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Opinions Thu, 10 Dec 2015

Should Iran's ARD Not Collaborate With SADA To Create Wealth In Rural Ghana

- In The Regions Served By SADA?

By Kofi Thompson

Between 2009 and 2010, a number of varieties of rice from Iran, were planted by the Iranian NGO, Agricultural and Rural Development (ARD), at Takpeli and Yayayo, in Tamale.

Apparently the most successful variety was the Khazal.

The lead person for the rice-growing experiment in the north of Ghana, was an ARD agricultural engineer from Iran, Mr. Ali Jabari. The idea was that the Khazal, which had been found to be the most suitable for conditions here, would be grown on a large scale.

The plan was that some of .the harvested Khazal rice variety would be exported to Iran and the rest sold locally.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ali Jabari left Ghana for Iran, shortly after the end of the experiment in 2010, and the idea eventually fizzled out: a victim of US-led economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Western nations.

Since sanctions against Iran, are being progressively lifted, the question is: Why does the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) not ask the ministry of food and agriculture to approach the Iranian ambassador to Ghana, on its behalf, and request that Mr. Ali Jabari is brought back to Ghana, and seconded to SADA?

If that is done, Jabari can act as a liaison between SADA and the ARD - which can enter into an agreement to go into large scale commercial farming of the Khazal rice variety in the three northern regions, as well as the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions.

To help reduce rural youth unemployment, an out-grower scheme, could be added to such a project - in which young people who join the Youth In Agriculture initiative can opt to form cooperatives in the aforementioned regions to go into rice farming: and be supported to grow the Khazal variety of rice.

That will provide sustainable livelihoods for tens of thousands of young people in the disadvantaged areas where SADA works - and help cut down on the hundreds of millions of dollars used to import rice into Ghana.

It will also help to improve Ghana's balance of trade - as some of the Khazal rice grown here will be exported to Iran.

The ARD ought to follow the example of NGO's from the West - such as the Dutch development organisation, SNV, which is now establishing commercial ago-forestry plantations across Ghana - and move away from aid programmes to undertake commercial ventures instead.

Ghana has now reached a stage in its development where it needs more trade opportunities - rather than having to continue relying on foreign aid programmes.

Ghana and Iran have excellent relations. There are many mutually beneficial projects that the ARD and SADA can implement - which could be funded with soft loans from Iran. It will enable the level of poverty in the areas that SADA covers to be swiftly reduced.

Above all, any Iranian government funding for joint SADA/ARD projects will be carefully scrutinised by the Iranian Embassy here to ensure that none of the funds end up private pockets - but rather benefit both organisations and the rural communities that they will work with across the regions SADA that covers.

There are many opportunities for joint-ventures between the ARD and SADA to create wealth in the rural areas in all the regions of Ghana that fall under SADA's remit.

Those currently in charge of SADA ought to be creative - and move swiftly to take up this simple idea: and use it to revive their moribund organisation for the sake of the millions of families now suffering untold hardship in the disadvantaged areas SADA covers.

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi