It has been established that Ghanaian small scale farmers who constitute about 70 percent of the country’s labour force are not accessing adequate extension services from agricultural experts largely due to the low number of Agricultural Extension Agents [AEAs] currently available and working with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture [MoFA].
Only about 10 percent of farmers in the country are getting extension services as the current ratio of AEAs to small scale farmers stands at an average of 1:3000, a survey conducted by farmer based organisation, Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana [PFAG] with funding from BUSAC Fund in 2012 has revealed.
Besides, there are only 279 female AEAs in the whole country out of a total of 2, 068 AEAs. The reasons attributed to the inadequate AEAs in the system include governments’ decision over the years not to recruit AEAs again, the decision by some AEAs to leave their job due to poor remuneration as compared to other sectors of the economy, aging AEAs retiring without any replacement at times and among others.
At a sensitisation workshop organised in Tamale by PFAG in collaboration with Care International to outdoor the research report, participants including PFAG members from the Upper West, Upper East, Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, AEAs and other civil society organisations, made a passionate appeal to government to increase the number of AEAs since one officer to two or five communities was inadequate thereby denying most farmers extension services.
They also advocated the need for improvement in farmer to farmer extension services and particularly stressed the need for women AEAs to be involved on a large scale in extension services.
According to a Program Officer for PFAG Charles Nyaaba, farmers during the survey acknowledged the importance of extension services in agronomic practices, adding that, through extension officers they learned new methods of farming particularly on how to control diseases, and also how to apply fertilizers on their farms.
He said, farmers also admitted that the development of agriculture largely depended on access to new technologies and information, and asked government to place much premium on extension officers as it was done to teachers, nurses and other professionals if it really wanted to support smallholder farmers to improve upon their capacities.
Participants at the workshop during an open forum largely agreed that priority should be given to building more agric training institutions or expanding existing ones whiles adequate funds should be allocated to agriculture research institutions to enable them come out with improved variety of seeds.
The agriculture training institutions, participants suggested, should increase the intake of extension trainees by 5 percent every year and also, with improved remuneration, intake of female trainees should be increased to 50 percent because among other things, there were more women in farming than men.
Meanwhile, the survey by PFAG and BUSAC Fund was to gather empirical evidence of poor extension services to farmers, establish the extension ratio and constraints facing extension officers in the country, unravel the situation of female extension agents in the country as well as establish an evidenced based proposal for solution.
Peasant farmers in Garu-Tempani District in the Upper East Region, Tugu, Nanton and Juni in the Northern Region, Techiman and Nkronza in the Brong Ahafo Region for the Middle Zone and Ada, Ashigbekope, Ashiaman and Osu-Doku in the Southern Zone were the areas the research team visited. These communities were targeted because most of them were food crops and livestock small scale farmers who depended on public extension services.
Data collected for the research was from two main sources; primary and secondary sources. Primary data was obtained through administration of questionnaires, phone interviews and focus group discussions whereas secondary data was collected from reviewed MoFA documents such as FASDEP I & II, METASIP, CAADP, GSGDA and reports of MDGs.
Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana has membership of over 600 Farmer Based Organizations countrywide. PFAG has a national secretariat in Accra with a management team comprising a seven member board overseeing its activities. PFAG has focal persons in over fifty districts in Ghana.