…Over Fall Armyworms Handling
Hon. Eric Opoku, Minority Spokesperson on Food and Agriculture, in parliament, is calling on government to, as a matter of urgency, use the Contingency Fund, established by the erstwhile Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, to compensate affected farmers of the fall armyworm invasion that destroyed farms, especially maize farms and other crops across the country.
According to him, the Contingency Fund, which was established in fulfillment of Article 177 of the 1992 Constitution, should be used to meet emergency challenges of the armyworms that have attacked farms and destroying food crops.
Despite the availability of the Contingency Fund, the government, in June, this year, said farmers affected by the invasion of the fall armyworms would not be compensated since there is no allocation for them.
The government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), claimed that an amount of GH¢15million had been released to fight the armyworm invasion on several farms across the country.
The money which it said was used to purchased pesticides as well as the provision of logistics for a task force step up for the combat exercise and that there was no compensation component in the budget.
Reports indicated that closed to 5000 hectares of farmlands have been destroyed nationwide by the fall army worms, a new pest in Africa that feeds on a range of crops, including maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugar cane and vegetables.
Farmers who have had their farmlands ravaged by the worms are calling on government to help them fight the invasion, some are also demanding compensation from government.
But speaking exclusively to The Republic last Friday, Mr. Opoku who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Asunafo South constituency in Brong Ahafo, said, the losses the farmers have incurred are so huge that there was the need for them to be compensated.
He told the paper that, the Contingency Fund accrued not less than GHS50million at the time the NDC was leaving office and that such fund could be used to reduce the plight of the affected farmers by the fall armyworms invasion.
“There is a Contingency Fund which the government under President John Mahama established and we need to use that fund to compensate the farmers, there is not emergency issue rather than this fall armyworm which has destroyed crops across the country,” the Minority Spokesperson on Food and Agriculture said.
In the view of Mr. Opoku, “We are missing out on an important aspect, how do we deal with the losses of the affected farmers? They have invested resources. Some went to the banks to borrow and invest these monies in their farming activities. So it is not their fault that the armyworms destroyed their farm and that is why they must be compensated.”
“The morale of these farmers is down and the way to bring it up is to motivate them and encourage them. This is an unforeseen situation and they must be bailed out of this challenge,” he further told The Republic.
Mr. Opoku added that there was no need of crying we do not have money to compensate them while there is some funds sitting in the Contingency Fund, stating, “we have to commit part of these resources to compensate for the losses of the affected farmers to serve as a motivation, so that next year, these same people will be encouraged to go into farming activities.”
He also hinted that, findings from the farming grounds indicated that there is going to be imminent decline in food production in the country, following the destruction of large maize farms by the armyworms.
He warned that government must take immediate steps to find ways for food storage and also ensure that the armyworms are defeated completely to safeguard the next farming season.
The farmers, he said, have lost large chunks of their investments due to the destruction of the farm crops by the fall armyworms and that likelihood of a decline in food production in the season would significantly declined even though experts expel fear of food shortage.
Mr. Opoku further lamented that the armyworms invaded and terribly destroyed maize farms in all the farming communities, hence the need for the central Government to intervene with support.
The “fall army worm” is said to have so far invaded farms in the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern and some parts of the three northern regions.
The pests attack leaves of crops, flowers and even the stalk and feed on several crops, including maize, cotton, soya bean, potato and the cash crop, cocoa and plantain.
The attack comes at a time that government has launched a GHC560m Planting for Food and Jobs Program.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba