The Oil Palm Programme Manager for Solidaridad, an international not-for-profit organisation, Mr Nicholas Issaka Gbana, has called for a deliberate state intervention to promote the oil palm industry because it can fetch the country huge foreign exchange earnings.
He said policy and financing were critical in promoting the sector and creating jobs within the oil palm value chain in the country.
“Policy is important and this government has at least come up with the right policy. For instance, we have the Programme for Export and Rural Development (PERD), which is a subset of the Planting for Food and Jobs, and under PERD, oil palm is one of them. So I think government policy is very important,” he said.
He observed that the country had a lot of potential to grow the sector and reduce its import of vegetable oil and become a leading exporter of oil palm products in the sub-region and on the global market.
Mr Gbana said this in an interview on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of a five-day training workshop for facilitators in Technical Up-Skills training for Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) in the Oil Palm Value Chain at Fumesua in the Ashanti Region.
The oil palm manager said there was the potential for Ghana to also benefit from that market if the country invested in the sector.
The participants were drawn from the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (UCAES), Bunso in the Eastern Region; Asuansi Technical Institute, at Asuansi in the Central Region; the Kumasi Institute for Tropical Agriculture (KITA) at Domeabra in the Ashanti Region; the Father Dogli Memorial Vocational Institute, New Ayomah in the Oti Region, and, the Kpando Technical Institute, Kpando in the Volta Region.
The tutors from these institutions will be taken through the oil palm curriculum and also through field work to have practical knowledge of the course content.
Mr Gbana said the training formed part of the activities under Phase Two of the Sustainable West Africa Oil Palm Programme (SWAPP II) to train institutions that would provide technical training to players within the sector.
He said Solidaridad, in partnership with the Ghana Skills and Development Initiative (GSDI), with funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), would provide the training for five institutions which had been accredited by the Council for Technical and Vocational Training Education (COTVET) to run the ATVET programme in oil palm.
The programme, which started last year, will end in 2021 and is being implemented in four countries in West Africa, namely Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
At the end of the programme in Ghana, 16,000 smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from the training, and 2,000 women and 1,000 youth are expected to be reached by the end of the programme.
According to the Programme Manager, there were industries ready to absorb the students who would pass out from those institutions.
Besides that, he added, the objective of the programme was to train skilled manpower for the industry and also train entrepreneurs who would be ready to set up their own businesses in the oil palm value chain.
The Rector of UCAES, Dr Brempong Yeboah, welcomed the assistance and said it would go a long way to train the people to come up with best practices, both on the field and in production, and also provide specialisation for the oil palm sector.
He said there had been too much emphasis on cocoa and that it was time to take a look at other crops that had the potential for the economic development of the country.