Mills’ agriculture policy under threat

Posted: April 7, 2010 in Agriculture/Poverty
Tags: , ,

Despite efforts being put in place by the government to ensure food security in the country, more than 260 farmers at Tubakrom in the Weija municipality in the Greater Accra Region, have been deprived of their livelihoods, as encroachers have taken over their farmlands and built on them for residential purposes.“This is the land we derive our livelihood from, but now, encroachers have taken over them. So, where do you want us to work and feed our families?” quizzed Abdulai Fuseni, one of the affected farmers, adding, “this is a serious problem we are facing over here. Now, we have nothing to lay our hands on. We are jobless, and as a result finding it very difficult to cope with the situation. In fact, there is no money to pay for our children’s school fees, and most of them have been sacked from school.”

He told The Chronicle how their persistent pleas to the government had fallen on deaf ears, and therefore wondered if the “government really cared about its investments,” after spending so much to rehabilitate the project.

The Chronicle has in possession some documents of the farmers seeking interventions to save them and their farmlands.

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Portions of a document sighted by this reporter, and dated May 26th 2009, and copied to the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of the Ga South Municipal Assembly, with copies to the offices of former President Rawlings and his wife, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, and the Irrigation Development Authority (IDA), read “…recently the Chief of Tubakrom, where the farm is located, started demarcating the farmlands for sale to estate developers. We, the irrigation farmers, are against this sale of the farmland, and would like to engage your intervention to end this act, since the land is a government-invested land. If this sale is not halted, all the money spent by the Government of Ghana in developing the area for irrigation, will be useless.” Unfortunately, Mr. Rawlings and wife did not act on their petition.

The Municipal Chief Executive, Sheriff Otoo Dodoo, who promised to act on their pleas by demolishing the unauthorised structures, has also reneged on his promise.

“This is where I earn a living, and this is where the entire community derive their livelihood. I have been able to build a house from this project. My children were happily living with me because I could afford paying their school fees. But, now I can’t, because I am not working. They’ve been sacked from school, and are currently staying with my sister in the village,” Kwame Shaibu, a father of three, told The Chronicle.

A visit to the site revealed how some of the encroachers were busily working on their buildings, irrespective of a directive issued by the Ga Munipal Assembly to stop work until permit documents are produced.

A source at the IDA, however, could not give reasons why the encroachers hadnot been cleared, in spite of numerous discussions the Authority and the MOFA has had with the Assembly.

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The Weija Irrigation Scheme boasts of 220 hectares of farmland, established in the early 1980’s to produce fresh vegetables to feed Accra and its surrounding markets.

It was established by the Government of Ghana, under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), and supervised by the Irrigation Development Authority (IDA).

Tomatoes, water melons, green peppers, as well as some Asian crops, are produced by the community to feed the markets of Accra and its surrounding communities.

The scheme is currently under rehabilitation at a cost ¢6.9 billion, and has had all old pumping machines replaced with new ones, except the intake pumping machine at the side of the Densu Lake.

About 25 hectares of the farmland has been taken over by the estate developers, leaving 195 hectares, which the community has resolved to protect, come what may.

At the moment, the predominant agriculture community is quite without any jobs to do, and are waiting for the rains to come to revitalise their farmlands.

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However, efforts to get the Municipal Chief Executive to respond to the delay in the demolishing exercise proved futile, as his cell phone was either switched off, or out of coverage area.

The irrigation project has been a top priority of President Mills’ agriculture policy to ensure food security in the country, and it would therefore be suicidal if these impediments are not immediately addressed.

His quest to ensure food security using irrigation projects as the bedrock of his agriculture policy, was captured in his message of the state of the nation address delivered last year and this year respectively.

Last year, President Mills, particularly, promised to vigorously pursue the Accra Plains irrigation project, to make it available for all-year round production.

“It will be the flagship of the agriculture revolution of this administration,” he noted in his message of the state of the nation’s address, delivered on February 19th 2009.

“We have to recognise that we import most of our food at present, and so we have already put into action a progressive Agricultural Policy, which will lead to both lower food prices and to more food security. This goal of food security will be a national priority.

“We will marshal all the resources at Ghana’s disposal to meet this end, for we cannot be a well-respected member of the community of nations, when we are importing food items produced in countries with a less beneficial climate than our own. Tomatoes, onions, plantain and other items are native to our climate, and we have the land and the resources to deliver these and more to our people.

“We can have no excuse, and when we next seek the people’s mandate, they will judge our success in this task,” he noted in his state of the nation’s address, delivered on Thursday, 25th February, 2010.

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