A Three-Year Market-Oriented Agricultural Programme (MOAP) under which farmers in the Savannah agro-ecological zone will be assisted with credit packages to enhance product quality in seven crops and preserve the environment has been launched in Wa in the Upper West Region (UWR).

The programme, valued at 160 million Euros, was launched at the weekend to improve on the livelihood of the people in the area.It will involve all the 11 districts in the UWR and three other adjoining districts in the Northern Region.The adjoining districts are Sawla-Tuna-Kalba, North Gonja and Mamprugu Moagduri. The seven crops for the programme will be groundnuts, soya, rice, sorghum, vegetables, cashew and mango.The programme is to ensure the acceptability of the agricultural products on the European Union (EU) Market and also provide food security, jobs and improve the environment.

The MOAP is being funded jointly by the EU and the German Government under the initiative of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), and has three components.The three components involve the introduction of necessary social amenities and infrastructural facilities to raise the quality of lives of the people, developing the capacity of farmers and other public institutions and the introduction of improved seeds to sustain the savannah ecosystem.Agricultural produceLaunching the programme, a Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr Nurah Gyiele, noted that for a long time, the country’s trade on the international market had been hindered by the quality of products.“In addition, quality standard of our agricultural produce is limiting agricultural trade and access to the international markets and value addition for the product remains very limited,” he said.To solve this, the government has introduced various interventions such as the Planting for Food and Jobs programme and similar policies for subsequent years.He, therefore, commended the EU for coming to the aid of the country and also for its efforts to bridge the development gap between the northern and southern sectors.The minister expressed the hope that the success of the programme would go a long way to buttress government’s efforts to create jobs and thereby improve the livelihood of rural farmers.

To kick-start the programme, an initial amount of 20 million Euros has been released to build the capacity of those involved.In line with this, Mr Gyiele has called for the close involvement of all Municipal and District Assemblies (MDAs), since all the MOFA Directorates are decentralised under them.That, he said, would be reinforced by the assignment of a deputy minister under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) to supervise the agricultural sector, since it was one of the government’s priorities.For his part, the head of the EU Delegation, Mr William Hanna, endorsed the development of agriculture which, he said, was the motivator of change in any nation.

Mr Hanna expressed the happiness of all the 28 EU members to support the programme since the area abounds in vast potential.In a speech read on his behalf, the German Ambassador, Mr Christoph Retzlaff, noted that in their 60 years cooperation with the country, the two countries had worked on various projects which had helped to improve the livelihood of the people.

In a welcome address, the UWR Minister, Alhaji Sulemana Alhassan, said he was hopeful that the farmers would hold fast to the programme and ensure that whatever credit packages they were given were paid back to ensure that other farmers also benefited.

He assured the farmers of the necessary support, adding that all the extension agents who would be attached to the programme would be provided with the necessary logistics to enhance their duties.

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