Five years ago, the government rolled out the first module of five of its agricultural flagship programmes; Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) to increase food production and ensure food sufficiency.
Riding on the back of smallholder farmers as the vehicle for its successful implementation, the PFJ was the government’s response to the call for sustainable agriculture to create food security and produce the raw materials to feed agro-processing industries while creating jobs.
The thinking behind the programme was to ignite passion and interest in agriculture to attract Ghanaians, particularly the youth, to develop interest in farming. The idea is to make a point that farming is no longer just producing food to eat, but that farming is serious business.
Focus of PFJ
The PFJ initiative thrives on partnerships involving the government, the private sector and development institutions. Central to this equation are the smallholder farmers — themselves a component of the private sector as suppliers and customers within their value chain.
It focuses on delivering improved seeds and fertilisers at a subsidised price absorbed by the government and extension services to smallholder farmers across the country.
Since its implementation, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, at various international platforms marketed the programme to the international community, which was endorsed as an important step to food sufficiency and security.
With that effective marketing strategy, the programme has caught up with a number of governments and international bodies, which have expressed interest in Ghana sharing her best practices with them for possible replication in their respective countries.
For instance, neighbouring Burkina Faso, Togo, Malawi, Trinidad and Tobago and recently, Sierra Leone are some of the countries that sought assistance from Ghana one time or the other for the replication of the programme.
Distinguished United Nations agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) as well as the Africa Union (AU) have, at separate events, held discussions with Dr Akoto on the flagship programme.
In February 2018, Dr Akoto, at the 41st Governing Council session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) used the platform to sell the PFJ to the international gathering. At the event, Dr Akoto conferred with the WFP Executive Director, Mr David Beasley and the Executive Director of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Mr José Graziano da Silva and the head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mr Gilbert Houngbo, on PFJ and how the international bodies could support or partner Ghana to provide guidance to other developing countries with the interest in developing a home grown strategy to improve their agricultural sectors.
Trinidad and Tobago
On March 11, the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr John Alleyne, conferred with Dr Akoto to understand how the PFJ works and the possibility of that country adopting it for its benefit.
Dr Alleyne described the flagship programme as “a very good initiative” and was hopeful that they could make use of aspects of it.
He noted that after the official visit to the country with his Prime Minister, Dr Keith Christopher Rowley, “I was asked to remain for an extra week in order to get more agricultural information and technology.”
In July, 2019, a team of experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development of Malawi visited the country to officially understudy Ghana’s agricultural policies with the intention to replicate them in Malawi.
Their primary focus was the PFJ programme which the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had been able to involve the youth, especially in the area of the greenhouse technology where University graduates have shown great interest and exhibited the potential of building it into a lucrative industry.
Writing on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone, the Director-General of Service Delivery and Performance Management, Mr Edward Momoh Kamara, described the PFJ as a tremendous success.
“The PFJ model Ghana is currently using is birthing tremendous success in the food and agriculture sector, and the Government of Sierra Leone through its Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) would like to learn from the Ghanaian experience and explore the possibility of adopting a similar model through collaboration between both Governments of the two sister countries,” the letter said.
Five years down the line, these testimonies signify that the flagship programme is a positive initiative that has chalked reasonable successes and there is therefore the need to consolidate the gains garnered over the years to take Agric to the next level to become the backbone of the country’s struggling economy.
To successfully consolidate the gains made so far, there must be a political will and commitment by the government to support the ministry to truly do so irrespective of the current challenges facing the sector like the hike in fertiliser prices on the world market.
It is envisaged that, this year, the PFJ programme would likely face a tough challenge as the sector minister has indicated that the government would not be able to subsidise enough fertiliser for smallholder farmers in the country due to rise in the price of the product on the world market.
The minister has already prepared the minds of the farmers that they would have to rely on the open market to secure fertiliser for the plants they grow this year.
The good thing, however, is that farmers have seen the importance of fertiliser and it is hoped that they would use the proceed from their previous bumper harvest to secure fertiliser to continue to increase the gains made over the five years of implementing the PFJ initiative.
The PFJ is being implemented by human beings and therefore, there is bound to be challenges. People might have their reservations about the implementation of the programme, but surely, the programme per se is a laudable one and sharing our success with our neighbours definitely is a good step.
After all, sharing is caring.