A campaign to advocate for reforms to the Farm Input Subsidy Programs (FISPs) in Ghana was launched in Accra on Wednesday, with a call to Members of Parliament (MPs) to join the course of charting an alternative pathway to government’s investment in agriculture.
The initiative, which is being championed by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) and Groundswell International, is designed to shift resources in existing public investment in agriculture towards increased support for small scale family farmers (including women farmers) in making a transition to a more productive, climate resilient, sustainable, nutrition and gender sensitive system, based on agro-ecological principles.
Briefing members of the press and other stakeholders at a short ceremony, the Executive Director of PFAG, Victoria Adongo, identified that the role of the media in achieving any successful campaign cannot be underestimated. “We want you to understand the issues to inform how you report every step of the way,” she opined.
Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, explained FISPs as strategies for financing and delivery of Green Revolution technologies, which involves governments across Africa using public and donor resources to secure guaranteed and subsidized markets for various packages of corporate products such as hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides at the expense of the general public. He identified that these subsidies ends up benefiting multinational companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupond, among others, who supply such inputs to governments.
Although FISPs are aimed at reducing production cost of small scale or subsistence farmers by increasing their incomes and boosting their welfare and economic benefits; decreasing food prices and increasing food security; promoting the use of Green Revolution inputs; and improving soil fertility, Mr Guri questioned who the real beneficiaries of FISPs are in Ghana. He cited Government of Ghana’s flagship agriculture programme – Planting for Food and Jobs – in which he hinted that government, with pressure from farmer lobbyists, has undertaken to subsidise the cost of chemical fertilizers by about 50%, which will be to the benefit of large multinationals who will supply these chemicals, but at the expense of small-scale farmers.
PFAG and CIKOD maintains that “the project is not to advocate against FISPs and all fertilizer subsidies, but to help reduce farmers’ dependence on external agrochemicals and shift to application of sustainable ecological processes and use sustainable farm inputs to address soil fertility.” They allude to research available to them that shows that “FISPs contribution to increased production and yields are limited at best.”
They are therefore calling on all stakeholders, including MPs as representatives of these vulnerable farmers, to add their voices to the need for an alternative pattern of public investment that supports the strengthening of farmer seeds systems and varieties; agro-ecological soil fertility methods; making diverse and nutrition dense products available to local markets before considering national or export markets; and the promotion of diversified farming systems to reduce risk.
As part of the campaign, the project partners intends to raise the awareness and political consciousness of farmer organisations and rural women associations in Ghana about the composition of the FISP and overall resource use of public investment in agriculture; and its relevance for the mass of small scale family farmers in ecologically fragile and risk prone farming areas.
They will also facilitate a process for leaders and members of smallholder farmer organizations to propose alternative patterns of public investment that are more closely aligned with their priority needs and livelihoods in the medium and longer terms.
They are positive that all these will culminate into convening a national workshop of small scale farmer and women leaders, as well as key non-governmental organisations and civil society allies to determine and agree upon main components of an alternative pattern of public investment to better meet the priority needs and livelihoods of peasant farmers; develop and prepare a national FISP reform advocacy campaign; and determine and agree upon key decision makers to influence.
By: Sammy Obeng