Dashed Hopes: The Story of a National Best Farmer
Since its inception in 1985, Ghana’s national farmers’ day celebration has over three decades generated enthusiasm and tremendous buzz as it celebrates the achievements and contributions of farmers to national life.
National best farmer awards scheme which marks the day, usually every first Friday in December, awards the best farmers in various crop and livestock categories from the district, regional and national levels.
Looking back at the awards a decade ago, we bring you a discussion with an award winner in 2010, Mr Gabriel Nketia.
Mr Nketia was the National Best Garden Eggs Farmer in 2010. He won the award with a four-acre garden eggs farm.
Speaking on how he was selected for the award he simply noted: “It was an exceptional farm that caught the eyes of the agricultural officers” oblivious of any selection criteria and attributing his selection to the discretion of the agricultural officers.
Gabriel Nketia now 56 years is still a farmer at Atwima Hwediem in the Ashanti region and continues to grow his beloved garden eggs and other vegetables including tomato and cucumber.
There is no doubt about the sense of pride farmers feel when they are selected for the awards as Nketia speaks fondly of his award as the highlight of his 40 years involvement in farming and looks back at the time with great pride.
Giving his impressions on Farmers Day award scheme, he notes that “the awards scheme is a very good way to motivate farmers. When I was told I would be rewarded, it was the happiest day of my life.
“It gave me so much motivation to do more. I thought this award was going expose us for government or other agencies to help us expand in the farming business”.
Beneath his pride of winning the award is a great disappointment. He laments how his expectations have been dashed after the award.
“Years after winning the award and having no support, I have really been disappointed. Farming is all we do, so we still try to do the best that we can, but it is not like before.
“Even with recognition, we are only recognized when the time comes for another farmers’ day where we are only invited”, he laments.
Mr Nketiah concludes by offering a suggestion on how the awards scheme could be more impactful. He points out that, “the scheme is a good initiative but it should focus more on small scale farmers to encourage them to do more”.
The story of Gabriel Nketiah resonates with the majority of the past award winners. Winning the awards gave them the expectation that the awards will bring some visibility to their farming activity and help them deal with the plethora of challenges they grapple with year on year.
Years after winning the award, they continue to struggle with access to finance to expand their farms, ineffective and inadequate extension services to adopt best practices to increase productivity and understand appropriate farm management and value chain systems to actively participate in and compete in the agricultural value chains.
As a result, they are unable to expand, their incomes stagnate year on year thereby keeping them at the small scale farming status where they started decades back.