policy, building feeder roads, silos, and cold stores for horticultural crops (such as pineapples, mangoes, and bananas). The government also made mechanization, like tractors, more affordable for farmers through favorable loan terms. Landing sites were developed for sea fisheries on the beach and for aquaculture along the Volta Lake. The outcome was that, despite the problems the nation faced, especially through 2006, 2007, and 2008, food is now more plentiful in Ghana.