Inmates of the Akuse Prisons farming to feed themselves
Inmates of the Akuse prisons in the Eastern region are supplementing their feeding with the cultivation of 19.5 hectares of vegetable and rice farms.
The irrigated farms are being cultivated by the prisons in collaboration with the University of Ghana farms who offer expert and technical advice to the Prisons Service on best farming practices.
The mainly subsistence farms largely cultivated by the inmates include 12 hectares of rice and 7.5 hectares of vegetables including okro, cucumber, lettuce, garden eggs, watermelon, carrot, etc. with the vegetables contributing some 85% of the soup intake of the inmates.
With land, labour (to be provided by the inmates) and the canal at its disposal as explained by Deputy Director of Prisons, Godwin Hoenyedzi, works on the farms aside its food productivity attributes also keeps inmates active and thereby relieving them of overcrowding of the place and its associated boredom.
Even as the service harbours the dream of expanding the farms in the coming years, surplus from the farm produce to feed the 236 inmates of the facility is sold on the open market to raise additional revenue to run the facility.
The Deputy Director of Prisons therefore appealed to philanthropists and stakeholders to assist the Service to fence the farms to enable the service employ more inmates on the farms without any security concerns.
The Agric Unit of the Ghana Prisons was revamped in 1992 to be more productive through the introduction of the Agric Revolving Fund Concept which hitherto engaged in agricultural activities mainly on subsistence level after the increase in crime rate resulted in rise in inmate numbers that put severe pressure on government’s budget on keeping inmates especially with their feeding requirement.
Aside supplementing Government food supplies, the Agric Unit was also to introduce job training programmes to help the inmates acquire basic skills in improved farming methods before their discharge back into the society. It is therefore regarded as a major tool in the reformation and rehabilitation processes as inmates are trained in crop.
As DDP Hoenyedzi explained, the farms are among others to generate revenue for the service, equip inmates with improved modern and scientific Agric Production Skills and produce food crops to supplement inmates ration and supplement government expenditure on inmates’ feeding.
Nationwide, the Prisons Service cultivates over 1,000 acres annually of various crops such as maize, vegetables, and oil palm among others.
Livestock production is also undertaken on a much smaller scale.
It is worrying that even though the agricultural production in the Ghana Prison Service has appreciably contributed to supplement Government’s ration bill for inmates feeding as well as to equip inmates with farming skills, some challenges including very low level of mechanization, lack of irrigation equipment, lack of drying and storage facilities, lack of vehicles to convey officers and inmates to and from the farm, etc. have affected food production resulting in productivity and total output levels remaining low.
The low agricultural performance over the years has been a source of grave concern to both the Prison authorities and the Government.
But agriculture is not the only area inmates are trained in. Mr. Hoenyedzi explains that the prisons aside its agricultural activities, offers ICT training to inmates but regrets the lack of logistics such as a vehicle for its operations. He said the absence of a vehicle poses a great security risk during the transportation of inmates to health centers, to and from courts and other places.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hoenyedzi lodged an appeal for a vehicle to facilitate the operations of the Akuse Prison Service. The prisons director who described the prison facility as inappropriate for prison services said inmates are counselled on post prison career choices where they are offered practical training in agriculture, ICT training and other skills.