Gov’t procures digital agric extension equipment
….to directly benefit 672,0000 smallholder farmers
One key thematic area of the current government is its digital and inclusive transformation agenda by leveraging technology and digitalisation of the system to improve and fast-track growth and development of the economy.
It is against this backdrop that government has procured a piece of digital communication equipment, the Digital Classroom System (DCS), for transforming agriculture extension services by revolutionising smallholder farmers’ access to quality extension services, improved technologies, and good agronomic practices to ultimately increase productivity and incomes.
The DCS is a cost-effective ICT tool, designed to function in all training environments irrespective of the availability of Internet connectivity or electricity. It is a small, powerful computer and projector all-in-one, supported by a palm-sized 6-hour power-bank and a solar charger which enables it to operate without electricity.
District Extension Officers will be using the equipment for field extension activities. Procurement of the DCS is part of implementing the Ghana Extension Systems Strengthening Project (GESSiP), was launched in January 2019 by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).
The GESSiP among others seeks to directly reach approximately 672,000 smallholder farmers with extension services through 2,240 community-based advisors (CBAs) during the 5-year project period (2017-2021) in five targetted regions – the Northern, North East, Savannah, Bono and Bono East Regions. This is to improve technologies of seed, fertiliser, crop protection, good agronomic practices (GAPs), and financial literacy services. The value chains being considered are Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’s (AGRA) focus crops of maize, rice, soyabean and cassava.
An official handing-over ceremony for the DCS equipment and trainer of trainers’ workshop has been held in Techiman for 14 participating districts in the Bono and Bono East Regions. The two-day training targetted Regional Directors of Agriculture, District Directors of Agriculture, GESSiP Master Trainers and District extension officers.
In an address, Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Horticulture, Mr. Geroge Oduro, underscored the need to foster collaboration between government and the private sector to meet the demand-driven and pluralistic agenda for agricultural extension delivery. He noted that government has initiated strategies in response to the wide variance of farmer-AEA ratio – referring to the recruitment of 2,700 extension officers in 2019, and provision of 3,000 motorbikes and 216 pick-ups as a crucial step.
He said the country needs not less than 4,200 AEAs across to ensure effective extension services delivery, indicating that the Agric Ministry is awaiting financial clearance to recruit more AEAs and beef-up their strength.
Commenting on the DCS, he said: “Regarding this equipment, like any infrastructure, its sustainable and long-term use is contingent on proper and regular maintenance. This equipment is for you and to be used by you. As a pilot districts, the ministry will be encouraged to procure more of such equipment for you and neighbouring districts. But this depends on your proper and effective use of the equipment”.
The Head of West Africa Regional Office-AGRA, Foster Boateng, commended government for the Planting of Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, which is in line with green revolution, and pledged the support of AGRA to transform agriculture in the country – indicating that “government can drive its own agenda, if it is supported”.
“Our idea is to build capacity and strengthen government, help it mobilise resources to drive its own agenda. By so doing we bring other partners on board, because government alone can’t do it. We need to build strong partnerships for private sector investment, civil societies, and all meaning stakeholders. This underpins the need for sustaining the GESSiP model as part of our extension system, for both the public and private sectors to co-exist and reach out to farmers who hitherto didn’t have access to quality extension services,” he said.
The Country Director-The Hunger Project, Samuel Afrane, said as one of the consortiums implementing the GESSiP it is committed to achieving the project’s objectives; saying the establishment of 800 farmer-based savings and loans schemes will help provide the much-needed financial support to smallholder farmers who do not have access to the conventional financial system within the banking industry.
“We can’t afford to do things throughout manually; it is actually critical if we want to go modern in our agriculture system, and more importantly be able to draw our youth into the fold. This is one way to entice the young ones to join agriculture and also give us breakthrough in agriculture, hence the need for the DCS equipment,” Mr. Afrane.