Concerns are being raised about the threat of Ghana’s high rate of the ageing farming population to food security.
Ghana’s population currently stands at 31 million, with an accompanying increase in demand for food in terms of quantity, quality and diversity.
There is therefore the need to consolidate the country’s food production capacity to sustain the consuming population.
In the absence of reliable food producers, future farming is not guaranteed for the country.
In recent months, Ghanaians have been whining about hikes in food prices due to many factors militating against the food production sector.
Many attributed it to low crop yields while others point to food scarcity.
But the ageing farming population is a major contributing factor to the current food production.
To sustain Ghana’s food security for the next generation, the ageing farmers’ population growth rate must be a primary concern for all.
Stringent measures must be put in place immediately to arrest the threat to food security.
Although there is no immediately available national data on ageing farmers, activities in the agricultural space indicate the operations of the aged far outweigh the number of active youth in the farming industry.
According to available statistics from some farmer-based groups, the active age of farmers ranges from 55 years upwards.
The youth have little or no interest in farming country, but place a premium on the white collar- jobs.
Some of the key factors discouraging the young ones from venturing into farming are the undeveloped nature of the farming communities, poor access to roads to farming communities, and the lack of a properly regulated market and better pricing of their produce.
Considering the lifestyle of their parents and the low incoming earnings, most of their wards migrate into the cities to look for non-existing jobs to do, while others are on the streets trading.
Other factors to low food production
Labourers who could have been hired to farm on their farms are also not available, leaving the aged farmers to their fate.
Local assemblies have also failed to help protect farmers from exploitation by merchants or middlemen.
Successive governments have failed to commit to solving the problem of an ageing farming population by making agriculture attractive to the youth population.
But that is not the case in advanced countries where governments have deliberately created a conducive environment for the farming communities with all the ancillary it warrants.
Therefore targeting food security interventions in rural areas must be the primary motive of the government of the day and all food consumers.
Agriculture is central to Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings and the major contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is also the largest employing sector in the economy
The sector is now offering livelihood support for the majority of women in informal businesses in market centres.
With a huge cut in the food supply chain, they also risk relinquishing that sector to become a burden on the already existing unemployment rates which poses a security threat to the country.
Experts within the sector hold different views on this phenomenon.
Professor Robert Aidoo, a senior lecturer at the Department of Agriculture Economics and Agribusiness Extension at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, asserts that the ageing farming population is a threat, but entirely.
According to him, if these ageing farmers are left without support, food production could go down and this will affect food security.
“But we do not necessarily need many farmers to be food secure. If few farmers with requisite knowledge and skills are supported to do large-scale farming, we can be food secure,” he stated.
He wants the government to prioritise irrigation systems and commercial farming to mitigate the looming danger that awaits the country, “given that, the strength and energy needed to farm and feed the country is declining at a faster pace and that endangers our food production level as a country”.
Dr David Boansi, also a lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Extension, discloses that these farmers are likely to retire soon, but the youthful population is drifting into more lucrative enterprises like artisanal small-scale mining, among others.
“Who will be tilling the soil to put food on our tables? dan without the youth to take over from them, the sharing of experience gained from farming will be precluded and the global food supply will look very uncertain,” he observed.
He explained that without access to sufficient quantities of food at all times, at reasonable prices and across various market centres, the majority of the households, especially in urban and peri-urban areas, as well as the rural poor may have limited access to affordable, diversified and recommended rates of food to eat to stay healthy at all times.
This will eventually lead to food and nutrition insecurity, added Dr Boansi.