Undoubtedly, 27 years of experimenting decentralised system of government has brought decision making to the doorsteps of the citizenry leading to massive infrastructural development, in terms of access to health education, portable drinking water, sanitation facilities, lorry parks, market sheds, among others, in many communities across the country.
The new paradigm now is how best to translate this development into job creation for the unemployed and to alleviate poverty by improving the incomes of the people.
Consequently, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is pursuing policies on the establishment of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME’s) to serve as catalyst for the transformation of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies as economic hubs for accelerated economic development to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods and well-being of the rural people.
The Ejura-Sekyedumasi Municipal Assembly in the Ashanti Region has already positioned itself to promote the new initiative for sustainable economic development in the municipality, by mainstreaming local economic development to enhance growth and local employment creation.
The area, located in the northern part of the Ashanti Region, is one of the food baskets of Ghana. It has a large land area of about 1,340 square kilometres, representing about 7.3 per cent of the region’s total land area. The population of the area is about 85,446 with 60 per cent engaged in skilled agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The climatic condition, together with the topography, offers favourable conditions for the cultivation of crop such as maize, yam, beans, rice, plantain, cassava, groundnuts mostly for subsistence purposes.
According to the Municipal Chief Executive, Alhaji Muhammad Bawa Braimah, the area has comparative advantage in agriculture, and so it has taken measures to venture into agriculture to enhance food security and also serve as linkage with processing, industry and market oriented sectors.
Alhaji Braimah said the assembly, in collaboration with the Agriculture Development Bank and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has acquired 120 acres of farms at Aframso for smallholder farmers, under the Inland Valley Rice Project, to increase rice production to cut back imports on rice into the country.
“The farms are doing well, and it is our strongest conviction that Ghana can be self sufficient in rice production in the near future,” he said.
Apart from that, the MCE said the assembly had initiated moves, through the MOFA, to acquire the defunct Ejura farms to reactivate it to promote crop production “…we want to increase the production of grains, especially maize, so that we can add value to the grain by producing popcorn for the domestic and export market.”
He added that the assembly has standardized the unit of measurement of farm products, thus has shielded the farmers from exploitation in the marketing of farm produce in the municipality and, thereby, helped to alleviate the suffering of the farmers.
“We have improved the living conditions of the farmers with the standardized unit of measurement, what they usually give away as eight bags is now standardized to 10 bags; they now have more to sell to make profit,” he explained.
Alhaji Braimah said, in all the works of the assembly, education held the key to socioeconomic development of the municipality and that the assembly has taken steps to promote effective teaching and learning in the municipality for accelerated human resource development in the municipality.
“We have provided scholarship to needy students, improved educational infrastructure in the municipality, we have supported the education directorate in improving the pass rate in the Basic Education Certificate Examination from the abysmal 47 per cent to 99 per cent last year,” Alhaji Braimah said.
He added that the assembly, with the support of its development partners, had provided 100 bicycles to some selected pupils who live far away from their schools to be able to reach school early and study well.
Alhaji Braimah added that he has been able to lobby the government, and the municipality has been earmarked for the construction of a community day Senior High School, stressing that the contractor is mobilizing to go to site to start work.
In order to ensure unimpeded access to school, the MCE said the assembly has constructed a bridge over the river at Abuta, a suburb of Ejura, to enable pupils to have access to their schools during the rainy season, explaining that during the rainy seasons the pupils were unable to attend classes because of floods.
He added that the construction of the eight kilometres of bitumen roads and drains in the municipality has given the area a face lift, and reduced the perennial flooding that affected the town during the rainy season.
Alhaji Braimah, who is affectionately called “Ejuma wura,” an Akan expression which means a workaholic, says his work speaks for itself. “Looking back, I can confidently say that in my nearly two years in office, we have achieved a lot in the municipality, in terms of meeting the basic needs of the people we serve.”
“There will be more to come –more test, more challenges and in them more opportunities,” he added.
The MCE has decried the delay in the inflows of funds as a major challenge facing the assembly. He says it is now time to move on by thinking outside the box to bring more development projects to the municipality. Consequently, he is eyeing Parliament as his next avenue of canvassing for development projects for his people.
Alhaji Braimah has filed his nomination to contest the National Democratic Congress primaries to seek the mandate of the delegates to contest the Ejura-Sekyedumasi Parliamentary Seat in the 2016 general elections. The seat is occupied by the New Patriotic Party.
“With my negotiation and lobbying skills, given the nod I believe I am capable of lobbying for more projects that are outside the District Assembly Common Fund and the District Development Fund for the municipality,” he said.