During my salad years in my holy village, I never tasted anything called Perfume Rice. In fact, I never saw one and the only one I saw was called Uncle Ben’s which was imported from Britain in quarter sachets. My old man was not rich enough and as such he could not afford one for us to enjoy. The truth is that we did not even care to taste one because we were content with the locally produced rice us children. Rice was not a staple food and we enjoyed it only during Christmas festivities and rare occasions like naming ceremonies and weddings.
As the years rolled by and we entered secondary schools, we were not fed with foreign rice. We even ate rice once a week. Fortunately, the Nasia Rice farms in the Northern Region were established and we had enough to eat to the extent that when we were given rice for so long a time, we demonstrated. On every Sunday, we were fed with ripped plantain, beans and sometimes eggs or mackerels produced by the Tema Food Corporation. Oh, those nostalgic days of glory!
When Professor Busia and his Progressive Party took over power, they also continued with the tradition with all the factories established by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the tradition continued unabated. In the case of Busia, he even introduced ‘Operation go back to the land’, where the youth who used to troop to the big cities to find non-existing menial jobs were admonished to go back home to engage in farming. They obliged and in no time food became abundant. Before the introduction of the programme, Busia had told countries we owed that they should give us some time to pay our interest because even the debtor too eats (okafoo nso didi).
Honestly, General Kutu Acheampong did his best as he too continued what Busia left off. When the international creditors were pestering Acheampong’s government to pay our debts, he was bold to tell them that “we won’t pay” (yentua).
That was why his regime became known as ‘Yentua Regime’. When our creditors started to squeeze Acheampong’s regime by denying him loans, he quickly introduced what he termed as ‘Operation Feed Yourself (OFY)’. Ghanaians were encouraged to grow what they ate and ate what they grew. Everybody bought into the idea and within a short period of time food became abundant. We did not care about imported fish, rice, pepper purée or even meat. The Wenchi Tomato Factory was producing them in great quantities and the Pwavlugu Tomato Factory was in full operation. Unlike the days gone by when we were importing Exeter Corned Beef, the Bolgatanga Meat Factory was producing the Volta Corned Beef for local consumption. When former President J.J. Rawlings and his men took over, everything went with the wind. The era of importation stated and that situation has not been the same again.
The very day I heard the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, mentioning Planting for Food and Jobs, I was delighted. It reminded me of those good old days and I could not help waiting to see the project take off. Fortunately, the programme kick-started the same year and before we could blink an eye, Ghana was exporting plantain, cocoyam, yam and others to its neighbouring countries. Much as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) members are trying in their desperate attempt to demonize the programme, Ghanaians have refused to listen to them because their wives return from the market to tell them the success of the programme.
As I am writing this piece, the new pieces of yam are plenty in the market while the old ones are still begging for people to buy them. The Minister of Food and Agriculture is a ‘big dreamer’ and President Akufo-Addo must be the luckiest person to get such a person. When Dr. Akoto was introducing the Planting for Food and Jobs, he referred Ghanaians to the success story of General Acheampong’s ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ programme.
That is how a nation is ruled. Anytime an American President faces any Herculean task, he visits the Presidential Library to make a research on how some of his predecessors solved the problem. If the late Mr. Aggudey were to be alive today, he would be the happiest man in Ghana because even though he kept mentioning this programme, the erstwhile NDC ignored it. What Dr. Akoto must do next is to introduce the ‘Operation Feed the Factory’ which was also introduced by the late General Acheampong.
When the Tiger Pito Factory was established in the Northern Region during Acheampong’s era, farmers over there seized the opportunity to produce enough raw materials to feed the factory. Did you drink Tiger Pito? I am sorry you were born too late to have a taste of this top-class pito which was even sold in state hotels like Atlantic Hotel in Takoradi, Meridian Hotel in Tema, City Hotel in Kumasi and in fact all the rest houses in Ghana. Now that we are in an era of One-district, One-factory, Dr. Akoto should invite those who participated in the programme. They may be old but their minds may be agile enough to remember those happy days. Acheampong even introduced ‘Backyard Gardening’ when any available space behind ones backyard was used to cultivate vegetables and even plantains. Barbarossa shall rise again!!!
By Eric Bawah