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The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) has opened a three-day workshop to discuss key challenges and constraints to actualise potential investment opportunities in the sector.
The participants, made up policy makers, public and private sector operators and development partners, are expected to develop an actionable road-map and provide a blue-print of needed steps to turn-around the agricultural fortunes of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ) in an accelerated, co-ordinated and integrated manner.
The conclusions of the forum would inform the SADA Master Planning process and the National Development Planning Commission’s Long-Term National Development Framework.
Mr Seth Tekper, the Minister of Finance, in a speech read on his behalf, said government was deeply concerned about the way the SADA Zone lagged in key areas of socio-economic development while the potential remained untapped.
He said in spite of the huge resource and benefits to be derived from the SADA Zone, the agricultural sector remained overwhelmed with challenges including the lack of long-term financing, poor infrastructure such as irrigation systems and road networks, and lack of improved seeds and fertilizer supplies to farmers.
He said there was also the challenge of duplication of efforts among key players in the sector, desertification and climate change impacts, high cost of inputs and low use of technology, limited agricultural extension services, and very little value addition to make products competitive and inadequate skills of small-holder farmers.
The NSEZ has been identified as the country’s untapped economic reservoir with immense agronomic resources, having about eight million hectors of arable agricultural land that could trigger the economic transformation of Ghana and the sub-region.
It is also fertile enough to produce abundant grain and rice to feed the whole country and export to the rest of the sub-region, and has the potential to produce all the tomatoes to meet the country’s need, with these commodities alone representing over 400 million dollars of annual savings to the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Mr Tekper said: “In other words accelerating agricultural growth in the SADA Zone does not only answer our food needs, it also stabilises our currency and could potentially reduce our need for external loans.”
He affirmed Government’s commitment to support the development of the NSEZ within the context of a broader national policy and development goals and called for massive private sector investment in strategic infrastructure in the sector.
He said the growth of agriculture in the SADA Zone was government’s strategy to creating wealth, employment, balancing the trade deficit, reducing poverty and enhancing the life chances of the people.
Alhaji Limuna Mohammed Muniru, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, said government was keen on promoting the development of agribusiness in the SADA Zone to ensure financing and development of key irrigation schemes.
It would also ensure the development of aquaculture and water transportation to link production centres to markets, develop modern agribusiness processing industries, and enhance the supply chains of key products as part of efforts to unearth he potential of the zone.