Ghana is blessed to establish a national e-agriculture policy to promote national development through agricultural modernisation.
E-agriculture describes an emerging field focused on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved ICT processes.
The innovation is the way forward to realise the much-talked about modernisation of agriculture in the country.
According to E-agriculture Community of Practice, more specifically, e-agriculture involves the conceptualisation, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture.
The good news was made public at the end of the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference (ANYSC), which was on the theme: “Promoting National Development through
Agricultural Modernisation: The Role of ICT.”
The ANYSC was organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Humanities, University of Ghana, Legon.
A communiqué issued at the end of the ANYSC, which was held from, January 15, to January 20, said in ensuring the modernisation of agriculture through ICT, adequate awareness should be created by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) in the use of docu-drama, and the hosting of policy fairs.
Globally, the need for national e-agriculture strategies has been recognised by many stakeholders, however, many countries, including Ghana, are yet to adopt it.
A national e-agriculture policy would regulate the emerging industry, and promote speedy and wider adoption of the use of ICT in agriculture.
Consequently, leveraging ICT in agricultural modernisation, which is an information-intensive sector, has proven to be expedient the world over, and Ghana is no exception.
The agricultural sector offers a viable platform for it to be modernised and strengthened with the use of ICT.
The integration of ICT and agriculture will, no doubt, lay the foundation for addressing the myriad of challenges that have arisen in the sector, and in the long run, promote the development of the sector.
In this direction, e-agriculture is very important in speeding and achieving the nation’s development.
Speaking at the formal opening of the ANYSC, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called for an end to the cost of food in the country, which is blessed with fertile lands.
He explained that due to the fact that production methods in agriculture sector were not the best, while income levels of farmers and fisher folks remained low, the situation had worked to make the agricultural sector unattractive to the youth as a viable means of livelihood, and that the situation ought to be arrested.
The President also noted that ICT had brought to the fore new ways of doing things, and that given the rapid penetration of ICT in society today, particularly, the use of mobile telephony, there was the realisation that ICT should be integrated to be effectively used as a facilitating tool in agricultural development.
“ICT provides easier access to markets and information as well, and I have no doubt that if this is mainstreamed into our agricultural practices, productivity within the sector will be increased, and not only will farmers’ income increase, but food security will also be guaranteed,” said President Akufo-Addo.
The President’s statement would be given a strong impetus to agriculture development, if the government translates the call by participants at the ANYSC for the establishment of a national e-agriculture policy to promote national development, through agricultural modernisation using ICT.
The government’s unveiling of the National Campaign with the slogan “Planting for Food and Job” would generate more wealth in the agricultural sector, and improve the livelihoods of farmers and fisher folks, as well as help grow the national economy.
E-agriculture offers a wide range of solutions to some of the perennial agricultural challenges in Ghana (FAO, 2016).
The communiqué called on government to create a special fund to support youth in agriculture, stating that in particular, government could create an ‘Agri-Fund’, targeted at the youth to attract them into the sector.
On youth empowerment, Professor Michael Ayitey Tagoe, Dean, School of Continuing and Distance Education, University of Ghana, said: “Although we have struggled to attract the youth to the School, this year we witnessed a little improvement over that of last year’s.”
“One of the innovations of the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference was the youth dialogue. We wish to thank the young farmers and the senior high schools that participated in the programme.”
The communiqué recommended that a national e-geospatial data base should be developed for all farmers in Ghana, and this should be integrated into the systems of all agricultural agencies and other corporate bodies such as banks, telcos, among other requirements.
The communiqué also noted that the ICT unit of Ministries, Departments and Agencies should be upgraded and expanded, with increased capacity of the personnel to drive the vision of e-agriculture, adding that the ICT units at the various districts should also be empowered to localise the policy.
It called for the upgrading of telecommunication networks to the length and breadth of the country, and provision of ICT enabled gadgets such as phones, Global Position System monitors, broadband spectrum and computers.
To promote the adoption of e-extension, it was strongly recommended that the MoFA should integrate ICT services and extension services to increase outreach, scope and depth of extension services, while reducing costs.
ICT plays a critical role in the agriculture value chain, which entails all activities involved in the production of agri-food and food products, from the input supplier to the producer, through processing, packaging and marketing to the final consumer.
According to Apostle Professor Samuel Asuming-Brempong of the Department of Agriculture Economics and Agribusiness, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ghana, who delivered a paper at the ANYSC, current trends in value chain development incorporates ICT that is targeted at enhancing the activities by increasing their productivity and efficiency.
Different types of ICT have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different impacts.
Today, ICT has gained traction in developing countries. Some of the ICT tools identified by the World Bank, and being deployed, include mobile phones, radio, the internet, television, satellite imagery, and electronic money transfers.
In Ghana, the commonest means of disseminating information to smallholder farmers is the mobile telephony.
Dr Betty Annan, Country Manager, Agribusiness Systems International, also a speaker at the Conference, said mobile finance held great potential for promoting financial inclusion in agribusiness, especially, with mobile phones increasingly affordable.
She said mobile financing provided financial inclusion access to rural under-served agribusiness value chain actors, stating that most smallholder farmers lacked access to formal bank accounts and services.
The Ministry of Communications, the telcos and other stakeholders should promote the customisation of mobile technologies.
For instance, handsets and memory card could be designed to provide specific services to farmers and extension agents.
Despite the challenges the nation’s farmers are likely to face in switching to the use of ICT in agriculture, such as high illiteracy rates among them, e-agriculture remains the best option for accelerating Ghana’s agricultural modernisation.
Promoting the use of ICT in agriculture is essential for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Africa’s agricultural sector needs modernisation to increase productivity and to reduce poverty at all levels of society, as well as create jobs for the many young people who are currently unemployed.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda recognises that global connectedness, and the spread of ICTs, have boundless potential to not only modernise agriculture, but also to accelerate human development and progress, bridge the growing digital divide and develop knowledge societies (United Nations, 2016).
The government’s efforts to formulate a national e-agriculture policy would further be enhanced by the Ghana ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) Policy, which represents the Vision for Ghana in the information age.
It is based on the Policy Framework Document: “An Integrated ICT-led Socio-economic Development Policy and Plan Development Framework for Ghana”.
Some of the strategies identified in the Policy to modernise the agricultural sector include, promoting the deployment and exploitation of ICTs to support the activities of the agriculture sector, including, the production, processing, marketing and distribution of agriculture products and service.
Others are revitalising agricultural extension services by empowering and equipping farm extension service workers with relevant ICT skills.
The government’s ability to formulate and implement a national e-agriculture policy would go a long way to ensure that information and knowledge is distributed efficiently to the nation’s farmers, thereby ensuring agricultural productivity and food security.
As President Akufo-Addo rightly puts it, the era of high food prices in Ghana must be a thing of the past.