Monday, 3 October 2016

Should Pastor Mensah Otabil Apologise To Ghanaian Farmers?

Not having much confidence in the objectivity of the mostly-unethical  and largely-unprofessional Ghanaian media, naturally, I find it hard to believe recent news reports about  Pastor Mensah Otabil's purported views on farming in Ghana.

He is reported to have said words to the effect that he did not like to see brilliant young people going into farming in Ghana. Amazing.

What an extraordinary thing for such a highly-intelligent gentleman to say - if  true and accurate, that is: and so incredibly pregnant with meaning too.

Are we to assume, for example, that Pastor Otabil is implying that farming in Ghana should be reserved for only dunces? That is hard to believe.

And if the words attributed to him are true, then it is most unfortunate that  Pastor Mensah Otabil - who incidentally is a gentleman I have a great deal of respect for - publicly expressed such odd views.

Is he implying that intelligent people should not become farmers in this country, and that somehow farming is a commercial undertaking in a vital sector of the national economy, replete with not-so-intelligent people? Incredible.

Apparently, Pastor Mensah Otabil also feels that it is somehow an aberration that agriculture employs nearly 70 percent of Ghana's total working-age population - when that figure ought to be more in the region of 3 percent in his view.

In the developed world today, pop-up businesses and Uber-style gig local economies - in which many people can only find employment of a temporary nature and constantly face uncertainty and job insecurity - are fast becoming the new norm.

In light of the growing trend of local gig-economies in which employment is of a temporary nature,  without job-security and benefits, if 70 percent of Ghana's working-age population are engaged in farming, is that not a blessing for them?

Actually, surprising though it might be to some well-off Ghansians, we happen to be talking about the life-chances of real human beings, some of them desperate for regular work - to enable them earn decent incomes.

That is a very serious societal problem that has led to social unrest elsewhere - which eventually resulted in the removal from office of very powerful and well-entrenched leaders. The removal from office of Tunisia's ex-President Zane al Abidine Ben Ali, is a case in point.

With respect, this is not an abstract discussion in which smug well-off individuals, bandy about statistical figures - and use them as talking points.

Well-off people in Ghana - such as wealthy motivational speakers grown super-rich from mega-church-preaching to maleable souls who are happy to part with their hard-earned cash for empowerment in the "spiritual realm" - ought to be careful not to cause offence to the farmers who help feed our nation.

Why  make disparaging remarks about the IQs of farmers: or their lack thereof? Given the difficulties some emerging nations, such as our homeland Ghana, are going through, should we not rather be grateful to God that as many as nearly 70 percent of the total working-age population can earn a living on smallholder farms across rural Ghana?

What that means, does it not, is that we could make smallholder farming families prosperous simply by introducing a new paradigm - in which all land held by Chiefs in trust for their people is taken over by the state, and redistributed to landless smallholder tenant farmers?

Will that not immediately empower a majority of the 70 percent of that demographic, which some well-off  Ghanaians apparently feel ought to be employed in other sectors of the national economy - where jobs are practically more or less nonexistent (it ought to be noted)?

Naturally, compensation for Chiefs holding land in trust for their people, whose lands are taken over by the state, will be paid compensation - with long-term government paper that they can always discount for cash.

That new paradigm created by the empowerment of landless tenant farmers, will see the banning of all imported agricultural produce that can be grown here - to spur the production of locally grown produce.

That could be transformational - especially if interest-free loans to pay for the digital mapping company, LandMapp, to map and register title to previously-landless smallholder tenant farmers' newly-acquired farmlands, are advanced to them - could it not, I ask? In effect that 70 percent of the total working age population employed on smallholder farms across rural Ghana are an asset we ought to value, not disparage.

Incidentally, just where else exactly, does Pastor Mensah Otabil think those in the demographic that he complains contains a rather high percentage of Ghana's total working-age population, could possibly find employment, if they were not farming? Puzzling.

Is this not a stubbornly  import-crazy-country, whose hard-to-change citizens would rather buy what other nations' manufacture in their factories, and grow on their farmlands - than opting for the wiser nation-building,  patriotic alternative of purchasing their Ghanaian produced equivalents instead?

With respect, intelligent young people currently unable to secure jobs, should ignore Pastor Mensah Otabil's absurd strictures - and, if they have the temperement for it, look to farming as an alternative lifestyle choice that could also provide them with a viable and valuable source of income.

There are many fantastic opportunities available for those engaged in farming in Ghana - and clever educated young people can live well producing food both for the local market and for export markets overseas.

This blog, authored by someone whose family has farmed in various areas in the Eastern Region of Ghana since 1915, from the colonial era,  till date, will always encourage clever young people in Ghana, who are unable to find well-paid jobs in urban Ghana, to venture into farming instead. They will never regret doing so. Ever.

On the contrary, they will find that it will enable them earn substantial incomes - if they use their fine minds to farm their lands as well-run and well-organised business entities.

For example, they could develop niche markets farming in harmony with nature - using sustainable organic farming and permaculture methods.

That will enable them produce high-quality,  synthetic-pesticide-free and synthetic-fertilizer-free agricultural produce - and do so all year round if they are clever enough to quickly learn to harvest rainwater: and provide the infrastructure for it.

Surely, they could target markets such as the well-heeled demographic, which includes the possibly health-conscious Pastor Mensah Otabils, in our midst? Food for thought.

Indeed, one does not doubt that many from that particular demographic (from the top strata of Ghanaian society no less) would  rush to buy organic fruits and vegetables produced by those highly-intelligent and well-educated young farmers: for their families and friends.

For the information of those bright young minds that Otabil apparently does not want to venture into farming, this is just one statistical figure from the GhanaVeg initiative, of the many possibilities open to them as well-educated and highly-intelligent  young farmers: Ghana imports as much as US$80 millions worth of onions alone, per annum.

Some of those onions are imported from even frequently-parched sister-nations of ours, such as Burkina Faso and Niger - and from as far afield overseas as the Netherlands.

Could clever young farmers throughout the country, not replace those imported onions worth US$80 millions with onions grown locally - and earn very good money making Ghana self-sufficient in the production of onions?

Perhaps Pastor Otabil ought to speak to East-West Seeds' reps in Ghana, Tikola Ghana Limited, about the silent green revolution its "Prema" variety of hybrid seeds is bringing about, in the Upper East Region, and elsewhere in Ghana.

And there are many agro-industry value-chain opportunities for farmers too: with some farmers currently suppling breweries in Ghana with sorghum and cassava, for example, as we speak.

What is also wrong  with venturing into rice-farming - and profiting from helping to reduce the over US$ 600 millions spent importing rice into Ghana, I ask?

One could go on and on. In any case, the young farmers I know personally, are all comfortably well-off.  And they are very well-educated, and highly intelligent, too, as it happens.

If Pastor Mensah Otabil encouraged some of the young graduates from the Central University he founded, who are unable to find work, to go into farming, would we not have less unemployed graduates in this country? Eeebeii.

And  would they all not have a much better quality of life too living and farming in rural Ghana - free from the polluted air that those living in large towns and cities are forced to breathe (because of the scandalously high levels of sulphur allowed in fuel imported into Ghana)?

To use a pidgin English phrase: "As for this one paaa, Pastor Otabil did not try, koraaa!" Haaba.

Perhaps an apology from the good pastor to all Ghanaian farmers would be in order, one wonders?

What he is reported to have said about intelligent young people and the business of farming is an insult to Ghanaian farmers - who after all help to feed this nation.

Finally, if what he is widely reported to have said was not taken out of context, by the media, and is indeed an accurate rendition of what he actually said, then Pastor Mensah Otabil definitely ought to apologise to farmers in Ghana. He most definitely owes us one. Period.

Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o: Enti yeawieye paa eniea? Asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa.

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