Upper West can be nation's food basked, Minister declares
Bolgatanga (Greater Accra), 29 Jan. '99, - Mr J.H. Owusu-Acheampong, Minister of Food and Agriculture, declared today that the Upper East region has tremendous potential to lead the country in food production. He said the region can produce enough food for its people and the rest of the country if constraints relating to the provision of small-scale dams and credit facilities for farmers are addressed. Mr Owusu-Acheampong was speaking at a pre-departure briefing session with the Regional Minister, Alhaji Amidu Sulemana, after a tour of the region. The Food and Agriculture Minister said he was highly impressed with the irrigation project at Tono near Navrongo in the Kassena- Nankana district, and the onion farms at Bugre in the Bawku East district. With adequate motivation, the Tono farms are capable of meeting the region's rice requirement, thereby reducing the nation's demand for imported rice, he said. The Minister praised farmers in the region for their hardwork, and said the government would do all it could to support them. Mr Owusu-Acheampong said the Pwalugu tomato factory would soon be reactivated at the end of negotiations going on between the government and Heinz International of the United States of America (USA).. Mr Owusu-Acheampong said the implementation of agricultural research findings was essential to the improvement of existing methods of food production adding that the ministry will offer the needed assistance to agricultural research to enable them impart knowledge about new technology to farmers. The Minister further stated that schools would be provided with the necessary infrastructure that would enable students put into practice the agricultural theory they learn in the classroom. Responding, Alhaji Sulemana said the provision of irrigation facilities was of great importance to the people, about 80 per cent of whom are farmers. "The issue becomes even more urgent considering the erratic rainfall pattern and resultant perennial food shortages experienced in the area in recent times," he added. The regional minister was optimistic that with enough dams and dugouts for the local communities, the youth would take to vegetable production and other productive ventures during the dry season instead of migrating down south to look for jobs. Alhaji Sulemana observed, however, that without credit facility, a vast majority of farmers in the region would be rendered redundant, and urged the ministry of food and agriculture, to make available more credit packages to farmers.