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Alleviating Poverty in the North

2007-07-17 21:17:54
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The Accra office manager of Ghana Cotton Company, Mr. Abdul Rahman has said though Ghana is in the process of alleviating poverty everywhere in the country, the northern regions require much more attention. Figures available show that these are the three most distressed regions where it is assumed that most people with poverty reside.

With wide expanses of arable savannah land, it needn't be so because many hardy crops can be cultivated for local use as well as export. Some may be food crops, others to feed industry - like cotton.

Mr. Abdul-Rahman said cotton is one of the best crops that can help reduce poverty in the north since it is at home in the Northern Region especially. "If government wants to alleviate poverty in the north then it must focus on the cotton industry", he stressed.

He said the Ghana Cotton Company operates in the three northern regions mainly because of the huge potential there.

He said encouraging cotton production in the north will enable the government to tackle two issues at the same time: increasing the production of cotton and also alleviating poverty there.

He said it is important for the government to introduce the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on cotton because it will help many unemployed people get jobs and would also draw the attention of most Ghanaians to the cotton industry.

He said the cotton industry is expected to produce 200mt of cotton in the next 5 years and "this can be done if the right policies are put in place".

Commenting on some of the policies needed to be put in place he said cotton farmers need to be put into groups and encouraged to use animal traction in their land preparation.

He said the government must organize a system of farming whereby farmers can go directly to the banks for loans. Research institutions must be established not only to monitor, evaluate and come out with a variety of seeds that will suit the environment but also advise on strategies that will help the cotton industry in general grow.

Funding for inputs like insecticides, hiring of equipment (tractors etc), and procurement of seeds from other countries in the ECOWAS sub-region still remain major constraints but Mr. Abdul-Rahman said farmers need to be encouraged to use other means of land preparation such as animal traction. Most farmers in the north rely on the tractor, which he said is not always available nor necessarily the best way to prepare some types of land for cultivation.

He said there must be a sustainable system of financing for farmers whereby farmers can go to the banks and take loans without much hassle.

He said the current disposition is that it is the Ghana Cotton Company that goes to the bank to borrow money and re-lends to the farmers for between a 12-15 month period for repayment.

Seventy percent of the cotton produced is exported and 30% is sold locally. The company finds it necessary to export larger percentage because most local buyers buy the cotton on credit which is not conducive for the industry, but not only that, it is also a requirement of the company's objectives.

Togo produces 250,000 metric tonnes of cotton; considering the availability of land in the Volta Region and the farming population, the Ghana Cotton Company should be able to produce not less than 50,000 metric tonnes of cotton in that region alone, if much attention is given to farmers.

Mr. Abdul-Rahman urged the government to involve itself in the production of cotton especially when it comes because looking at the total outflows of the company in terms of operation he said farmers alone take about 85%, and for last year, the company paid over 20 billion cedis to farmers in the north alone.

He said the cotton companies take care of their farmers right from land preparation up to harvesting and the "load" he said is too much for the company.

The government, he insists, has a role to play. Though last year it supported farmers in land preparation with about 450 million cedis through the cotton company more needs to be done

He said the Cotton Company produces 8,000-10,000 metric tonnes of cotton every year, and earns an amount ranging from $9m-$10m every year. The company also earns $1090 from every tonne of cotton produced.


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