Australia Awards Alumni contribute to improvements in Agriculture in Ghana

The World Bank[1] lists Agriculture as essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s growth and development. Agriculture reportedly currently employs 65 per cent of Africa’s labour force and accounts for 32 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). And yet, African farm yields continue to be among the lowest in the world indicating a need for increased agricultural productivity.

The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs has been supporting Africa’s efforts to harness Agriculture for development for a number of years now through its Australia Awards initiative in Africa. Some 600 Awards have been provided in the sector between 2011 and 2014 alone (as of May 2014).

African Alumni of the Awards program are returning home and applying their cutting edge, Australian-acquired skills and knowledge to achieve tangible, positive outcomes for their respective countries in the Agriculture sector.

Bartholomew Sey, a District Agricultural Officer in charge of Crops with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in his home country of Ghana, is a good example.  In Ghana, Agriculture contributes around 22 per cent[2] of the country’s GDP. This makes Agriculture one of the country’s largest employers, a role that comes with its share of unique challenges, among which are post-harvest losses. According to the Statistics Research and Information Directorate (SRID) within the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, post-harvest losses countrywide are between 30-35 per cent.

As part of his Australia Award fellowship on post-harvest management of maize, rice and legumes, which he undertook in 2012 at the University of Sydney in Australia, Bartholomew developed a comprehensive work plan of activities to support his organisation’s agricultural development contributions in Ghana, specifically, reducing post-harvest losses. Though facing challenges related to limited financial resources to fully implement the plan, Bartholomew progressed and achieved some impressive results.

On completion of the fellowship course, he returned to his home base in Kwahu South District, Mpraeso located in the Eastern Region, where he had been working on post-harvest losses with Agricultural Extension Agents (AEA’s). With his enhanced skills in post-harvest loss management gained from his fellowship, Bartholomew was well equipped to help tackle the issue in his district through knowledge transfer.

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