The Agency for Health and Food Security (AHEFS)- a Ghana-based Civil Society Organisation (CSO)-has underscored the need for government to develop a policy on vegetables in the country.
The civil society organization made the appeal at the presentation of a research work it has conducted dubbed ‘’Strengthening Agricultural Value Chain Economics for Sustainable Development (SAVES); a Focus on Vegetables’’
The presentation, which was done by Kwaku Asante (MPhil, MA, BSC), noted that there seems to be overemphasis on improvement in the cocoa and cereal (maize, rice) or legumes (soyabean, cowpea) production in agricultural policies in Ghana.
He indicated that although horticultural commodities, mainly vegetables, which are major foreign exchange in China, Indian and Thailand, they have been almost ignored in all our existing agricultural policies.
The research findings he explained identified policy gaps because they did not contain specific objectives, strategy, and targets and most importantly, were not clearly defined.
‘’We saw that there were policy gaps in our policies on vegetables. A lot our problems are governance related…The vegetable sector has high potential for young people,’’ if we give it the needed attention, he suggested.
Mr. Asante said Ghana’s vegetable sector grows at 10% per annum and contributes close to $250 million to the economy. However, the lack of a clear policy on vegetables is not giving us the needed benefits.
The research worked with 120 respondents from all the regions and from the focus discussions held, it was discovered that farmers had difficulty accessing farmlands to engage in vegetable farming.
‘’Land acquisition is a major factor to commercial farming especially land acquisition for vegetable production,’’ he said.
It was also discovered that less than 10% of the farmers were trained to carry out farming activities and they relied on pure knowledge for farming.
Mr. Kwaku Asante posited that the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 2 could be much easier should government develop a policy or framework on vegetables.
Goal 2 seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security.
The aim is to ensure that everyone everywhere has enough good-quality food to lead a healthy life.
Achieving this Goal will require better access to food and the widespread promotion of sustainable agriculture.
This entails improving the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. It also requires increased investments through international cooperation to bolster the productive capacity of agriculture in developing countries.
Mr. Asante said with a clear and specific policy on vegetables, jobs would be created; women in the sector would be empowered.
He said Ghana’s vegetable consumption was poor due perceptions on how vegetables are produced.
He called on government to learn from the China and Thailand examples and draw from their success stories.
Thailand is an agricultural country with a total area of 51.31 million hectares. More than 23.88 million hectares are used for agricultural production.
The figure represents 46.54% of the country’s total agriculture land.
Among these, 96,099 hectares is vegetable production area, which is equivalent to 0.45% of the total agriculture land.
Thailand per data available is among the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world, with majority of the products being vegetables.
Thai vegetables have focused on improving safety and quality of vegetable products to meet the demand of buyers in the domestic market and export of vegetable products to a higher standard market, especially organic vegetable production.
Mr. Asante using these modules said no one institution ”can solve all the problems” hence the need for partnerships.
Partnerships he said ought to be secured from among traditional authority, MoFA, CSOs, MESTI, CSIR, and Development Partners.
In their recommendations, the civil society organization called for agricultural value chain policies designed for specific crops.
The other recommendations are as follows:
- Project implementing partners should be properly trained and their responsibilities clearly defined to prevent role conflict and ensure proper coordination of various activities
- In future, stakeholder consultations prior to agricultural value chain policy designs should include interdisciplinary mix of experts from universities and other research institutions as well as civil society organisations (CSOs) and private sector actors engaged in agriculture.
- There should be specific projects and investments strategies to deal with vegetable value chain challenges
The research work was funded by BUSAC fund and supported by DANIDA, European Union and USAID.
The Agency for Health and Food Security (AHEFS) is a Ghana-based Civil Society Organisation (CSO) registered and incorporated in May 2007 to promote research and provide services in project implementation, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and capacity-building services in gender-sensitive and human rights-based development environment in West Africa.
As a development organisation in health, climate change and agriculture, AHEFS runs three programmes namely;
Preventive Health Programme (PHP),Environmental Protection Programme (EPP) andFood Security Programme (FSP)
As part of its activities, AHEFS supports institutional capacity building in the area of operations research, quality improvement, development project planning, implementation and M&E. AHEFS is endowed with a strong research and project management teams who consistently provide behavioural change education services to its target populations most of whom reside in rural and hard-to-reach communities employing participatory approaches of focus group discussion (FGD), participatory learning and action (PLA) and problem-based learning (PBL) simultaneously with analytical approaches of cause-effect analysis, cost-benefit analysis and root-cause analysis in the facilitation of behavioural change communication (BCC) activities.