The John A. Kufuor Foundation is calling on the government and the private sector to expand investment in mechanisation services for farmers if the country can become self-sufficient in rice production.
Ghana currently spends more than $600 million importing rice annually despite local capacity to produce more than enough.
Nana Ama Oppong-Duah, who is Policy Advisor at the Foundation, told Adom News in an interview, the only way to ensure Ghana rice becomes widely available to all Ghanaians is to ensure mechanisation tools are available to smallholder farmers who don’t have the capital to afford.
“Rice is not like any other crop… Rice needs very even land that has been well prepared where the lumps are all broken down and its relatively flat. And that’s why rice is special and requires quite a bit of mechanization and it also needs water,” she said.
“You need the tractors, threshers, irrigation facilities. It’s very easy to buy a tractor. But what really takes time is putting in place irrigation infrastructure and preparing the land so you can plant on. Land development for rice is expensive and irrigation is expensive,” she observed.
“The private sector can come up with mechanisation equipment like combine harvesters, tractors, tillers. But the government really needs to pay attention to irrigation infrastructure. And there are issues with land development that government really needs to take the lead on. Then the private sector can help with the milling, storage, and marketing,” Madam Oppong – Duah added.
She said a better financing regime for farmers to be able to acquire such mechanization facilities is needed. “The financing is a problem. Where do I get the tractor? The farmers are not able to buy them. Government needs to come up with the funding mechanism so farmers can get the support,” she noted.
“We really need to make sure we put in place these funding mechanisms, leasing arrangements, irrigation infrastructure and land development,” she noted.
Madam Oppong-Duah observed Ghana can produce more than enough rice to feed the entire country if mechanisation is prioritised. “Accra plains alone can feed the country. Even in Cape Coast, there is land. It’s just getting it ready and getting water, that is where the challenge is,” she said.
“In the light of Covid, it will be good to reduce face to face interaction. If you have tractors, combined harvesters, planters, one person can work on several acres. If we want to be self-sustainable, we need to mechanise,” she noted.
The Foundation is currently working with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Hopeline Institute, Sparkx Farms and Volta City Farms on implementing an initiative aimed at making Ghana self-sufficient in rice production.
“We have certified over 242 mechanization service providers in collaboration with the Agricultural Engineering Services Department of MOFA. We have mapped the service providers to these areas so it’s easy for them to find the farmers… And then with Hopeline Institute, we are launching a one stop service for all the mechanization service inputs,” she added.