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19 WFP country directors meet in Accra

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto has assured that government would continue to strengthen the linkages between smallholder farmers and downstream actors in agricultural value chain to ensure sustained income for their activities.

According to him, the surest way of ensuring higher productivity and sustained income for farmers was to develop and strengthen linkages between all actors within the value chain and to this end government was working to improve on it.

“This we have embarked on, making efforts to design financing models that will address the long standing challenge of lack of credit to the agricultural sector,” he added.

Dr Akoto who opened a three-day meeting of 19 country directors of the World Food Programme from the West and Central Africa in Accra yesterday said the implementation of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ initiative by the government, had shown that a deliberate measure to support agriculture could yield the necessary dividends.

He said as a result of the initiative, the agriculture sector recovered strongly with a growth rate of 6.1 per cent in 2017 and by 5.5 per cent by the third quarter of 2018.

“After two years of providing input support to farmers, significant yield increases have been recorded for the targeted crops under the PJF. For instance, maize yield increased from 1.8metric tonnes per hectare to 3 metric tonnes per hectare recording 67 per cent increase; rice yield increased by 48 per cent from 2.7metric tonnes per hectare to 4metric tonnes per hectare and soya yield equally increased by 150 per cent from 150 per cent from 1metric tonnes per hectare to 2.5metric tonnes per hectare,” he stated.

According to the minister, for the first time in many years, food production and availability increased significantly in 2018, leading to a bumper harvest of produce and export of food crops such as maize, soya, rice, cowpea, cassava, plantain and yam to Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo.

“We are working to consolidate the gains of 2018 and to ensure that bumper harvest become annual affair which will lead to a transformed sector with our farmers earning decent income and therefore able to lift themselves out of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition,” he stressed.

Dr Akoto said the government would this year roll out four new modules and these would includethe Greenhouse Villages Programme to increase production and export of vegetables and flowers and planting for export and rural development to diversify source of incomes for farmers as well as increase export earnings.

The rest are Rearing for Food and Jobs to increase meat production which had a huge import substitution potentials and mechanisation centres for modernisation and efficiency in the production systems.

He expressed the hope that the meeting would offer more opportunities for export for specialised nutritious foods as well as grains such as maize, soya and cowpea from Ghana to other WFP-assisted countries in need, particularly the Sahelian countries which experience food crises quite often.

On his part the Outgoing Regional Director of the WFP, Mr Abdou Dieng said the meeting presented an opportunity to exchange with its various partners with the view of harmonising their approaches to successfully supporting national governments achieve their humanitarian and development goals.

 He said the WFP’s West and Central African Region were characterised by droughts, poverty, and population growth and evermore rising conflicts and presence of non-state armed groups, stressing that, “This negative security dynamic is hindering access for humanitarian and development actors and is unfortunately regressing its existing gains.”

By Cliff Ekuful

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