In recent times, experts have been sounding the alarm bells over a possible global food crisis. This is based on the impact of many factors including forest denudation, land degradation, species extinction, destruction of coastal ecosystems, water shortage, climate change, declining oil supplies, and the growing demand for high-protein food.
The root cause of all these problems is the ruthless exploitation of the earth’s resources, triggered by growing affluence in some parts of the world and desperate poverty in others — linked to rapidly increasing population.
According to UN statistics, between 1980 and 2000, global population rose from 4.4 billion to 6.1 billion, while food production increased by 50 per cent. By 2050, the population is expected to hit over nine billion. Experts say agricultural production needs to increase by at least 60 per cent over the next 40 years to meet the rising demand for food.
The lot has fallen on Africa to lead the rest of the world to achieving food sufficiency, given its relatively huge uncultivated land resources, and unattained potential productivity gains as a main source of future supply and stability for food and industrial agricultural markets.
Smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia cultivate about 80 per cent of arable land and produce most of the world’s food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Ironically, smallholder farmers grow food on a small scale with limited external inputs, cultivating crops as well as livestock and fish, relying almost exclusively on family labour.
For Africa to justify the trust reposed in her by the rest of the world, governments on the continent together with development organisations and investors would need to join forces to support smallholders to become less subsistence based and more entrepreneurial by tailoring production to market forces, to induce output expansion and boost incomes in rural areas, to enhance global food security.
Private investment is very essential if agriculture is to accomplish its vital role of contributing to economic development, poverty reduction, and food security. But experts have stressed that a coherent policy framework is an essential component of an attractive investment environment for all investors.
This means that whilst development partners are being encouraged to motivate African governments to depend largely on primary producers to attain sustainable long-term development of the agricultural sector, the continent need to have a robust policy and legal framework and a capacity to implement and monitor projects, to attract the needed investment.
With regard to small farming, the right framework conditions need to be in place to take care of the various components of agriculture food chains, beginning from improving productivity at farm level, to upgrading value chains by empowering farmers’ organisations and integrating them in strategic partnerships.
It is equally important for planners to take a critical look at how to respond to local, regional and international demand by adding value to commodities and at the roles of research, technology and innovation in the food chain, as well as access to finance, models of Public Private Partnerships, and the state of the (rural) infrastructure.
In Ghana, the government is working earnestly to put in place coherent plans and strategies to build an attractive investment climate for the private sector to thrive in the agriculture sector.
For example, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has been holding discussions on agricultural investment in Ghana with key stakeholders, including the private sector, to introduce the country’s participation in the ‘Grow Africa’ platform which seeks to induce private sector investments through practicable plans to support the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector.
The platform supports country level efforts and promotes private sector investments and partnerships in line with regional priorities as in the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) plans, which basically seek to transform the continent’s agriculture, which are consistent with Ghana’s Medium Term Agricultural Sector Investment Plan (METASIP).
METASIP is an initiative based on boosting productivity along value chains as well as equipping smallholder farmers with the requisite tools and skills to integrate themselves into supply chains, to achieve food security and emergency preparedness, growth in incomes, access to markets, sustainable management of land and environment, applied science and technology and enhanced institutional co-ordination.
In addition, the MOFA has created an Agribusiness Support Division under the Policy Planning and Monitoring Evaluation Directorate (PPMED) to serve as an interface between the government and private sector to facilitate investment in the agriculture sector, besides offering technical and advisory support on investment in agribusiness and trade.
It is in line with this that the government in collaboration with the World Bank and USAID have set up the Ghana Commercial Agricultural Project (GCAP) to achieve the policy objective which will allow access to investment opportunities, ranging from private commodity farms to private sector operators along the selected agriculture value chains comprising input suppliers, processors, traders, exporters, financial institutions, warehouse operators and transporters.
Other projects being implemented to provide support in that direction include the Export Market and Quality Assurance Project, the Northern Rural Growth Programme and the Roots and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme.
Furthermore, the government has established the Outgrower and Value Chain Fund (OVCF), a joint grant and loan programme, to support farmers who have clear plans to create nucleus farms and support local out-growers in addition to the Export Development and Agriculture Investment Fund (EDAIF), which also provides funding for agricultural development.
Regarding land accessibility, extensive negotiations with local communities are being facilitated, and a participatory lands rights inventory being undertaken. Apart from that the government is working to create a land bank facilitated under the Land Administration Project (LAP II) that would act as an information exchange between landowners willing to lease land and prospective investors.
It is refreshing that government’s strategy direction, as spelt out in the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA), is to lay the foundation for a structural transformation of the economy based on a modernised agriculture and sustainable exploitation of Ghana’s natural resources which would be underpinned by infrastructural and human development as well as application of science, technology innovations.
But for all these to be achieved, there is the challenge of systematically addressing the structural constraints at the policy and institutional levels that hamper private sector competiveness in agriculture and other sectors.
Nevertheless, considering the afore-mentioned interventions, the government surely look set to develop new opportunities for investment, create growth in the private sector while at the same time relieve some of the financial burden currently placed on it by allowing the public sector to invest in a broader array of projects to enhance the environment for growth and development by developing policies and platforms that treat the private sector as a true partner.
By Emmanuel Amponsah