GNA feature by Mildred Siabi-Mensah
Accra, March 12, GNA – Committing resources in terms of technology, manpower and appropriate application of farm practices is said to be the only key way to enhancing the livelihood of farmers and ensuring food security in the country.
Agriculture, which is an age-old activity of feeding millions of people across the globe continue to suffer the lack of appropriate attention from governments, especially in developing and middle income countries like Ghana.
One would quiz, “How can someone/farmer who puts the various kinds of food on the table of both the rich and poor be him or herself poor in Ghana”.
Mr Issa Ouedraogo, the Executive Director of B-BOVID an agro-business in the Western Region has always wondered why 60 percent of farmers continued to muddle in poverty.
“As agro-business entrepreneur, I sometimes cannot fathom why these farmers should be poor… we need the right systems to push things forward in making Ghana food sufficient and even increasing our export for foreign exchange.”
He noted that access to funds coupled with throat cutting interest rate to developing commercial agriculture in the country was a major challenge that need to be addressed.
According to a report by the USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project (FinGAP), more than three million Ghanaians mostly living in the rural agriculture communities in northern Ghana, remained or are vulnerable to becoming food insecure if the right steps were not taken.
The USAID FinGAP, with the goal of facilitating finance and investment in the maize, rice and soy supply and value chains in northern Ghana and improving ancillary services so that agribusinesses could operate at full capacity and expand levels of food security in the country is indeed a welcoming news.
The USAID FinGAP is aimed at establishing commercially driven agricultural development services critical to sustainable food security and poverty reduction.
The project works by identifying, developing and supporting agribusinesses and farmer proposals for agricultural supply chain investment and to facilitate the financing opportunities.
Mr Rick Dvorin, Chief of Party, USAID FinGAP told Financial and Economic Journalists from the Institute of Economic and Financial Journalists (IFEJ) during a sensitisation workshop for alternative financing sources said the capital market,which brings together both buyers and sellers of financial instrument was one area that farmers could be listed to raise the needed capital for investment in agro-businesses as a step to improving food security.
Though the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) has been around for over 25 years, its operations generally centred on manufacturing and other large commercial industries that traded to either raise funds or sell long term investment packages for growth and expansion of such businesses.
Alternatively, the Ghana Alternative Market (GAX), has been created to help small and medium enterprises to raise not less than 250,000 cedis as investment package to grow businesses in that including agriculture.
The Chief of Party said, the USAID FinGAP was pursuing the development of alternative sources for financing SME’s through the listing of debt or equity securities on the GAX coupled with technical assistance through the business advisory service providers to increase investment in agribusinesses within the three value chain.
Mr David Tetteh, Manager of the GAX at the Ghana Stock Exchange who explained to Journalists their operations said capital was not a problem in the Market but encouraged interested businesses to list when the businesses were on its right footings, “come to list only when you are in distress is usually not a good deal”.
He said the average Ghanaian entrepreneur must make room for business growth and expansion, “Most often, local entrepreneurs abhor the fears that when you list, somebody might take your business from you which is not the case…You only float 25 percent out of 100 and you’re the original owner still has majority shares”.
Currently, only four SME’s are listed on the GAX and the Manager believes that by 2020 with the right education and understanding more than 50 companies should be on the GAX of the Ghana Stock Exchange.
Dr Victor Antwi, Deputy Chief of Party, USAID FinGAP said Ghana needed to observe the principles of food security through proper funding of the agriculture sector and therefore called for the right investment into agriculture and other agribusinesses.
“We cannot afford to be food insecure and that is why we at USAID have chosen to enhance your capacity as journalists on the capital market to become better advocates on why agribusiness should list”, he added.
The USAID FinGAP works in the area of inputs, mechanisation, irrigation, production, aggregation, and warehousing, processing, short and long term haul transport.
The five-year project has ensured 40 percent increase in earnings in agriculture, 30 percent in education, 11 percent in household investment with 43 percent of small holder farmers earning more in 2016 compared to some three years ago.