Leaders of peasant farmers in eight districts in the Volta Region have expressed anger over alleged non-inclusion of farmers’ concerns and agricultural inputs in budgets submitted by the District Assemblies.

They claimed that there was a total disregard for their concerns and agricultural inputs by District Assemblies when preparing budgets for the agricultural sector.

The about 50 farmers groups leaders and 8 District Directors drawn from Kadjebi, Biakoye, Kpasa, Dambai, Jasikan, Kpeve, Kpando, Nkwanta Districts and Hohoe Municipality, expressed their anger at a day’s training workshop organised by Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) at Hohoe.

They were unanimous in their conviction that officials from the District and Municipal Directorates of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA)annually engaged them to seek their inputs and concerns into the national budget, but expressed frustration that when MOFA officials present such inputs to the District Assemblies for approval before onward submission to the national level, authorities in the assemblies made changes to their contributions with the excuse that they were not priorities for the districts during the season.

They said such practices had resulted in the poor development of the agricultural sector, leading to poor yields, poverty amongst peasant farmers, with dire consequences for the country’s food security situation since they produced about 80 per cent of the country’s food needs.

The workshop was aimed at educating and training peasant farmers’ leaders on the budget process and their roles as well as seek their inputs into the agricultural sector budget especially at the district level.

The objective was to develop the capacity of farmers’ leaders to actively participate in the process of preparing the agricultural sector budget at the district level, considered key to the sector’s development. The workshop, which was a follow-up to a similar one held three weeks ago in Accra, formed part of a year’s project sponsored by Trust Africa, an international NGO to educate and train small scale farmers on budget process in the country.

Mr Asiedu Biney, 2010 Best Plantain Farmer in Kadjebi District, who summarised challenges of peasant farmers in the Region, called on the government to channel all entitlements due farmers through the District Directorates of MOFA because peasant farmers could not have confidence in the assemblies any longer.

He called for the strengthening of MOFA at the district level as well as other organisations such as PFAG to champion the interest of peasant farmers at the district level.

Madam Veronica Kornyepe, 2007 Chief Farmer in Kadjebi District said whilst DAs offered loans to traders to improve their businesses, such assistance was not offered peasant farmers. Mr Daniel Ewoade, Hohoe Municipal Director of Agriculture, assured peasant farmers that MOFA would continue to work to improve their living standards.

Mr Ewoade announced that with the review of the Local Government Act, MOFA at the district level had been directed to adopt a composite budget system beginning from 2012 Financial Year to address the concerns of farmers at all levels.

Composite budget system allows each district to budget for their challenges or particular aspirations as against the previous system where a national policy is followed regardless of specific local needs.

The participants urged PFAG to continue with the initiative for it is the only way the farmers can get the opportunity of understanding their rights and make demands.

Mr Godwin Atokple, Vice President of PFAG lauded government for meeting the 10 per cent budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector but added that “the small scale farmers are still interested in knowing how much of this allocation goes into small scale farming”.

Mr Atokple noted that even though poverty levels in the country had been declining, the situation amongst peasant farmers, who constituted about 60 per cent of the farming population, was not the best and called for efforts to modernise the agricultural sector to improve the living standards of farmers.

Source: GNA/Ghana