THE Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, has launched a PhD programme in Soil Science for West Africa at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) with a call on Western donors to exhibit fairness about their decisions on subsidies for agriculture.
“Anytime we talk about subsidy for agriculture, we meet challenges from the Western donors, yet they turn round to give subsidies to their farmers,” he said.
Mr Ahwoi stated that the position of the Western donors had contributed to the low use of fertiliser in the country.
Ghana is among the lowest fertiliser users in the world with an average of eight kilogrammes per hectare compared with NEPAD’s minimum recommendation of 20 kilogrammes per hectare.
This has been so because cost of the product was beyond the reach of the average farmer while information on its use is minimal.
The PhD programme, being run by KNUST in conjunction with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), seeks to establish a centre of excellence at KNUST for the teaching and training of research scientists in soil science for the West Africa sub-region.
Its goal is to develop and strengthen regional human and institutional capacity to develop innovative and adaptable technologies for halting the rapid soil degradation to improve agriculture productivity in Africa.
Twenty students from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali have been admitted to undertake the fully sponsored four-year PhD programme.
Mr Ahwoi stressed the need for the cost of fertiliser to be reduced while information on its use was stepped up.
He said how to increase crop yield or by implication how to increase soil fertility was the single most important challenge of agriculture in Africa.
It is estimated that Africa has the highest percentage reduction of 0.72 per cent in poverty for a one per cent increase in yields compared with 0.48 per cent for East and South Asia and 0.10 per cent for Latin America.
Mr Ahwoi said poverty in Africa could be addressed to a very large extent when food security was achieved.
He stated that MOFA’s Agricultural Sector Development Policy framework had set out key agricultural development objectives to build on what had been achieved in the agricultural sector.
These included good security and emergence preparedness, improved growth in incomes, sustainable management of land and environment, and improved institutional co-ordination.
The Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. K.K. Adarkwa, underscored the need to find ways of sustaining soil quality in crop production in the face of current land degradation.
He, however, expressed concern about the inadequate manpower to facilitate the achievement of the required soil quality, and therefore, welcomed the new PhD programme at KNUST.
The President of AGRA, Dr Ngongi Namanga, said the organisation wanted to have a gender-balanced PhD programme.
He called on MOFA to set aside a little of its budget to support training programmes in agriculture.