While remaining the most important sector of Ghana’s economy, agriculture in Ghana faces the challenge of making substantial progress in maintaining food security because average yields remain stagnant. This is attributable to limited use of modern inputs, such as fertilizer and improved seed, and due also to the rapid decline in Africa’s soil fertility status. Since its inception in 2008, that is six years to date, Ghana’s fertilizer subsidy programme has undergone a number of evaluations including those of IFPRI (2012), Yawson et al (2010) and Banful (2008). These evaluations however, fell short of the views and perceptions of the beneficiaries, including those of the study area of this research.
Consequently, this study was carried out employing a descriptive-survey approach in which data were collected from 140 beneficiaries using a proportionate stratified random sampling method in the Sene-West and Sene-East districts in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. The results of the study revealed that the respondents rated the overall level of participation in the programme’s decision making as 1.5 which is considered very low. Generally, the effectiveness was also considered low.
It is thus recommended that policy makers and programme organizers should as a matter of urgency make a time-bound commitment to the programme, think critically about the funding, rigorous estimation of quantities as well as distribution mechanisms backed by actionable maps with timelines.

Background to the study
Agriculture is a key sector to many developed and developing countries worldwide as it provides employment for most of the rural population and contributes in no mean way towards income generation, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), foreign exchange earnings, and food needs for the ever increasing populations. Fertilizer subsidy programmes, though expensive, succeeded in raising input use by farmers and increasing agricultural productivity in many countries. There is ample evidence that increased use of fertilizer has been responsible for increase in agricultural productivity worldwide. Fertilizer was as important as seed in the green revolution, contributing to as much as fifty percent (50%) of yield growth in Asia (Hopper, 1993). In a background paper during the Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, Camara & Heinemann (2006) stated emphatically that no country in modern history has made great strides in agricultural production without first increasing the use of fertilizer through subsidies.

Several studies have found that one-third of the production of cereal worldwide is due to subsidized fertilizer and other related factors of production (Bumb, 1990). Van, Keulen & Breman (1990) stated that the only real cure against land hunger in the West Africa Sahel lay in increased productivity of the arable land through the use of inorganic fertilizers. Piere (1989), reporting on fertilizer research conducted in 1985 confirmed that inorganic fertilizer in combination with other agricultural intensification practices had tripled cotton yields from 310kg/ha to 970kg/ha in West Africa.

Well-planned fertilizer subsidies were the secrets behind the success of the Green Revolution which swept through Asia and Latin America in the 60s and 70s. For instance, whereas in 2002-2003, Sub-Saharan African farmers used on average 9 kg of fertilizers per ha of arable land, fertilizer subsidies enabled fertilizer use to reach as high as 100kg/ha in South Asia, 135kg/ha in Southeastern Asia, and 73kg/ha in Latin America (Crawford, Jayne, & Kelly, 2006). This resulted in the situation where agricultural production and productivity soared in Asia and Latin America during the last four decades, but stagnated in Africa, resulting in a rising dependency on imported grains and an increase in the number of undernourished people (Future Agricultures, 2010; Wiggins & Brooks, 2010).

In response to the need for higher fertilizer use in Africa, the Africa Fertilizer Summit was held in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006, under the auspices of the African Union (AU), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and the Government of Nigeria. One of the important outputs of that summit was the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for an African Green Revolution, in which AU member states resolved to increase timely access to fertilizer by farmers and to raise fertilizer use to an average of 50 kg/ha by 2015 (AU, 2006). As an immediate measure, the declaration proposed, among others, the elimination of taxes and tariffs on fertilizer and raw materials for manufacturing fertilizer.

The introduction of smart subsidy was one of the five main action points agreed upon to actuate the declaration. The purpose of the smart subsidy was to make fertilizer increasingly available to small-holder farmers in African Union (AU) member states. Significantly, the AU member states pledged to invest 10 percent of their national budget in agriculture by the year 2008 (AU, 2006). The overall objective of the Africa Fertilizer Summit was to “improve access of millions of poor African farmers to fertilizer and other complementary inputs in order to help raise their farm production and achieve food security.”

Passing a resolution calling for the development of Africa’s fertilizer industry in support of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) at Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO’s) 23rd Regional Conference for Africa in 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa, African ministers of agriculture noted that fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa is only about 9 kg/ha, compared with 150 kg/ha in the “Green Revolution” countries of East and Southeast Asia. Consequently, the ministers recommended that the Secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and International Centre for Fertilizer Development (IFDC) give top priority to the development of Africa’s fertilizer industry to make fertilizers more widely available, and affordable, for smallholder farmers.

Agriculture is Ghana’s most important economic sector, employing over 56 percent of its total labour force on a formal and informal basis and accounting for 25 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (CIA World Fact book, 2014). The performance of Ghana’s economy therefore depends to a very large extent on the performance of the agricultural sector. High agricultural productivity is therefore imperative in stimulating growth in other sectors of the economy.

Data from FAO STAT (2010) show that total production of maize and rice in Ghana increased substantially in 2008 and 2009, respectively by 21 percent and 10 percent (maize), and 58 percent and 30 percent (rice). These numbers should however not be taken as outcome estimates, as a wide variety of factors unrelated to fertilizer subsidies (e.g. weather) may have affected production. However, they may serve as an indication that a massive decline in output due to higher fertilizer prices has been avoided. To what extent these increase in yield may be attributed to the Government Fertilizer Subsidy Programme (GFSP) cannot be determined for now.

Despite the importance of agriculture to the overall economy, fertilizer use in Ghana is about 7.2 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha), similar to the average rate in South Saharan Africa (SSA), but significantly lower than in other developing countries. However, fertilizer use is generally profitable, with value-cost ratios of fertilizer use ranging from 2.7 for maize to 10 for irrigated rice (FAO, 2005).

Fertilizer subsidies have gained support worldwide as well as in the African sub- region including Ghana as a policy tool to foster a Green Revolution in Africa. The general goals of fertilizer subsidy programmes according to Kelly, Crawford & Ricker- Gilbert (2011), are often to reduce poverty and boost staple crop production among smallholder farmers.

Ghana’s agriculture is dominated by small scale farmers with an average farm size of about1.5 ha and characterized by low use of improved technology (Chamberlin, 2007).Yields are therefore generally low with most crops at 60 percent of achievable yields (SRID-MOFA, September 2009), indicating that there is significant potential for improvement. A major contributor to low yields is poor soil fertility resulting from nutrient depletion and low input use. Most of the Ghana’s smallholder farmers are struggling to live and to feed their families on less than US$2 a day and so are unable to afford the high prices of commercial fertilizer which are not even available in required quantities and qualities.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (2010), support for smallholders will be crucial for future food security. "In China, Africa and other parts of the developing world, the smallholder producers produce 80 percent of food that is consumed by 80 percent of the world’s population," IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, told a China’s Daily. The World Bank (2004) asserts that supporting smallholder farming is the most effective way of stimulating economic development and reducing poverty. This accounts for the reason why smallholder farmers constitute the target population for this study.

Assistance to agricultural production in the form of fertilizer subsidies which Ghana and many other African governments withdrew from in the 90s is gradually becoming a new policy direction within the last seven years. There is common agreement that increased use of fertilizer and other productivity-enhancing inputs is a precondition for rural productivity, growth and poverty reduction (Morris, Kelly, Kopicki, & Byrelee, 2007;Gollin, 2009a).

The impetus for the introduction of the renewed fertilizer subsidies which gingered the researcher into this study therefore emanated from a number of quarters.

These include Malawi’s groundbreaking 2005 fertilizer subsidy programme, Resolution five of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizers for an African Green Revolution which called for member countries to introduce targeted subsidies for resource-poor farmers as a key measure necessary to promote an African Green Revolution. However the immediate motivation for the coming into being of the renewed fertilizer subsidy in Ghana was the global food crisis of 2007-2008, which drove fertilizer and food prices to unprecedented heights.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 128 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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