Ghana must increase investment in commercial agriculture to help reduce poverty
Agriculture is the backbone of most developing economies, supporting their food security, export earnings and rural development. Yet their agricultural production for domestic and export markets has lagged, as per capita output growth has slowed in recent times.
Slow production growth and large annual fluctuations in production have remained chronic problems for developing countries, constituting the main causes of their persistent poverty and growing food insecurity.
In terms of trade, developing countries continued to be marginalized in global agricultural markets, accounting for around 5% of global agricultural exports.
The poor performance of agriculture in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa is linked to the many internal and external challenges that these countries face as they seek to develop this sector and achieve their goals of improving food security. and increased export earnings.
Their internal challenges include low productivity, rigid production and trade structures, limited skills base, short life expectancy and low educational attainment, poor infrastructure, and inadequate institutional and policy frameworks.
At the same time, with the increasing integration of markets resulting from globalization and trade liberalisation, African economies must operate in an increasingly competitive external environment.
They continue to export a limited range of primary products which are highly vulnerable to volatility in demand and deterioration in the terms of trade.
Their inability to compete not only in global markets, but also in their domestic markets is reflected in their rising food import bills.
Revitalizing Ghana’s economy through agriculture
Reversing this decline and integrating developing countries into the global economy poses enormous challenges: overcoming marginalization from global markets; adapt to technological change; and dealing with a new institutional environment.
But most African countries, particularly Ghana, have enormous untapped agricultural potential to meet these challenges, with considerable scope for more efficient use of resources and increased productivity.
What is needed, therefore, is a renewed interest in agricultural and rural development.
Significant progress in promoting economic growth, reducing poverty and improving food security cannot be achieved in Ghana without making greater use of the potential productive capacity of agriculture and its contribution to development. overall economy.
With the support of development partners, developing country governments may need to rethink their agricultural and rural development strategies if they are to achieve their social and economic goals.
The way forward for economic empowerment
Recommendations for key actions to spur agricultural growth over the next decade are offered to African governments and their development partners, building on past experience and success stories, and taking into account national and international challenges. emerging global.
The critical strategy must be to recapitalize agriculture, investing more in this sector and in rural economic and social infrastructure development programs.
Public investment should be directed in particular towards promoting agricultural research and extension, improving access to financial services, providing investment incentives and improving access for poor to support services and productive resources.
Strategic action plans for sustainable economic development
African governments must commit to a coherent and comprehensive vision of agricultural and rural development. They should design, implement and continually review a set of priority and carefully planned actions needed to boost investment in agriculture:
1. Maintain sound and stable macroeconomic and trade policies that encourage investment in agriculture.
2. Strengthening of human capital in rural areas through health and education services and access to productive resources.
3. Establish a strong institutional environment that improves access to markets, ensures the dissemination of information, sets standards and provides an adequate legal and regulatory framework.
4. Enable research and extension services to develop productive and robust technologies under agricultural conditions.
5. Improve marketing, transport and communication infrastructure to support farmers’ access to seasonal and longer-term capital and inputs and provide them with strong price incentives.
6. Safeguarding natural resources and environmental capacity.
Such action by African governments can be made more effective if their development partners take steps to:
• Increase subsidies and other forms of assistance to help developing countries meet public investment needs in agriculture. Current initiatives to provide financial assistance to African countries through targeted debt relief and other means could in part be channeled into supporting efforts to develop Ghana’s sustainable agricultural potential, including by strengthening research and development, extension services, ensuring the availability of essential inputs and structuring commodity financing, as well as marketing assistance.
• Support the efforts of developing countries to facilitate the transfer of technology and the flow of foreign direct investment that will improve agricultural productivity and competitiveness.
• Facilitate market access for African agricultural products in developed countries, in particular by improving the terms of trade, by adapting multilateral trade rules to the institutional context, human capital and infrastructure of developing countries, and by helping to develop product quality and pre- and post-production standards.
Action strategies of African countries with the support of the international community that will help them to exploit their agricultural potential by strengthening their supply capacities and their competitiveness, and thus take full advantage of the commercial opportunities inherent in the multilateral trading system. Progress is crucial on three fronts: increasing and maintaining productivity and competitiveness; diversify production and trade; and improving access to foreign markets.
The author is the Registrar of CIAGH