The National Service Scheme (NSS) has reaffirmed its commitment to leading a transformative and revolutionised agricultural initiative aimed at achieving food self-sufficiency and economic empowerment.
According to the Executive Director of the NSS, Osei Assibey Antwi, with the advent of the Economic Enclave Project under the GhanaCARES “Obaatan Pa” initiative, the importation of rice into the country will be minimised, if not stopped completely. The project is being implemented in three key locations in the Greater Accra, Oti and Ashanti regions.
He emphasised this commitment during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Jospong Group’s Asian, African Consortium (AAU), a subsidiary of the Jospong Group, in collaboration with the RUDN University.
Mr. Assibey Antwi underscored the pivotal role the NSS could play in achieving this ambitious project, if empowered to work on available lands through support funds.
He disclosed: “We have lands in Bono, Ahafo, Volta, Northern, Central and various other regions, totaling about 60 hectares in the Bono region alone. What we need is funding and support, and together, we will revolutionize the entire economy through rice production”.
The NSS Executive Director reiterated that Ghana won’t import rice again if the NSS is empowered to work on available lands through support funds.
To achieve this, NSS Executive Director outlined an ambitious target for the next deployment cycle, aiming to enlist up to 50,000 national service personnel to actively engage in agricultural activities.
Rice importation in focus
Ghana spent an estimated total of ₵6.874 billion on the importation of rice from 2017 to 2020. In addition, the country also imported the following food products from 2017 to 2020.
They include fish – ₵3, chicken (processed) GHc1.881 billion, meat – ₵487 million, vegetables ₵281 and poultry ₵184 million.
The then Trade Minister, Alan Kyeremanten made the disclosure when he appeared before Parliament to respond to a question by Murtala Muhammed Ibrahim, Tamale Central MP, on how much the state spent on the importation of rice and other foodstuffs into the country in the past four years.
Mr Assibey Antwi said wherever the NSS detected a problem, it was always ready to confront and solve it.
Addressing the Speaker of Parliament, who was present at the event, he made a compelling case for financial support to kick-start this ambitious agricultural project. “If you give us the money, we’ll work on that,” he affirmed.
The NSS Secretariat, over the past few years, has ventured into innovative partnerships with different organisations, both private and public, to develop skills of personnel in different areas while also addressing the gulf between academia and industry.
For instance, in 2023, about 1000 bags of rice from the first harvest from the farms operated by the NSS were supplied to schools under the Free Senior High School (FSHS) programme.
Again, the NSS in 2022, ventured into the building sector in partnership with Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) in attaining low-cost housing for the nation in what was described as a game-changer by the Education Minister, Yaw Osei Adutwum, though it’s yet to yield results.
In 2021, the NSS, in partnership with the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) and Innohub – a business accelerator that supports small and growing businesses, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to officially commence the UPSA Venture Lab Entrepreneurial Programme.
The agric project adds to the list of various initiatives to assist graduates to develop their skills and become self-employed.