In this sequel to my last piece, I present key excerpts from chapter 6 of the report which reflects “Key Messages from Stakeholders and Community Engagements”. Read on…
This section of the report summarizes the key messages from stakeholder and community engagements on the road map to alleviating hunger and malnutrition. These are views of the people that government and its development partners need to seriously take into consideration to help in designing policy guidelines.
1. ALLEVIATING HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION REQUIRES COLLABORATIVE EFFORT ACROSS SECTORS.
a. There should be good collaboration among the ministry of health/Ghana health sectors, the ministry of food and agriculture and the food and drugs authority. This inter-ministerial collaboration is important since most of their roles overlap.
b. Folk perceptions about agriculture and farming should be reconsidered. Many people think that, farming is not lucrative and actually for “school drop outs”. There should therefore be sensitization and educational programs right from the junior high school to change the thinking of people and encourage more to go into agriculture. The practice of asking students to work on farms as punishment affects their perception of agriculture as an altogether punitive vocation.
c. Agriculture should be seen as a business: market-led approaches should be emphasized including the setting up of enterprises and provision of inputs and (including equipment) for food production. The entire value chain should be considered for improvement.
d. Statistical services should be generating data at regional and district levels and government organizations should be encouraged to work closely with the Ghana statistical service. The Ghana statistical service (GSS) has been trying to undertake an agriculture census but has not been able to secure enough resources. If basic input-output information could be collected on routine bases at the district level by GSS that can help in the estimation of areas cultivated to different crops, outputs and yields. Other important data include food consumption from consumption surveys and anthropometric information to determine nutrition status.
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2. THE AGRICULTURE SYSTEM IN GHANA.
a. There should be cross-sectional or cross-ministerial collaboration to formulate and implement policies and programmes. For instance, the ministry of food and agriculture (MoFA) is not primarily responsible for carrying out research and therefore must include research institutions (such as MESTI, CSIR etc.) in seed production researches. This implies that, there should be consultations with research organizations and institutions who are already in the system and are on the ground. For instance, there is risk of army worm infesting maize and cocoa and therefore the potential threats of outbreaks. One farmer almost committed suicide because army worms destroyed his entire maize farm in Afigya-Sekyere in the Ashanti region during the 2015 farming season.
b. There is a need for agricultural research to impact food production. Researches should develop a compendium of critical agricultural problems in Ghana that requires search, advocate and push for a policy on priority agricultural research areas so that government and donors can be guided accordingly.
c. Reliance on donor funding for research is too risky, does not address the critical issues because all donors have their own pet interests and agendas, and is not suitable.
d. Access to agricultural equipment such as tractor services is generally limited and this is even more so for women farmers. Some women reported they have devised some strategies where they ask the tractor operators to plough for them on credit so they can make payments after harvest. However, this becomes psychologically challenging when there is a poor harvest.
e. Agricultural extension should be supported; there should be funding for dissemination of agricultural findings. This is because the lack of extension services is now a great challenge in the country.
f. There should be enforcement of the seed laws in the country to help enhance the seed system. To ensure effective development of our food systems the country the country must aim at seed security. We must depend on our own research institutions and MoFA to produce the needed seeds.
g. Farming should also be made attractive to the youth through the availability of seeds for planting, mechanization and irrigation to support production.
h. Government should ensure that farmers, processors, pickers etc. obtain remunerative prices for their produce.
i. There should be a ready market for the various food crops in the country. For example, the Ghana Cocoa Board is the sole buyer from cocoa farmers. Such ready markets should also be organized for other crops. A farmers’ market (a set day they all sell their produce) should be encouraged as this can help regulate the price of farm produce.
j. Attention should be given to addressing post-harvest losses and storage since most crop do not have a long shelf life resulting in spoilage/wastage. For example, there should be “grain banks” where farm produce should be stored.
k. The livestock and fingerlings industries and associated logistics should be enhanced e.g. with feed and proper transportation.
l. Land policy is either weak or non-existent; zoning of fertile lands for farming in each district should be done. This will prevent farmlands from being used for housing and other infrastructure.
m. The current trend where most good agricultural lands are being sold to estate developers must be stopped even if it means government buying those lands and leasing them for farmers for farming purposes.
n. Expensive labour: finding money to hire labour is challenging to most farmers and these forces some of them to rely on chemical spraying as a short cut with its attendant problems.
o. Financial institutions themselves are not willing to support farmers with credits or loans due to the potential risks involved in farming. Farmers informed us that, the original mandate of the Agriculture Development Bank (ADB) was to support farmers, which was initially fulfilled. However, currently, the Agricultural Development Bank operates just like the other financial institutions.
p. The market system in Ghana calls for standardization of market prices for farm produce. Prices of farm produce should not be solely determined by market women. Farmers are forced to sell to market women sometimes at low prices due to the fact that failure to do so will result in their farm produce rotting.
q. Standard measures and grading of produce should be pursued to ensure farmers value for their produce.
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3. THE IMAGE OF AGRICULTURE IN GHANA.
a. “farming is somehow seen as a punishment” so most people would rather work as artisans and in offices than in farming . it is basically a disincentive to young men and women to go into farming.
b. Integrate agriculture into mainstream education from basic through secondary as a core subject.
c. Using farm work as punishment in schools should be discouraged.
d. There should be strengthening of research, extension and farmer linkages and all the other actors along the value chain because there seems to be poor collaboration between the different actors and the different agricultural intervention projects/programs. Also, government’s invention programmes should have a specific plan.
e. E-extension should be encouraged in the country but must also take into consideration the fact that a majority of the farmers cannot read.
f. Volunteer extension agents should be incentivized since there are a limited number of extension officers currently.
g. Small scale irrigation, already practised by small farmers, should be improved upon and irrigators supported to increase production.
4. NUTRITION AND HEALTH
a. Nutrition is a fundamental human right for every person.
b. Homestead gardens should be promoted.
c. Need for a nutrition calendar for all regions at the district level to aid in planning against food and shortages and to respond to actions from crop failures.
d. Malnutrition leads to poverty and vice versa.
e. Lack of knowledge on food groups and nutrient profile.
f. Globalization of market systems leading to influx of processed foods and beverages that is not nutritionally good.
g. At the school level physical education should be encouraged and intensified
h. Educating people to exercise and be more physically active is necessary.
i. Sensitization on good eating habits as a preventive measure.
j. Government to give incentives to industries which are interested in food fortification.
k. There should be proper segmentation of the population to determine what the particular challenges in each are and properly address them.
l. Stability in farming methods to prevent foods from going ‘extinct’.
m. Regulatory bodies should be equipped with enough logistics to ensure compliance and to monitor food safety even at the micro level.
n. Organic farming should be encouraged to help with the issue of the abuse of chemicals.
o. The need to adopt an enterprise approach to the food and nutrition security situation even at the micro level.
p. There is a need for sensitization on the dangers of the increasing “chemicalization” of food.
q. Health-worker attitude towards patient is varied but some challenges arise when they are overwhelmed with increased work load.
r. Water for household chores and drinking is not easily available and sometimes the quality is compromised by human activities such as illegal gold mining and pollution of water bodies.
s. Food safety is the major challenge with respect to use of pesticides, insecticides and preservatives. Tighter laws and regulations along the food path and value addition chain should be promulgated.
t. No regulation on advertisement so junk foods and alcoholic beverages are promoted and this has serious implications on overweight/obesity, hidden hunger and general health of the people.