This is a feature Article written by Joseph Opoku Gakpo, a student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST),Kumasi-Ghana. Enjoy reading:
Farmers Day is here with us again. It’s been celebrated for the last 26 years, and now the 27th celebration is here. Congratulations to all our gallant farmers and various stakeholders who have made the day a success over the years.
But as we mark Farmers’ Day this year, one thing that occupies my mind as a student of agriculture, is the lack of enthusiasm among most young people, particularly colleagues of mine, for careers in agricultural production. In Ghana, we have over 60 percent of our population engaged in Agriculture, most of them peasant farmers, growing only a few hectares of land. The larger part of the 60 percent figure are uneducated rural people, who really do not take farming as a business venture, but as a way of life, hence hardly attach the needed diligence required for successful farming operations, and are under performing. But the fact is that the very few educated; industrious, and entrepreneur minded farmers, are doing very well; harvesting thousands of hectares of cash crops, fruits and vegetables for export to the European and American markets. They operate mechanized farms, invest in the services of Extension Officers, install irrigational facilities, and put proper structures in place to prevent post harvest loses, and thus are making good returns on their investments.
So how do we create more of this kind of entrepreneurial minded farmers in Ghana? The answer for me is simple, through formal education. But there is a problem. From the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to the University of Ghana, through to several other public and private universities in the country, agriculture is read as a four year degree course. Every year, thousands of graduates with Bsc in Agriculture and related sciences are churned out from the universities. So the question multimillion dollars is, where are all these agric professionals? Unlike those students in Medical School and Law School who have dreams of pursuing professions as doctors and lawyers respectively, several of the young people reading Agriculture in the universities don’t have dreams of pursuing future professions in the Agricultural industry, not to even to say get onto the farm. They have eyes on jobs in the banks, hospitals and elsewhere, and their motivation stems from the fact that there is evidence of scores of Agric professionals who have landed lucrative jobs in these sectors. Be my guest at the Agric faculty at KNUST to interact with some colleagues, and trust me, you would find only a hand full of them who think of a future career in the Agric industry. Some are even shy that they are reading the program, as it’s evident with colleagues reading Agric related courses like Bsc Agric Biotechnology, who would tell you they are not Agriculturalists, but are Biotechnologists.
Your guess is as good as mine; they are wrong, and they are living in a world of their own, but you can’t blame them. Right from childhood, working on the farm has been seen as a punitive measure for those who misbehave in school. Their parents encourage them to aim for professions that would see them operate from the banks, and the courts, and the hospitals, and the airlines, claiming such professions carry more pride. They tell them to look out for role models in people like Dr. Mensa Otabil, Data Bank’s Ken Ofori Atta, Journalist Israel Laryea, among others, and forget to point out to them that there are people like National best cocoa farmer Samuel Awuni who they could look up to for inspiration.
So we have a situation on our hands where almost every young person in Ghana is shunning agric, including those who are being trained to take up professions in the sector. As if there is any banker or doctor or lawyer who does not owe his or life to the farmer. And agriculture for most people have now become a retirement package, where after illustrious professions in public service, we jump onto to catch some rest ahead of “a call to glory”. But we should all be interested in encouraging young and educated people to get themselves involved in the Agricultural sector if we would ever want to see a wealthier Ghana than we find it now, because there is evidence that productivity on the farm is higher with more young people involved. In the cocoa sector for example, a research by the University of Ghana and University of Sussex for Cadbury International revealed that “there are significant differences in productivity by the age of farmers, with older farmers producing lower yields per acre than younger farmers.” The research also finds that “young and more educated persons were found to work on farms that were more productive than those of older farmers, and were more likely to introduce innovative production methods on the farm.”
What exactly accounts for the lack of interest on the part of majority of young people to go into Agriculture may constitute an endless list. There has always been the issue of lack of credit facilities for those willing to go into the agricultural production. Of course, if you would want to do Agriculture and do it well, you would need to make huge investments into heavy machinery for effective mechanization. You would need to turn away from the continued dependence on hoe and cutlass, the rain, and on natural nutrients in the soil for good production, otherwise we would continue to be where we are. There should be a conscious effort on the part of all stakeholders, with government playing the lead role to increase the application of modern science and technology to the development of agriculture in Ghana, so we as a nation can stop importing everything food, because agric in Ghana would not grow by natural forces.
But I am convinced that the tables are turning, and that the future looks bright. I am aware of work being done by the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, through the Cadbury Cocoa Ambassadorial program which is using the Young Empowering Young Model to encourage more young people to get involved in cocoa production. I also know of work being done by organizations like Agro Mindset, which aims at re – focusing the minds of young people reading Agriculture and related programs, so they aim at creating their own agriculture related jobs. Then there is the Youth in Agric Program which is recruiting more young people to go into farming. It is my hope that all these interventions by both private and governmental institutions yield a positive return, so we can see more youthful and educated persons engaging in farming and the agric industry in general.
When the Agric Professionals refuse to farm, we make nonsense of our educational system. It is true that University education aims at broadening the minds of students so they can pursue their dreams, but I believe the Agric Faculties at our various universities cannot be considered as relevant institutions into which money should continually be pumped, until Agricultural production in Ghana sees some major improvement. Let us invest our skills where our mouths lead to (our stomach).
God bless our gallant farmers, and may God bless our homeland Ghana.
Article by Joseph Opoku Gakpo/Student/ Faculty of Agriculture, KNUST