Posted by: rumnet | July 6, 2012

Peasant Farmers to Draft Farmers’ Manifesto for Political Parties in 2012 Polls

Peasant Farmers to Draft Farmers’ Manifesto for Political Parties in 2012 Polls

(Published in the July 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Staff Writer

Recent development in Ghana has underscored the importance of political party manifesto in setting national development agenda, as it has become so important after elections that, both opposition parties and citizens in general, make reference to it while demanding accountability from government.

The political party manifesto has now become the watershed of national development policy. It is thus vital to ensure that the development of these manifestoes are inspired to reflect accountable governance and smallholder farmers priorities, if sustainable and inclusive development is to be realized in Ghana.

Participation in political processes such as presidential and parliamentary elections has mainly been led by political parties which have defined and driven agenda based on party ideologies. Citizen influence on political party agendas has often not been systematic, consolidated and sometimes has lacked the necessary pragmatism to ensure that elections are driven by citizens demands.

Due to the lack of systematic engagement between citizen’s and their aspiring leaders, accountability has often been missing in the aftermath of elections. A key observation in most political processes is that, the elected leaders do not work with their constituencies and seldom come back to account for their commitments and actions. Thus, the building of strong and accountable leaders and institutions often lacks the key building blocks, which are active citizenship. In this regard, strong governance institutions that can deliver and secure rights to key services and human needs must start and end with the people. But this is also a process that has significant lessons for both civil society and electoral institutions and the general lack of documented evidence of how civil society engages in electoral processes beyond election monitoring and peace building is a key area for learning and research.

In 2008, the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with the Ghana Federation of Agricultural Producers and the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress held a one-day forum with the then presidential candidates of the main political parties to tell farmers what they had in their manifestoes for small scale farmers. This activity fell short of expectations as the farmers did not make any input into the manifestoes which could serve as a base for holding the government accountable.

Thus, ahead of the 2012 elections, PFAG in collaboration with OXFAM GB, Ghana, is going a step further in consultation with small scale farmers across the country and other stakeholders including civil society organizations and NGOs in the agricultural sector and traditional leaders, to develop a Farmers’ Manifesto that would demand addressing challenges that hamper the development of small scale agriculture and food security, through increased investment in that sector.

The manifesto, according to the National Secretary of PFAG John Akaribo, who was addressing a zonal consultative meeting of farmers in Tamale, would be used to engage key political parties and targets, to ensure that their voices and aspirations are reflected in the parties’ manifestoes and in agricultural policies and programmes that would emerge after elections, thus increasing space for accountability. He said consultations would be held in the three zones of the country namely; the Northern, Middle and Southern zones.

The driving force behind the move taken by the PFAG is the fact that majority of Ghanaians are smallholder agricultural producers that rely on farms less than two acres for their food and income. But in spite of their diverse strategies in creating wealth for themselves and improving their lives, small scale farmers, according to Mr. Akaribo, were the poorest in the country due to challenges that hamper their progress. These include insecure and fragmented land holding, high cost of inputs leading to low input, declining soil fertility, low access to financial services, high interest rates, market liberalization and removal of subsidies which all have led to low productivity.

He said Ghana has made exciting progress on poverty reduction having halved it from 56% in 1990 to 20% by 2006, adding that in 2011 economic growth rate of 12% was recorded. However, 5% (nearly 1.2million) of the population was food insecure,  according to a recent study by the government and the World Food Programme (WFP), and 2million were vulnerable (women and children) and at the brink of becoming food insecure. Most of these were in the highly deprived Northern Regions. Mr. Akaribo also noted that Stark disparities exist regarding the food secure population, citing 34% of the people in Upper East Region who were experiencing food insecurity whilst 1% was in the Greater Accra Region.

This situation the National Secretary of PFAG observed, calls for rigorous investment in smallholder agriculture that would drive economic development, reduce poverty, increase rural incomes and improve wealth creation. The phenomenon of under-investment in smallholder agriculture Mr. John Akaribo indicated was partly explained by the absence of clear, separate and strategic financing scheme for the smallholder agricultural sub-sector. There was, therefore, the need for farmers and political stakeholders to begin discussions on the subject of smallholder agricultural development financing to ensure its effective and sustainable development, he stressed.

The National President of PFAG, Mohammed Adam Nashiru, in a statement expressed pessimism over the successes of government programmes such as fertilizer subsidy, mechanization, buffer stock and youth in agriculture in addressing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

He called for commitment of the country’s politicians to agricultural transformation and improved livelihoods between small scale women and men farmers, stressing that this commitment could only be shown if the farmers manifesto was considered in their manifesto for 2012 elections. The manifesto would be used as bases for accountability on delivery on their promises for the small scale agricultural sector, he hinted.

According to Mr. Nashiru, the meeting was to enable the farmers brainstorm among themselves and decide on what they wanted to see in political parties’ manifestoes for small scale farmers, adding that the outcome would be the farmers’ manifesto which will be launched and presented to political parties for consideration in their manifestoes for 2012 elections.

The National President also used the occasion to call on all citizens of Ghana to cherish and nurture the peace they were enjoying and called on all political parties, party supporters, all tribes and ethnic groups from all regions to exercise restraint before, during and after the elections and avoid counterproductive behaviors.

 

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