Saturday, 11 June 2011

F the system

Hello everyone out there!

As my last post was about culture, this one will be more about work:

The system is a butt, and here's why!

Just like in Canada level of education is directly linked to perceived level of prestige, but here in Ghana it's a concept that puts a bottleneck in development in the agriculture sector. As a result it puts a bottleneck on the advancement of rural livelihoods! I the Ministry of Food and Agriculture each worker receives some fuel allowance to perform their service, and the fuel allowances are as follows:

Director : 300ghc/month ($187.50 Can)
Agricultural Officer: 100ghc/month ($62.50 Can)
Agricultural Extension Staff: 50ghc/month ($31.25 Can)

Then the level of educations of these people are as follows:

Director : Masters + some experience or Phd.
Officer : Masters or Bachelors + quality experience + rarely afforded promotion
Extension : Bachelors or very high quality experience + connections + highschool

Now everyone should be able to see direct correlation between fuel allowances and level of education, but here's where things get funny! The required distances of travel to do there actual work is as follows:

Director : 0 miles/month or maybe 120 miles/month (for "important" meetings in Tamale, and other comfortable city centers)
Officer : 0 miles/month or very rarely [i.e. once or twice a year] 120 miles to Tamale & back.
Extension: Easily 400 miles/month or more depending on the operational area!!!!

So as you can see the people with more education receive a higher fuel allowance, and the people who actually need it receive less. Worse than this these people rarely receive all of their fuel allowances, and are considered to be insubordinate if they ask why. Then if this isn't enough if these people (extension staff) have all-star ideas or opinions to share during meetings, they will be immediately shot down by their superiors.

These kind of problems aren't only in my district, they are widespread systemic issues. This is an example of a barrier in the MoFA system that EWB sees, but is forced to work around to do work in collaboration with these people. Most people reading this might ask why we work with these people, and the reason is because MoFA's work has a direct and real impact on farmers. The extension agents treat the farmers like family and the farmers do likewise, so the dissemination of important information and technology through these bonds is essential for agricultural development in Ghana.

Private corporations who don't have many of these same barriers create new ones for themselves. These corporations generally don't like to collaborate with MoFA in their extension work, which results in the following problems: the farmers the include in their projects don't know or trust their extension workers so they either stray away from them or take advantage of them, the farmers don't take the extension of these people seriously, and the corporation fail to fully understand the rural realities of each district because they spend short amounts of time there and leave quickly.

So here's my thing! If we are all working towards a more developed Ghana three serious changes need to happen! The first is the reversal of flow of information, the information should travel from farmer to extension to district director to regional to national, as opposed to the current backwards fashion. Second we need to recognise the hard workers and reward them appropriately, and penalize the lax individuals for their greediness. Third (and this one should be obvious, but apparently not) private sector, public sector, and the farmers need to work together!!!

Funny stories:

Some farmers will join a private project (WIENCO cotton, in my district) to get the inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, and plows. Then do something really sly. They will plant the crop they actually want to grow, and maybe mingle in a little of what they were supposed to grow, then at the end they will harvest what they wanted. After this is done they will burn the entire field and say "I don't have to pay, there was a brush fire here, how can I pay you? Go away!". Generally this works, but it also ensures that future projects will be leary of the district altogether. So the real winner here isn't all that clear!

Thanks for reading! And if you didn't no thank yous for you! 


  1. Yo Bill,
    This isn't actually right! The travel requirements on Officers, at least those who are supervisors, should actually be HIGHER than for AEAs. This is because AEAs are supposed to live in their operational areas, so their travel is limited to within the area. On the other hand, a supervisor is supposed to travel regularly to the operational areas of at least 4-5 AEAs that he is supervising, which is more travel.
    The problem that comes in is the fact that Officers don't actually do an adequate amount of supervision in the field (if they do any at all - which is rare). So the fuel allowance is doled out according to what they're SUPPOSED to do, not what they ACTUALLY do. That's where the unfairness comes in.
    So actually there's a disincentive for MoFA staff to do field work, because they get to keep any fuel money they don't spend. Therefore a good AEA who goes to the field often actually ends up pocketing less money than a lazy AEA who only goes infrequently. THAT'S MESSED UP!
    Anyway, thanks for bringing up this issue in your post!

  2. Hey Bill,
    The style of your post kept it somewhat lighthearted it seemed, but I can tell that this is a huge frustration. Thanks for sharing. I liked the funny story, but it's tough to know how to look at the impact of it.
    Question: Are the relationships between farmers and AEAs really that strong? If there is little incentive to do field work for AEAs, how do they create these relationships? Are they leftovers from before they were AEAs?