Sustainable agriculture requires commitment – Scientist

An Assistant Research Scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savannah Agricultural Research Institute, says sustainable agriculture requires a commitment to changing public policies, economic institutions, and social values.

Mr Asieku Yahaya said a wide diversity of strategies and approaches are necessary to create a more sustainable food system and those would range from specific and concentrated efforts to alter specific policies or practices, to the longer-term tasks of reforming key institutions, rethinking economic priorities, and challenging widely-held social values.

He said some of government policies are impeding the goals of sustainable agriculture, and called for new ones to promote environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.

For example, commodity and price support programmes could be restructured to allow farmers to realise the full benefits of the productivity gains made possible through alternative practices, he said.

Mr Yahaya was speaking in Wa on: “Sustainable Agriculture: the policy options,” at a “Climate Resilience Sustainable Agriculture” seminar organised for farmers groups in the Upper West Region.

The farmers were taken through climate resilience sustainable agriculture, ways of promoting climate resilience sustainable agriculture in the districts, practical challenges of promoting climate resilience sustainable agriculture, and ways of enhancing the proper and efficient use of agrochemicals in the districts.

Mr Yahaya said tax and credit policies could be modified to encourage farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture while National Agricultural Research Systems could change their policies to emphasise the development of sustainable alternatives.

He called for the amendment of marketing orders and cosmetic standards to encourage reduced pesticide use, while efforts are being made to encourage the formation of farmer coalitions to help address policy concerns at the local, regional, and national level.

He also raised concerns about the conversion of agricultural land to urban uses, especially for fuel stations, which he noted should be of serious concern to policymakers, considering the rapid growth and escalating land values threatening farming on prime soils.

“Existing farmland conversion patterns often discourage farmers from adopting sustainable practices and a long-term perspective on the value of land and the close proximity of newly developed residential areas, to farms is increasing the public demand for environmentally safe farming practices,” he said.

Mr Yahaya said there is the need for comprehensive new policies to protect prime soils and regulate development and farmers should be helped to adopt practices that reduce chemical use and conserve scarce resources.

“Educating land use planners and decision-makers about sustainable agriculture is an important priority,” he said, adding: “Sustainable agriculture research and education can play a key role in building public support for agricultural land preservation.”

Mr Yahaya said in Ghana, the conditions of agricultural labour are generally far below accepted social standards and legal protections in other forms of employment.

Policies and programmes are needed to address this problem, working toward socially just and safe employment that provides adequate wages, working conditions, health benefits, and chances for economic stability.

He said labour must be acknowledged and supported by government policies, recognised as important constituents of research, and carefully considered when assessing the impacts of new technologies and practices to help make the workforce more sustainable over the long-term.

“Sustainable agriculture presents an opportunity to rethink the importance of family farms and rural communities; while economic development policies are needed that encourage more diversified agricultural production on family farms as a foundation for healthy economies in rural communities,” he stated. GNA

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