By Linda Dede Nyanya Godji
Agriculture’s role in transforming the economies of rural communities especially in providing jobs and reducing hunger cannot be over emphasized. Generally, most rural economies remain largely associated with agricultural production, specifically farming, with limited or no white-collar jobs. For many of these rural communities, farming is the major source of their livelihoods.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, the agricultural value chain can absorb a large number of young people entering the labour market.
The question is how do agricultural activities with the focus on rice farming transform the rural economies?
In an interview, a renowned agronomist and Reverend Minister, Pastor Samuel Baah Boakye disclosed that irrigated rice farming alone has a great potential in advancing the creation of jobs, food and overall activating or boosting the economies of the rural folks.
He indicated that irrigated rice farming and its value chain alone need a lot of hands, which will result in increased employment at the local level. The youth, women and the strong are employed with the value chain, he added.
Rev Boakye stated that, from research, a hectre of a rice farm could averagely employ about 10 workers, therefore the more rice farms are cultivated in the rural communities, the more jobs are created. “Therefore 100 hectres of rice farm in every rural community, means about 1000 people will be employed” He added. This will significantly reduce the unemployment rate at the rural level.
He called for greater attention from all relevant stakeholders to consider irrigated rice farming in rural communities to boost employment in rural Ghana.
The process in rice farming:
Land Acquisition and Preparation
This is the very first stage in the rice production process where the land is acquired (rented or bought) and prepared for cultivation. Getting the land itself is where the cash inflow to the community begins, since lands in Ghana are generally owned by community folks. After the land is acquired, people are employed (No educational qualification needed) to clear and prepare the land for farming and definitely the rural community is not left out.
Machines are engaged to till, harrow, and plough the land. Both the owner and the operator of the machines are paid. The fuel industry in the community is not left out as the machines will need fuel to operate. Water user fee is also paid for for irrigation.
The production stage.
At this stage, good quality seeds are purchased from either outsiders or the local folks. The moment the seeds touch the prepared land, more labour is required. Women are mostly engaged for the watering, and hand picking of weeds.
After nursing the rice, hard labour is required to do transplanting of the rice to the farm and here, the men with musles are employed and they are also required or employed to do slashing of the grown weeds when the need arises.
Fertilizer application at the production stage is also key and it is done three times in the production cycle. In the rural areas, the major means of transporting rice to the farms is through the motor bikes. “Okada”. Here the young motor riders in the communities are paid for transporting the fertilizers to the farms together with muscle men who carry the fertilizer to the farms. Those who carry out the fertilizer application are not left out.
Fruiting stage: One of the most critical stages in the production process: this is where birds come and feed on the rice. Labour is employed to scare the birds away for about 35 days till the rice is mature and ready for harvesting. Their work is to shout and drive the birds away and here women and the youth can be employed because it does not require hard labour to drive the birds away.
Herbicide spraying: The purchase of the chemicals and the labour employed to do the spraying brings some cash inflows.
Still at the production stage, farm owners and workers often grow other foodstuffs or vegetables alongside and this serves as an additional source of livelihood or income to them.
The Harvesting stage
In the very remote areas, human labour is used for harvesting but in recent times, machines are used. After the rice is harvested, threshing, drying, and milling follow. All these activities require more hands and labour and the rural folks would definitely be engaged.
The Marketing stage
This stage involves the packaging, selling, and transportation of the finished rice product. Most often the farm workers are given some bags of rice for their families which they can decide to sell to generate some revenue to support the family.
In Conclusion, it can be surmised that the rural economy is activated at every stage of the entire production process, through the creation of jobs and the provision of livelihoods for the rural folks, apart from the wages paid.
Rural economies remain largely associated with primary agricultural production. Provision and improving the quality of agricultural jobs is essential to attract rural youth. Rice production should therefore be given the needed attention, for large scale production so that it can help boost the economies of the rural folks.