That the government's flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme (PFJ) and its appendage-Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) must succeed is a non-negotiable issue.
The import of these two agricultural programmes has been trumpeted across the length and breadth of the country, particularly to the stakeholders involved in their implementation.
PFJ, labeled as a significant intervention in Ghana's agricultural development landscape making the necessary impact on the economy, is designed to trigger increased food production, increase household income of farmers and more importantly, help to achieve national food security.
PERD, carved as a strategic decentralized national tree crop development programme, is tailored at easing the country's over-dependence on cocoa and spruce up the cultivation of some selected tree crops namely cashew, oil palm, coconut, coffee, mango, cotton, citrus, shea and para- rubber.
PERD, however, is tasked with a unique objective of developing the value-chains of the selected crops for the local industries and export but its ultimate goal is to position Ghana as a leading world producer of cashew in the next five to 10 years.
As agricultural programmes, both PFJ and PERD naturally find expression mainly in the rural areas where the bulk of the nation's population live. It therefore comes as no surprise that they are being tele-guided to stimulate job creation and rural economic development.
So long as economic empowerment of the people remains a key target of the government and a critical factor towards rapid national development, the government, understandably, would be wide awake to the fortunes of PFJ and PERD.
And this perhaps explains the rationale behind the recent national workshop held in Kumasi on the validation and review of 2019 PERD reports by Regional Directors of Agriculture and a review of PFJ template.
A product of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), drivers of PFJ and PERD respectively, the workshop identified delay in reporting, inaccurate figures and inconsistent reports as some of the challenges confronting PERD.
It also came out that though PFJ and PERD have achieved some successes in the past three years, inaccurate and inconsistent data submitted by District Directors of Agriculture have become the Achilles heel, a revelation which prompted a visibly ruffled Dr. Seth Akoto, Director of Crops Services Division of MOFA to insist that " Let's present the real figures and paint the correct picture so that no problem is created".
Another draw-back is the claim that while some District Chief Executives (DCEs) and their District Directors of Agriculture are operating at cross-purposes in the implementation of PERD in particular, a handful of them are showing little or no commitment to the programme.
In a quick response, Mr. Augustine Collins Ntim, Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development retorted that «I know that some DCEs and District Directors of Agriculture are not committed to PFJ and PERD".
"But I must let you know that the Akufo-Addo administration is a serious government which considers its programmes as serious enterprises and not just business as usual. It's difficult to understand the actions of some duty bearers in toying with serious government projects"
Cautioning DCEs not to relax in the implementation of PERD, meant to propel the government's rural development agenda, the Deputy Minister who is in charge of Rural Economic Development, emphasized the need for physical infrastructural development to go hand in hand with the economic empowerment of rural dwellers using PERD as the vehicle.
"PERD is about the future of Ghana in terms of the economic empowerment of the people and protection of the ecology. Nobody should, therefore, try to undermine it", Mr. Ntim, the coxswain of PERD warned.
Acknowledging the modest successes so far chalked by PERD, the Deputy Minister who is also the Member of Parliament for Offinso North gave the assurance that no district would be left out of PERD and hinted that Parliament has passed the National Tree Crop Development Authority Bill.
The workshop identified the late release of funds by District Assemblies and unco-operative attitude of some DCEs towards the implementation of PERD as some of its key problems but pin-pointed bushfires as a major threat to the programme.
Touching on PFJ's plan of action for 2020, Dr. Akoto disclosed that having achieved a degree of self- sufficiency in maize production, emphasis is now being placed on poultry production, soya bean and rice cultivation.
On the incidence of fertilizer smuggling, he revealed that about 20,000 metric tonnes were smuggled outside the country last year as against 50, 000 metric tonnes smuggled the previous year, attributing the reduction to the labeling of fertilizer bags and other security measures introduced.
Wrapping up proceedings, the Deputy Minister had a simple message for the participants; "We have the men and resources. If we continue to work diligently together for the next five years, we will be able to build the type of Ghana we all want".