The Upper East Regional Minister, Alhaji Limuna Mohammed-Muniru has stated that the region has had its fair share of Government's Programmes and Projects geared towards improving the region's food security.
He cited the Block Farm Programme as critical among the interventions under which 3,054 unemployed youth benefited as they were supported with subsidised fertilizers, herbicides and seeds to cultivate 2,265 hectres of maize, rice and soya beans in 2013 alone.
Alhaji Limuna who was speaking at a regional event to mark the 29th Farmers' Day Celebration held in the Bongo District under the theme: "Reducing Post-harvest losses for sustainable food security and nutrition", noted that post-harvest losses constitute about 30 per cent or more of harvested farm produce. He added that the huge percentage loss of produce can be attributed to losses in quantity, quality or nutritional value, wastage and low pricing as a result of glut. Consequently, farmers are unable to recoup their investments, unable to feed their families and thus making farming unattractive to especially the youth.
The Regional Minister said to help reduce these losses, Government had over the past five years supplied the Upper East region 26 combine harvesters for sale at subsidised prices on a hire purchase deal to farmer groups while early yielding varieties of maize, rice and other crops have been distributed to farmers to enable them plant and harvest early before bushfires set in. Also, Government has supported the Northern Star Tomato factory with funds to rehabilitate its machines and ready itself to purchase tomato from farmers in the Tono and Vea irrigation sites as well as those at Pwalugu and other areas.
According Alhaji Limuna, over 50 aluminum silos have been brought into the country through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and their cost, subsidised for sale to peasant farmers to store their produce after harvest.
He tasked MoFA staff to assess the impact of this initiative for its possible scaling up. Also, government through MoFA has built the capacities of extension staff and gave them over 100 motorbikes to enable them reach far-off farming communities to educate farmers on best farming practices, new agro-technologies and proper post-harvest methods.
Bongo District Chief Executive (DCE), Hon. Ayamdor Alexis Adugdaa earlier in a welcome address said the District Agric Development Unit has linked about 12 farmer-based organisations to the Bongo Rural Bank who have accessed loans to increase their yield and appealed to them repay the loans quickly in order for their colleagues to also benefit. He disclosed that 4,534 bags of fertilizer were sold to the district's farmers under the Fertilizer Subsidy scheme.
Hon. Adugdaa said in 2012, the Bongo District sponsored 376 farmers under the Block Farm Programme to crop a total of 376 acres of maize but due to low loan recovery, the assembly in 2013, sponsored only 148 farmers to crop 162 acres of maize under the same programme.
Meanwhile, through the assembly's collaboration with the Northern Rural Growth Programme and the Ghana Social Opportunities Programme (GSOP), a number of roads and dams in the district have been rehabilitated to aid farming and transportation of farm produce to market centres.
The DCE said under the Climate Change Component by GSOP, the assembly invested lots of funds culminating in the cultivation of 21 acres of mango plantation in seven communities and commended Non-Governmental Organisations including World Vision, ACDEP, World Food Programme, Savannah Agricultural Research Institute among others for their interventions in the district over the years.
The Upper East Regional Director of MoFA, Mr Cletus Achab in a statement observed that smuggling of subsidised fertilizer reduced drastically in 2013 as compared to 2012 due to stringent measures adopted by MoFA and other stakeholders such as the Ghana Police Service.
Mr Daniel Duut from the Garu-Tempane district emerged the 2013 Upper East Regional Best Farmer while Yusif Asurikabiya from the Gowrie Abaabisi community topped the Bongo District as overall best farmer.
The former received one grinding mill, one water pump, one knap sack sprayer, one set of wellington boots, a cutlass, two bags of fertilizer and a half piece of cloth while the latter took home a donkey plough, a live donkey fixed to a cart, two pieces of cloth, a radio set, three bags of fertilizer, two cutlasses, a pair of wellington boots and a certificate as a prize package.
In all, 16 hardworking farmers were awarded in the Bongo district farmers' day celebration whilst the regional event had 22 deserving farmers winning prizes in several categories.
Source: ISD (Peter Atogewe Wedam)