|Issifu Sulemana Jobila|
The Executive Director of Zasilari Ecological Farms Project (ZEFP) Issifu Sulemana Jobila, has called on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to review the core objectives of the Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project (GCAP) in order to make it “more favourable to local farmers at the community level”.
In an interview with Savannahnews in Tamale, he said one of GCAP’s core objectives is to increase rice production in the country as part of a few measures by government towards decreasing the importation of the staple which is largely consumed by millions of Ghanaians.
“Besides rice production, GCAP is also supposed to assist nucleus or commercial farmers to produce crops such as maize, soya beans, fruits and vegetables. As I speak to you now, my observation is that there is over concentration on the cultivation of rice compared to the other crops especially in the SADA zone. As much as GCAP’s intent to increase rice production is laudable, I think the other crops are equally important”, Mr. Jobila said.
GCAP is a seven-year MoFA project, jointly funded by the World Bank –International Development Association and the USAID with an investment capital of US$145million. The project was launched in July 2012 and is expected to end in September 2019.
GCAP seeks to develop agriculture in Ghana in line with the country’s efforts at poverty reduction and ensuring food security by promoting inclusive commercial farming along selected commodity value chains. It ensures increased access to reliable water, secure land, private sector finance, agricultural inputs and output markets by smallholder and nucleus farmers in selected project intervention areas.
The project activities are located in the Accra plains and Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA zone). The Accra plains area covers the Eastern, Greater Accra and Volta Regions whereas the SADA zone area covers the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions as well as the northern parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions.
In the SADA zone, GCAP is focusing on crops such as maize, rice and soya whereas in the Accra plains the focus is on maize, rice, fruits and vegetables.
Currently, only registered farmer cooperatives or companies that have the capacity and willing to venture into commercial farming or are already into farming business are seriously considered during bidding processes under the GCAP project.
But most of these farmer cooperatives, according to Mr. Jobila, are companies that do not have their offices in the project locations and their owners do not also come from the area, thus are in a way considered strangers.
“An arrangement like this is not favourable and it’s a recipe for conflict in the future considering the way land is a trigger of many conflicts in the north. There will definitely be some people who will feel disgruntled in a way considering the fact that they have relinquished their total rights of ownership of thousands of acres of land belonging to them to a total stranger called an investor for a period of 50 years.
“Even though the people feel that they are getting some support through these investors, who per the project, are also supposed to help them cultivate an acre or two and give them inputs, they will feel some form of belongingness and security if the investors were to come from the area. The local people will feel okay if some of them were supported adequately by MoFA to move from being smallholder farmers to becoming commercial farmers”, he stated.
Mr. Jobila also urged MoFA and its partners to endeavour to build the capacity of the local farmers and land owners on how to negotiate for adequate payment of royalties and other settlements connected to the GCAP project.
“The people are largely illiterates and lack the skills and knowledge when it comes to negotiations. Their capacity ought to be build, or better still, MoFA or GCAP as a project can hire the services of a competent negotiator preferred by the people to assist them whenever the need arises”, he suggested.
He however commended MoFA/GCAP for involving civil society organisations in the monitoring process of the project and also for the formation of community land management committees in each project locations. However, he recommended the inclusion of some local CSOs operating in such areas to be part of the community land management committees in order to strengthen the knowledge base or expertise of membership of the committees.