On May 1, 2022, Labor Day, TV3 News aired the story of rice farmers in Asutsuare employing human beings as scarecrows to keep birds away from their rice paddies. This was in addition to the use of catapults in the “anti-bird” role as we soldiers use special weapons in the anti-tank role.
The mention of Asutsuare brought back memories of my time in Asutsuare in 1983, training for a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) before we were transferred to the Guards Training Center. borders of Kpetoe.
Where is Asutsuare? Asutsuare is a town located between the hills of Shai and Akuse, in the Shai-Osudoku district of the Eastern region. It is south of Akuse with the Volta River running along it south through Sogakope to Ada in the Atlantic. Its fertile semi-swampy soils were identified in the 1960s as being good not only for growing rice, but also for growing sugar cane.
Therefore, with Komenda in 1965, Asutsuare became the hub of sugar cane production to fuel the industrial sugar production drive of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The plant was designed to crush two thousand (2,000) tons of sugar cane per day.
However, the February 1966 coup that overthrew Osagyefo brought an abrupt end to Asutsuare’s ambitious plan to develop into a major agricultural hub for rice and sugar cane production. Since then, the small farmers have continued to cultivate rice.
It is in this context that the program of rice farmers enlisting the services of little boys to play the role of scarecrows was broadcast. As funny as it may sound to hear human scarecrows making noise with cans filled with rocks, as well as their voices, that was the reality on television. It was a rather depressing and dehumanizing sight.
The farm owner said he paid the human ‘scarecrows’ 20 cedis a day for twelve hours of work from 5:50 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to make noise to drive away the birds that ate the rice. The “scarecrows” were also equipped with catapults with which they hurled stones at the thousands of offending birds.
The farmer complained that after all their hard work and the problems they are going through, marketing is a problem.
Indeed, in the Northern Region, television images regularly show warehouses of stacked bags of rice, miniature versions of the “peanut pyramids” of Kano in the 1960s before Nigeria fell on oil!
One problem that Asutsuare rice farmers complained about was/is the lack of fertilizer. This is a recurring problem in the news, not only for rice but also for cocoa, the mainstay of our agriculture, as well as for all crops. Indeed, the fertilizer shortage has been attributed to smuggling into neighboring countries where smugglers make windfall profits from subsidized fertilizer from Ghana.
So it was a surprise when recently the fertilizer shortage was blamed on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war that started in February 2022 was ingeniously/dishonestly blamed a month later for the shortage of fertilizer in Ghana!
Expert talk on radio and television suggests that 70% of Ghana’s waste is organic. The obvious question is why do we continue to import chemical fertilizers at great expense when we can produce fertilizer cheaply from our own organic waste?
Indeed, the production of fertilizer is not rocket science! In the 1970s, fertilizers were produced in Teshie, Accra. A road in Teshie is named “Fertilizer Road” in the general area of the factory location.
In the military enclave of Teshie, two sewage treatment plants turned human waste into manure in the 1970s/1980s.
According to a report by the Ghana News Agency, thousands of bags of local rice harvested during the agricultural year in 2021 remained in warehouses and farmers’ houses. Indeed, with their high cost of production, Ghanaian rice farmers cannot compete with the relatively cheaper rice from Vietnam, Thailand, India and Pakistan with their economies of scale.
Meanwhile, Ghana imported $39 million worth of rice in 2020, making us the 20th largest rice importer in the world. Is it a “rice oligarchy” at work against local production, as is often claimed?
In addition, foreign rice has become cheaper due to the reduction of reference value rebates, ostensibly to encourage foreign investment in Ghana. In the process, Ghanaian rice farmers are being put at a price as they struggle to break even.
It is mind-boggling to understand why Ghana continues to import large quantities of rice while local rice farmers cannot find buyers for their produce. Indeed, research has shown that rice can be grown in all 16 regions of Ghana. In the mid-1970s, under General Acheampong’s OPERATION FEED, Ghana was a net exporter of rice with the Dawhenya brand of rice as its flagship product.
Like toothpicks and the like, there is no excuse for Ghana to import rice when local rice is unpopulated. The so-called fragrant rices imported from other countries are certainly no more nutritious than our locally produced rice which I enjoy. It is the government’s responsibility to design policies that will help our agriculture grow.
And Ghanaians, let’s show patriotism by eating our own rice!
Using human beings as “human scarecrows” in Asutsuare to ward off birds is an exercise in futility and an affront to our dignity as a nation in the 21st century. When I saw on TV an old lady with a catapult throwing stones at birds for 12 hours to get paid twenty cedis, I lowered my head in shame!
The English poet said “They think too little who speak too much!”
Leading is not talking. It’s about doing!
Dear Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
President of the council
Family Health University College
Source: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd), former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya
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