The government has introduced the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase Two (PFJ2.0) to consolidate the gains of the first phase which started in 2017.
PFJ 2.0, also known as the Input Credit System, will provide affordable and timely credit specially designed to meet the needs of farmers.
The initiative is aimed at transforming and modernising the agricultural value chain through the active participation of the private sector, improving service delivery to maximise impact and creating decent jobs for the teeming youth.
The input credit system replaces the input subsidy programme under the first phase of PFJ.
Modelled on the successful implementation of the first phase of the PFJ, the government’s agricultural flagship programme initiated in 2017, the new phase is targeting about 1.2 million farmers nationwide for the cultivation of grains, tubers, vegetables and other crops.
The five-year programme is expected to create more than 420,000 direct and indirect jobs along the value chain.
The government of Brazil is supporting the programme with $62 million while the government of Czech Republic has voted €10 million for the intervention over the five-year period.
The initiative is premised on four main principles – value chain-driven, market-driven, private sector focus and promoting inclusiveness.
Through the new system, the government aims to improve access to agricultural inputs, foster the adoption of modern farming practices and technologies, and ultimately catapult the agricultural sector to new heights.
Hundreds of people from all walks of life filled the auditorium of the University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale, to witness the launch of PFJ 2.0.
Also in attendance were ministers of state, Members of Parliament, metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs), representatives of civil society organisations, farmers, traditional leaders and the clergy, among others.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who launched the initiative in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, yesterday, said the initiative was a testament to “our government’s unwavering commitment to the growth and prosperity of our farming communities”.
He indicated that over 2.7 million farmers and other value chain actors across the country had benefited from phase one of the programme, under modules such as food crops, Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Rearing for Food and Jobs and agriculture mechanisation.
He said by providing credit to farmers, they would be empowered to make informed choices and invest in the inputs that would significantly boost their productivity.
“We understand that increased agricultural productivity is the cornerstone of economic growth, rural development and poverty reduction,” President Akufo-Addo said.
Agric growth potential
Describing the initiative as a decisive step towards addressing challenges in the agricultural sector, the President stated that the initiative held immense potential to accelerate the growth of the agricultural sector.
“This system represents a transformative approach towards empowering our farmers, enhancing productivity and fostering sustainable agricultural development in Ghana,” he explained.
The President expressed the belief that the initiative would contribute to the overall stability of food supply in the country and also promote financial inclusion, enabling farmers to build credit histories and access formal financial services that were previously out of their reach.
“To ensure the success of this system, we are committed to building strong institutional frameworks, fostering public-private partnerships and providing the necessary support to our farmers,” President Akufo-Addo stated.
He said the government would continue to invest in capacity-building and extension services and also equip farmers with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively utilise the inputs and implement improved farming practices.
President Akufo-Addo gave an assurance that monitoring and evaluation mechanisms would be put in place to track the impact of the system.
That, he added, would allow for data-driven decisions and continuous improvement and effectiveness of the scheme.
Cognisant of the potential challenges in the input credit system, the President said: “We will work diligently to establish fair interest rates, ensure transparent loan repayment mechanisms and guarantee that credit is accessible to all farmers, including women and youth.”
President Akufo-Addo stated that the success of the PFJ Phase II hinged on the total commitment of all, particularly the private sector.
“It is your programme; as we often say, government has no business being in business.
Government’s role is to create the enabling environment and facilitate private sector investment,” the President stated.
He added that PFJ 2.0 was evident of the enabling environment the government planned to use to make the private sector flourish.
“I, therefore, urge all value chain actors of the commodities under the PFJ Phase II to up their game and take advantage of the opportunities created under the programme,” the President stressed.
PFJ Phase one
The first phase was to increase productivity, ensure food security, generate sufficient raw materials for agro-industry, increase exports and create employment especially for the teeming youth.
It had five modules – the food crops module which focused on increasing access to fertilisers and improved seeds to increase crop yields, which was done through the input subsidy programme.
The successes under phase one include on-boarding over 2.7 million farmers and other value chain actors.
The President said other notable successes included a relatively stable food security environment, with food self-sufficiency in major food staples such as maize, cassava and yam.
President Akufo-Addo said agricultural sector growth rate increased from 2.7 per cent in 2016 to an average of 6.3 per cent from 2017 to 2021 and an achievement of nearly 50 per cent self-sufficiency in rice in 2022, down from 29.1 per cent in 2016.
The President said there was also an increased fertiliser application rate from eight kilogrammes per hectare (kg/ha) in 2016 to 25kg/ha in 2022.
The distribution of certified seeds went up from 2,000 tonnes in 2016 to 36,000 tonnes in 2022, with increased private sector investment in the seed industry.
“Notwithstanding these successes, the PFJ Phase one encountered some limitations during implementation, some of which included heavy financial burden on the government imposed by subsidies on seeds and fertilisers, limited adoption of the value chain approach and limited access to agricultural credit,” the President said.
“There was also low prioritisation of national strategic stock, ineffective monitoring of input suppliers and distributors, and targeting of only smallholder farmers,” President Akufo-Addo admitted and said the second phase would help cure those challenges.
The President lauded the donor institutions and other stakeholders for supporting the programme.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Bryan Acheampong, explained that knowing the enormity of work at the ministry, when he was given the task, he hit the ground running with the immediate task of “taking stock of the state of affairs in the sector, particularly the implementation of government’s flagship programme PFJ”.
The minister added that a thorough analysis of available data revealed that there were still huge gaps to be covered in the agricultural sector to unlock its full potential.
“Among others, the gaps identified manifested in the production of some food crops, animal production, extension services, agriculture infrastructure and food self-sufficiency”.
“In addition, issues of inefficiencies, post-harvest losses, agric financing, poor agronomic practices and low adoption of technology were identified,” Dr Acheampong stated.
He said the review exercise necessitated a change in strategy to tackle the challenges in the sector decisively, “and this gave birth to the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase II”.
The Overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Abukari II, in a speech read on his behalf by the Chief of Zangbalin, Naa Dr Jacob Mahama, called on the people to embrace the programme meant to give employment to them in order to reduce rural poverty and improve upon the standard of living of the people.
The Ya-Na pledged his unflinching commitment towards the successful implementation of the project.
SOURCE: GRAPHIC ONLINE