The results are out. Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) 2017 distributed 4,400 metric tonnes of certified improved seeds and 296,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers to 202,000 selected farmers. With these inputs, our gallant farmers were able to produce 485,000 metric tonnes of maize, 179,000 metric tonnes of rice, 33,400 metric tonnes of sorghum, 9,750 metric tonnes of soya and 42,200 metric tonnes of selected vegetables. These products at the farm-gate generated income for the beneficiary farmers worth some GH¢ 1.2 billion.
In the process of producing such additional income, an estimated 715,000 job opportunities were generated on the farms and another 30,000 jobs were created along the value chain. This brings total jobs created by PFJ 2017 in the informal rural sector of the economy to 745,000 during the farming year 2017.
The rural labour market and farm management economics combine to underpin government’s efforts to create jobs. Those of us privileged to live in urban areas associate job creation with the formal sector, forgetting that majority of the unemployed reside in the rural areas. Ghana has a population of over 28 million with nearly 5 million farm families (some 15 million farming population).
With this vast rural labour pool, agricultural growth has been declining for most of the last ten years or so. This means rising unemployment in the rural areas. Hence the rapidly rising migration to the cities for non-existent greener pastures.
The sudden spurt of activity injected by PFJ would naturally mop up part of this lay-about prime labour in particularly the youth. One hears of university undergraduates going to plantations and other farms looking for farm work! With the pool of unengaged rural labour of a potential of 10 million, creating the opportunity for the absorption of three-quarters of one million is therefore a modest but strategic start to making rural labour work for Ghana. It is important to keep these perspectives in mind before one runs hurriedly to pass judgement on the vision of President Akufo-Addo to transform the agricultural economy of Ghana through a labour intensive strategy to achieve sustainable agricultural growth.
Most of the jobs created by PFJ were related to farming activities. The focus is therefore on this variable to explain the numbers. The basis for the estimate of jobs created is the quantity of improved seeds and fertilizers distributed to the 202,000 beneficiary farmers. In 2016, the year preceding the launch of the PFJ, a total of 134,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers were distributed to the farmers. With the introduction and implementation of the PFJ in 2017, a total of 296,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers were distributed to farmers – the highest in the history of the country. Therefore the difference of (296,000 minus 134,000) 162,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers distributed can be attributed directly to the PFJ intervention.
On average, each farmer applies 10 bags (50kg each) of fertilizer to every cultivated hectare of land. This depends upon the soil quality – more fertilizers are applied per hectare in the northern savanna than in the forest zones, for example. At this rate of application, the additional 162,000 metric tonnes of PFJ fertilizers were applied to an extra cultivated land area of 357,000 hectares.
In other words, with the intervention of PFJ, the beneficiary farmers were able to cultivate an additional fertilized land totaling 357,000 hectares. Typically in Ghana one farmer engages a minimum of 2 farm hands on a permanent basis throughout the farming year to cultivate, fertilize and harvest one hectare( 2.5 acres) of land. The two farm hands when applied to the 357,000 hectares gives a total of 715,000 jobs created on the beneficiary farms.
The additional 485,000 metric tonnes of maize produced in 2017 is equivalent to 28 percent increase over total production of maize in 2016, (1.7 million tonnes). Similarly, the 179,000 metric tonnes of rice produced under PFJ in 2017 represents 26 percent increment over the total production of 688,000 metric tonnes in 2016. The PFJ output of soya bean and sorghum, represented increase of 6.8 percent and 14.5 percent respectively in 2017, compared to total production of 143,000 metric tonnes and 230,000 metric tonnes in 2016. The PFJ has therefore made a significant impact on the grains and legumes production.
The 32 warehouses of the Buffer Stock Company which have been lying idle for the past three years have suddenly exploded into action with intense activity all over the country. Their stocking capacities have been exceeded and the company is now having to install pro -cocoon temporary shelters to hold extra stocks on their premises.Trucks carrying PFJ generated grains are waiting in queues to off -load their wares. Private nucleus farmers are bearing witness to the overwhelming stocks of produce coming from their out growers in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Region.
These are all clear evidence of the bumper harvest brought about by the PFJ campaign. These successes have been achieved in spite of the adverse impact of the fall army worm invasion, rainfall failures in parts of the northern savanna, late delivery of seeds and fertilizers in some regions and inadequate supply of improved seeds in others.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is earnestly preparing for PFJ 2018. From 202,000 farmers in 2017, the PFJ 2018 is targeting 500,000 farmers. From 4,400 metric tonnes of improved seeds in 2017, the campaign is raising nearly 20,000 metric tonnes of improved seeds for PFJ 2018 with a proportionate amount of fertilizers. With these, more jobs will be created to mop up the excess rural labour and slow down the massive urban migration or even to reverse the trend to make unemployed urban youth return to farming.
By Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister For Food And Agriculture