Agriculture drives economic opportunity in Ghana, representing 50 percent of employment in the country. But success in the agricultural sector depends on more than productivity. It also depends on policy. National policies affect the resources allocated to implement agricultural programs. Policies even define the procedures that farmers and other sector stakeholders follow to access essential inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, and agrochemicals.
Unfortunately, many of Ghana’s current policies create more challenges than opportunities for stakeholders in the agriculture sector, especially at the district level.
To mitigate these challenges, USAID’s Feed the Future Agriculture Policy Support Project (APSP) joined Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) at the frontline of policy reform, and together they discovered another valuable partner: a local radio station.
The Path to Reform
In Ghana, policy and politics intertwine. The political will for change shapes decision-making. Without quantitative and qualitative data, public officials frequently implement agricultural policies without evidence and without input from rural communities and farmers. To ensure that strong data and citizens’ political willpower shape decision-making, APSP and MoFA are transforming Ghana’s agricultural sector policy process by promoting evidence-based decision-making and increasing the ministry’s capacity for agriculture policy research. Also critical to the reform effort is policy advocacy — amplifying the voices of local stakeholders during policy formation and implementation.
Ghanaians have opportunities to share input on the policies that shape their livelihoods through civil society organizations, farmer-based organizations, and community dialogues. However, policy advocacy requires both a means for expression and clear access to information. The latter is often limited for rural stakeholders in Ghana. In response to this challenge, Rite 90.1 FM (FMSL Multimedia) — a radio station based in Ghana’s eastern region — stepped in to close the information gap between policymakers and farmers.
Voices of Change on the Radio
To strengthen local dialogues on agricultural policy, Rite 90.1 FM put farmers behind the microphone. APSP awarded a grant to Rite 90.1 FM to implement the Mobilizing Action towards Agriculture Sector Improvement Initiative. The radio station’s broadcasts sparked discussions to motivate district assemblies (DAs) to increase the budget allocations for the district-level departments of agriculture (DoAs).
DAs and DoAs are central to district-level implementation of agricultural policy. Although all district-level governance structures receive public funding, the resources allocated to implement agriculture policies and programs are limited. For example, due to lack of funds, extension officers in the Lower Manya Krobo District were not able to visit the field and provide needed guidance and support to farmers.
Through weekly interactive radio programming, farmers' forums, and other multimedia platforms, Rite FM advocated for increased resources for DoAs. The radio station brought together district assembly members, farmers, and district agriculture officers to discuss problems constraining agricultural sector growth. Motivated by these dialogues, the DA established agriculture subcommittees to serve as a voice for agriculture sector stakeholders.
“Through the Rite FM project, we set up a subcommittee to ensure the district assembly allocates funds to support the agricultural activities, such as the education of farmers on good agricultural practices,” said Nana Yaw Apem Darko, chairman of the Agriculture and Tourism Subcommittee.
For Rite 90.1 FM, knowledge sharing went beyond information on policymaking. Radio broadcasts also provided practical recommendations on agricultural practices and application of fertilizers. In addition, the broadcasts linked farmers to financial institutions, such as Manya Krobo Rural Bank, and advertised farm produce and training services. Listeners even had opportunities to call in and ask questions.
With audiences tuning into their radio programs and farmers becoming more engaged in local policymaking, Rite FM elevated the importance of agriculture in community dialogues. Public officials eagerly responded to the outpouring of policy advocacy. They were soon compelled to increase resource allocation for agricultural programs and repair roads in the districts to improve commodity transport.
“Staff of DoA met with us to discuss problems we are currently facing in our work,” said one farmer from the Upper Manya Krobo District. “We discussed methods used by some farmers to process cassava, dough, and gari that were not hygienic. DoA quickly mobilized its staff and trained farmers on how to better process cassava, dough, and gari. This wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the platform created by Rite 90.1 FM.”
Beyond the Radio Waves
These radio broadcasts brought farmers to the center of the policies affecting their sector. Radio became a platform for farmers to share their day-to-day challenges, promote their work, and reflect on their business practices.
"After I was on the radio program, sales of my mushrooms have had a massive improvement,” said Derick Sarpong, a farmer in the Asuogyaman District.
But radio is only one channel of change. Journalists can play an important role in analyzing and reporting on agriculture developments and policy issues, especially given the sector’s limited exposure in the media. Community dialogues can help integrate women’s rights and environmental sustainability in Ghana’s agriculture development agenda.
From media advocacy to public and private sector forums, APSP amplifies citizen participation in agricultural policy through a variety of channels. In turn, the agriculture sector gains publicity and sustainable, long-term growth. And most importantly, farmers become more informed and engaged in the policies that shape their day-to-day lives.