The Ghana Strategy Support Program (GSSP) of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) aims to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders in Ghana to formulate and implement effective agricultural and rural development strategies. In November 2007, it organized a strategy forum to address some of the key issues facing policymakers and other stakeholders in the country, including managing rapid growth to achieve middle-income status by 2015, ensuring that the growth is inclusive, and developing smallholder agriculture. Policymakers, administrators, researchers and other stakeholders attended this day-long forum.
Challenges and information needs. With growth in excess of 5 percent per annum during the past five years and a more than 23-percentage-point reduction in poverty in the past 14 years, Ghana's economy is now expected to grow at 7 percent. The country's achievements also include a significant reduction in its Global Hunger Index score, which measures the incidence of crude hunger, early childhood nutrition, and infant mortality (von Braun). While policymakers are optimistic about achieving the growth rates needed to reach middle-income status, many questions remain: which sectors of the economy will potentially contribute to the expected growth? What kinds of investments are needed to achieve the desired levels of growth? What is the best way to develop agriculture, which by virtue of its large share in the economy has to contribute significantly to growth? How can policy analysis be effectively linked with decision-making (Gyan-Baffour)? Ghana, which has been taking a cavalier approach to resource utilization thus far, also needs to adopt research-based policymaking and focus particularly on the development of human resources (Mensah).
Ghana cannot achieve middle-income status with an agricultural sector characterized by low productivity, dependence on erratic rainfall-which manifested itself in the North this year in the form of drought, followed by a flood, and drought again in some parts-outdated agricultural practices, and low application of inputs (Debrah). Having developed an agricultural policy that is consistent with regional and continental initiatives, the country now needs technical support in preparing a strategic plan that addresses a number of questions: Will the crop/sector targets lead to the anticipated growth and poverty reduction? What investments are required to achieve the objectives? How can risk be reduced to increase credit supply to the sector? How can extension services, which are becoming more costly, be effectively provided? Now that resources have been shifted to districts, which are meant to be autonomous, how can the districts harmonize their priorities with national policies? How can gender be mainstreamed? How can the disparity between the South and the North be reduced? And can Ghanaians take advantage of high food prices in global markets (Debrah)?
Becoming a middle-income country. Ghana needs to double its income within 10 years to become a middle-income country by 2015. Four countries (Brazil, China, Malaysia, and Thailand) that had incomes similar to that of Ghana were able to double their incomes in less than 10 years. The rate at which these countries grew ranged from 6 to 10 percent per annum-all higher than Ghana's current 5-percent growth rate. They all benefited from rapid growth in at least one sector, usually manufacturing. Their exports grew faster than the economy and they also diversified their exports. Their experience suggests that Ghana faces three challenges: growth, structural change, and export diversification.
Simulations of an economywide model for Ghana suggest that Ghana needs to grow at 8 percent annually in order to become a middle-income country. Ghana's agriculture sector, which is growing at 5.3 percent per annum and has a share of the economy larger than in any of the comparison countries, will be the major contributor to growth. Manufacturing in Ghana also relies upon agriculture, since nearly two-thirds of manufacturing is agriculturally based. Ghana will continue to depend on its traditional exports: cocoa, gold, and timber. However, questions arise as to whether Ghana can achieve the required growth by depending primarily upon cocoa (Diao). If manufacturing has led the way in countries that have grown rapidly, then perhaps Ghana needs to rethink its strategy: rather than thinking linearly that growth should come through agroprocessing, it may be more strategic to build competitive advantage in other sectors of manufacturing (Gyan-Baffour).
Investing for growth. Research that modeled the effect of public expenditure on private investments and on productivity utilizing data on investments from the Agricultural Services Subsector Investment Program (AgSSIP) suggests that a 1-percent increase in agricultural expenditure will increase the value of production by 0.17 percent. To increase the rate of growth of agriculture from the current 5.3 to 6 percent-the target under the commitment to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP)-expenditures in the sector need to grow by an additional 3.9 percent, over and above the 16-percent growth in expenditures in the sector in the last decade. With this increase, the share of agricultural-sector expenditures (combined budgets of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the cocoa board), which represents about 8.5 percent of the total, is projected to increase to 11.7 percent by 2015.
Whether increased public spending on agriculture will also lead to increased private-sector investment in the sector, however, is disputable (Mensah). The banking sector in Ghana reduced its funding of agriculture from about 10 percent of the portfolio to 5 percent between 2000 and 2005, for example, and the agroprocessing sector is another example of substantial incentives not eliciting adequate private-sector response (Oku-Afari). Furthermore, the uncertainty about returns to public expenditures is not limited to agricultural expenditures; there is a need to carefully examine whether expenditures in other sectors yield adequate returns (Gyan-Baffour).
The estimated relationships between expenditures and outcomes need to be carefully interpreted because they are based on expenditures incurred under AgSSIP and do not reflect expenditures that the Ministry of Agriculture would normally make (Lothar). It is also important to examine the "quality" of the expenditures to see whether they are for frivolous or productive activities, although the required information may not be available (Oku-Afari). Any increase in allocations to agriculture needs to emerge from directing resources to the sectors that contribute the most to growth (Mensah; Oku Afari).
One needs to be only broadly right on investment priorities to achieve growth. Industrialized countries, for example, spend about 2 percent of their GDP on science and technology and innovation, while African countries spend only about 0.2 percent. So, it is broadly wrong to be spending only about 0.2 percent on science and technology and broadly right to increase agricultural spending to about 8 percent (von Braun). The estimated relationships between expenditures and outcomes in Ghana are also broadly right, as the effect of other factors have been controlled for and the estimates are fairly similar to what one obtains for countries with better information (Benin).
Improving service provision. Improving the provision of agricultural services to small farmers in Ghana so as to make agricultural growth inclusive involves political, administrative, and fiscal challenges (Birner). It would appear that the provision of services has been inadequate if, for example, the growth in agricultural productivity that has occurred in the North is taken as an indicator of the quality of service provision. A number of supply- and demand-side strategies have been adopted over the years. In strengthening the demand side, reliance has been placed on building collective organizations, such as Research Extension Linkage Committees (RELS) and Water User Associations, to make service providers more accountable, but they have not been effective. While empowering farmers to demand services is a good strategy, farmer-based organizations are not strong enough to do so effectively (Al-Hassan).
Supply-side approaches include undertaking political decentralization to build accountability through political representatives and improving the ability of service providers. Preliminary surveys suggest that district assembly members are accessible to users and behave as though they are accountable, but that they do not have any discretionary powers over the use of funds in their districts or any influence over service providers (Birner). Accountability through political representatives is still weak. For example, it is not clear whether the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is accountable to anyone. An important but often ignored reason for this is that the National Assembly does not exercise its oversight responsibilities over the ministries (Al-Hassan), and even members of parliament may not be able to influence what happens at the district level; therefore, there are some legal issues that need to be addressed.
Even after 20 years of decentralization, service providers are not any more accountable to local governments than they were before (Al-Hassan). The staff in government organizations, who report only to their superiors, do not even have the freedom to plan their activities to suit local needs. Also, the service providers need to be held accountable for results, not just for financial matters.
Enhancing local-government revenues. Decentralization could address some of the challenges of increasing revenues through a better use of funds: stronger incentives for users to demand services could increase technical efficiency; and local allocation could improve allocative efficiency as well (Mogues). Fiscal decentralization challenges local governments to enhance the internal generation of funds; they can potentially tap into revenue bases to which they have better access than does the central government. But district governments play a limited role in agriculture. Several of the other reforms would have to take place before fiscal decentralization can have a direct and immediate effect on agriculture. Until then, however, there might be potential indirect effects: Increased local revenue generation through greater taxes on farmers may have an impact on agriculture, and improved local service delivery in other sectors (health, education, roads) could also benefit agricultural development (Mogues).
Significant tensions exist around the ability of district governments to generate their own revenues and budget accordingly. While it is acknowledged that the inability of district assemblies to generate sufficient revenues has been one of the weaknesses of decentralization, the quantity of taxes collected by the central government leaves very little room for districts to accumulate internally generated funds (IGF) (Dankwa). The central government may indeed have economies of scale in revenue collection, so the central question is what proportion of the funds should be ceded to district governments. Also, the minimal scope for local revenue generation in rural areas, especially in the North, raises important questions about effective national redistribution. The only major tax source left for local governments is property taxes, but local governments may have the least capacity and the least political will to collect them.
The implementation of composite district budgeting, which has long been recognized to be necessary to overcome fragmentation, is expected to be hastened with a number of reforms in the offing: scaling-up of composite budgeting and the introduction of intergovernmental fiscal guidelines, the Local Government Service, and the District Development Fund in combination with the Functional and Organizational Assessment Tool (FOAT). These are expected to contribute to the development of services valued by communities to complement agricultural development, such as roads, boreholes, and markets (Dankwa).
Decentralization, increased public expenditures, and local revenue generation may not necessarily be enough to solve the problems of the North in a systematic way. Considerable differentiation within the regions suggests that targeting the poorest communities in Ghana will require more than working at regional levels (Jackson). Since the scope for revenue generation in the North is also likely to be more limited compared to other regions, there may be a need for other explicit redistribution mechanisms. Lagging regions need investments not only in infrastructure, but also in secondary education (von Braun).
Importance of Smallholders. Smallholdings are a significant feature of Ghanaian farming, with nearly two-thirds of producers cultivating less than three hectares. A transformation of smallholder agriculture that focuses on staples and livestock production is central to achieving broad-based agriculture growth. Smallholders typically grow fewer crops, and crops such as maize and cassava are particularly important to them. They participate in markets, although the rate of commercialization tends to be somewhat smaller than that of farmers with bigger holdings. Farm size, however, is poorly linked with poverty, because access to labor and other resources tends to be more constraining than access to land in many parts of the country (Chamberlin). Smallholdings are characterized by varied income sources, low use of inputs, lack of access to production technologies, risks of crop failure, and poor returns in output markets where producers may receive only half of what consumers pay even in not-too-distant markets. Infrastructure development is also important; increasing yields are driving aggregate cereal production in areas with better access and labor endowments.
Servicing smallholders. The challenge is to enhance market access. Market access encompasses physical access to markets, information about the markets, and the ability to participate in markets and respond to incentives. There appear to be two broad means by which smallholders gain access to input and output markets: business-farmer relationships and market information networks (Al-Hassan). These relationships, which are both formal and informal, vary depending on the type of markets in which the produce is marketed and the type of crops marketed. The business linkages, which give buyers access to outputs and give producers access to inputs and output markets, tend to be more prevalent in export horticulture. The bulk of the poor, however, are engaged largely in the production of staples and livestock; it is the markets for these that need to be transformed for agricultural modernization.
The obvious challenge in servicing smallholders is reaching large numbers of geographically dispersed small units. MoFA's strategy is to encourage smallholders to organize themselves into larger units in the form of farmer-based organizations. This would make it more feasible to offer them the range of services they need (Otto). This organizational development could also be an opportunity to give smallholder enterprises the necessary business orientation. Another strategy is to focus on the development of commodities that are produced by smallholders (mostly food crops) by developing value-added products. Encouraging smallholders to adopt good agricultural practices to meet quality standards in national and international markets is also an important aspect of the overall strategy.
The potential benefits to producers from high commodity prices in global markets are being undermined by higher price fluctuations. Therefore, the supply response has been weak: a 100-percent increase in prices brings less than a 10-percent increase in supply (von Braun). The establishment of commodity exchanges is one potential market intervention to reduce instability (Al-Hassan; von Braun).
Cocoa producer response. Cocoa producers, who are also smallholders, appear to have benefited significantly from increased prices in global markets, with support from the cocoa board. Surveys conducted in 2002 and 2004 of the same set of households show that yields have gone up by a third, and 20 percent of the increase in production has come through land expansion. Producers have increased the level of labor input largely by making greater use of household labor, but also by also applying more fertilizers-application rates have increased tenfold, and four times as many farmers are now using fertilizers-and by protecting their crops better against pests and diseases. The cocoa board initiated a high-tech program that may have played a role in bringing about this technical change. Board-organized sprays, in addition to favorable rains in the season in which the second survey was conducted, also contributed significantly to higher production (Vigneri).
Binding constraints. Access to finance is a major constraint for producers. Considering the extent of funds that flow into the sector through the government and through donors, very little goes to support the private sector that includes the producers (Abayori). The country needs to develop infrastructure-not only feeder roads, but also irrigation and warehousing systems-to reduce postharvest losses and improve the quality of produce for both internal and export markets. Smallholders need to be encouraged to diversify into the production of crops such as oilseeds instead of producing more of what they already produce, which may have limited demand. Smallholders also need help in moving out of production and into marketing and related activities, because an agricultural sector in which nearly 70 percent of population is involved in production cannot be sustained (Abayori). Many interventions, such as the inventory credit program, have failed in the past because farmers treat anything that they receive from the government as an entitlement. The private sector, including farmers' organization, needs to play a greater role in the future; farmer organizations have been far more successful in recovering credit than have government-operated programs (Abayori).
Summing up and knowledge gaps. Rapid agricultural growth is a prerequisite to rapid economywide growth and economic transformation, and the government needs to play a strong role because successful transformations in Asia have rarely been market-driven. Because there are natural limits to commodity exports, there is a need to diversify exports and focus on domestic market-oriented agriculture for stronger multiplier effects. Increased investments are required in research and extension, infrastructure, and education, with a focus on poorer regions; Ghana needs to achieve inclusive growth by focusing on lagging regions and household groups that might be left behind. Ghana also needs to overcome political, administrative, and fiscal feasibility challenges through decentralization, increased use of policy research in political decisionmaking processes, and improved capacity of the administration to supply services and farmers to demand services.
The challenges include (1) setting up a knowledge and information support system to support the formulation and implementation of various development strategies; (2) evaluating returns to investment in nonagricultural sectors; (3) mobilizing resources to support pro-poor growth: (4) planning to adjust for the challenges of climate change, high-energy prices, and the rise of new players like China, India, and Brazil, and (5) understanding the effects of urbanization on rural growth and poverty reduction (Fan).