National holidays have always given a significant identity to every nation. Occasions like the Republic Day, Independence Day, Founder’s Day, or the Constitution Day are all a significant part of Ghana’s identity and sovereignty as a nation. Farmers’ Day is equally as relevant as these holidays and has a rich historical significance as the other occasions. You might not care about Farmers’ day since it is perceived to be a day for a demographic (Farmers) and you might just be happy you get to have a day of rest from work in addition to your weekend. You may also well be aware of its importance to Ghana’s agricultural industry and its players. However, it is important to revere this holiday as the others due to its intriguing origin story making it a relevant holiday as the rest.
It is also important to note that Farmers’ Day share a commonality with Ghanaian Festivals especially Homowo as far as origin stories are concerned. To fully appreciate this day, let’s get to know more about Farmers’ Day and its national significance.
How did Farmers’ day come about?
As most people familiar with the history of Ghana in the Post-Nkrumah era may know, Ghana faced a number of socio-economic challenges as well as a prevalent political instability caused by the seizure of political power by military juntas. In the years from 1966 to 1980, Ghana had undergone several transitions in government, however, these economic challenges persisted. In the late 70s to early 80s, droughts and fires almost destroyed Ghana’s rich vegetations and hampered the agricultural sector in Ghana. This caused the scarcity of food and a great famine that plagued the nation. The shortage of food followed the low yield in harvest in the country and therefore one of Ghana’s most significant sectors (agricultural sector) almost collapsed, stagnating income and revenue generation. The famine and its consequences reach its peak and was greatly felt in 1983 which created the colloquial term “83 kom” (the great famine of 1983). The government was forced to import more foods from its neighbours and also seek the aid of international organizations. According to the reports from the USAID, 35% of food production in various regions were destroyed. Indeed, the famine during this period was very massive that people had to join long queues to get access to foodstuffs including “fermented corn dough”. It was also this period that the term “Rawling’s Chain” had been popularized referring to a protruding collar bone perceived to have been caused by starvation.
Fortunately, in the following year which was 1984, Ghana begun to experience consistent rainfalls which escalated crop production and also increased yields during the harvest season, increasing production by 30%. The agricultural sector also began to recover as production increased substantially.
In view of this, the government of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings reflected on the nation’s recovery and high productivity, and decided to set a day aside to commemorate the hardwork and productivity of farmers and fisherman which became Farmers’ Day. The first Farmers’ Day celebration was held in Osino in the Eastern Region. The choice to hold the celebration in Osino was as a result of the fact that the town had been hugely affected by the drought and famine.
When and How is Farmers’ Day Celebrated?
The Ghanaian Farmers’ Day is usually celebrated during the first Friday of every December. There is always a theme to celebrate the event. A location in one of any of the 16 regions is then chosen as a venue for the occasion.
During the event, farmers and fishermen across the country gather to celebrate the day with the President or his representative in the sector (Minister for food and agriculture) gracing the occasion as a chairperson and guest speaker.
Awards are handed to farmers as an incentive for their work and achievements in farming and agriculture. A competition for the Best Farmer of the year is also held with special judges assessing the works of competing farmers throughout the year. Yields, adherence to proper agricultural standards including crop farming and animal husbandry, and the use of appropriate technology are some of the key areas assessed by the judges.
Interestingly, the first winner of the ultimate Farmers’ Day prize received a machete, a portable radio set, and wellington boots. One might say these gifts were less valuable but they really reflected the norms and routine of farmers during this period and even today. Anyway, prizes for the Best Farmer during the occasion have since increased in value including three-bedroom house.
Importance of Agriculture in our industry
From the little history, one might have a clue on what makes agriculture significant to Ghana. Apart from obvious reasons mentioned above, why is agriculture so important that we need to set a day aside to celebrate farmers and fishermen nationwide?
- It is basic knowledge that the agricultural industry primarily provides foods and raw materials, and forms the fundamental stage of development as a society. Mankind needs food and the supply of raw materials to survive and go about their activities, hence, making the agriculture sector a very significant and the most important sector in the Ghanaian society.
- Agriculture is one of the highest contributing sectors to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2022, it was reported that Agriculture accounted for approximately 32% of Ghana’s GDP.
- Agriculture produce also contributes to 40% of Ghana’s export with products including Cocoa, timber, and Cashews.
Although agriculture brings a lot of benefits, there are a lot of challenges that still persist even after the 1970s and 80s.
- Most farmers in Ghana are still not acquainted with modernized or mechanized farming. Thereby, stagnating productivity and substantial growth in the sector. As you are well aware, most farmers from predominantly in the rural areas do not have access to such technology. They also do not have the education to deem them (technology) necessary.
- The lack of adequate irrigation system is also another challenge faced by farmers. Even we have failed to renovate old ones to adapt to recent technological developments in farming. The fact is, the world does not depend solely on rainfall anymore, so there is no reason for Ghana to do so. To think that a nation that has a history of drought and famine would change things almost 40 years after, but these habits and methods have not changed. Climate change has altered patterns in climatic conditions making them unpredictable, therefore, we should carefully analyze and change a lot of things.
- The Government isn’t far from blame with setbacks in agriculture. In the past 40 years, there have been policies for the agricultural sector but to what end. Proposed policies from incoming governments have always been attractive; from SADA to Planting for Food and Jobs. In spite of these, the challenges are more apparent than ever. The lack of funds and commitment to long term growth in the agricultural sector is a hindrance to the sector’s growth.
- The world is still recovering from the crippling effects from the pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine wars, there is no denying their impact on the various sectors of the economy. This however, should also be seen as an avenue for the Government to review some key policies in the agricultural sector.
As we celebrate the 39th Farmers’ Day, the significance of its status as a national holiday deserves to be stated. We should be able to pass down from generation to generation, our identity through our national holidays. These stories unveil the hidden truth about our history as history is defined as a study of the past for a critical analysis of the present to give an indication into the future. This holiday is very relevant to remind us of our dark ages so we may plan our future to avoid a reoccurrence of those challenging periods. The world has indeed changed and therefore we must be able to embrace transformation so we are not left behind. It is through the study of our past thar we can move along with the new world. With the new theme, “Delivering Smart Solutions for Sustainable Food Security and Resilience,” we should be able to recognize the immense contributions of our farmers and also motivate them to achieve the sustainability goals.