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U-turn with Jerry: 'What is car to national best farmers?'

After 33 years of observing National Farmers' Day, we should be taking another look at the Award package if the government is serious about encouraging agriculture.

The 2016 National Best Farmer Crenstil has been in the business for 20 years. He has 120 acres of cocoa farm, 80 acres of rubber, 60 acres of plantain, 60 acres of cowpea, 30 acres of cassava, 7 acres of oil palm, 6 acres of coconut and 15 acres of citrus farms.

What is a car prize to this man?

Some decades ago, yes, owning a car or a pick-up vehicle was a big deal. It was a good incentive to motivate others into farming with the hope of winning the ultimate prize at the Awards.

Today, it is a needless prize. If you drink a tin of milk or buy fuel from Shell, you can win a car in one of those many promotions. Why should it take 10 or 20years of farming for a man to win a car as a prize?

But the government upped its game by adding a fully furnished three-bedroom house at the winner's preferred location to the package a few years ago.

Accommodation indeed is a big issue for many people in Ghana but for the National Best Farmer, a house is not desirable. It is a picture in his gallery so to speak.

At the district levels of the National Farmers' Day, the award package is basically an insult in a form of certificates and wellington boots.

How can you convince the youth engaging in 'sakawa' to stop this dollars-by-the-hour vice to 'venture' into farming?

These are people who can buy a pick-up vehicle within the shortest possible of time.

What we may not know is that more of these farmers own farm implements worth more than the value of the vehicles given them by the government as a reward.

Do the farmers really need these 'rewards'?

The point is, the prizes ought to have a direct relationship with improving their work and yields. It should upgrade their business.

Members of the Planning Committee should begin to review the current package with the view of attracting more people into farming. 

For instance, could the establishment of a processing plant for the ultimate winner be rewarding enough? Can a business unit within government sit down with the winners with the view of improving their work - maybe venture into processing?

A tractor costs 100,000 cedis. Farmers need it more badly than a car or house. 

This suggestion could feed into the government's policy of encouraging the processing of what we grow and harvest and export to other countries.

If this is done, within the space of ten years, more processing plants would be added to the existing ones and the number of young people who stands to gain employment as factory hands will be many.

Several businesses will spring up in communities where these plants will be sited, especially food vendors and mobile money businesses.

Admittedly, the government through the Planting for Food and Jobs policy may be pumping so much money into making farming attractive in the country but more meaning can be pumped into the National Farmers’ Day celebrations than it currently gets.