A 12-million-dollar Community Initiative for Food Security (CIFS) Project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and implemented by the Government of Ghana, has been launched in Lonto in the East Gonja District of the Northern Region.
The CIFS project is a six-year food security initiative being implemented through the MLGRD/E at the national level and through the Regional Coordinating Councils (RCC) and the district assemblies.
Mr Abraham Dwumah Odoom, Deputy Minister of MLGRD/E, who launched the project in Lonto on Tuesday, said the goal of the project was to contribute to increased food security in Northern Ghana through an approach that was environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
He said the project would cover the East Gonja, Nanumba South, Nanumba North, Bunkprugu/Yunyoo, East Mamprusi, Zabzugu /Tatale, Gushiegu, Karaga, Saboba/Chereponi and the Yendi districts.
Due to capacity issues and the project's strategy of implementing in a manner that would enable learning across districts and ensure that lessons and experiences from one district would be shared with other districts, only three districts would be covered in the first year.
A further three districts would be added in the second year and four more added in the third year to bring the total to 10 and after three years in a district, the project would begin to phase out on direct implementation of activities, he said.
Mr Odoom said the project was also aimed at promoting and increasing the effective use of the existing local government structure, processes and mechanism to respond to food security priorities and sustainable food security in the participating communities.
The project is also in line with the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) and the subsequent achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr Odoom said another component of the project was to build the capacity of the local community, Area councils and the district assemblies to be able to respond to their food security initiatives and priorities.
He expressed the hope that the capacity building being provided under the project would go a long way to strengthen the sub-structures of the district assemblies to function effectively to move the decentralisation process forward.
"Such grassroots involvement creates a sense of community ownership of development projects provided to improve living conditions of the people, thereby, creating an orderly fair and balanced development of the country as a whole", Mr Odoom noted.
The Deputy Minister used the occasion to encourage women to participate actively in the impending district level elections and get themselves elected to participate in decision making and contribute to the development of their communities.
Mr Archie Book, acting Canadian High Commissioner and Director of Development Cooperation told the communities to take particular interest in monitoring the implementation of the project.
"It is in your interest to ask questions, to ask for an accounting to ensure that we all remember why the funds have been given and make the best possible use of them for the intended purpose", he said.
He also urged the communities to develop systems for the operations and maintenance of the structures had been put in place to enable them to continue to benefit from the project.
Mr Issah Ketekewu, Deputy Northern Regional Minister called on the project implementers to ensure that it addressed issues bordering on the provision of water all year round for integrated animal and crop production, the promotion of income generation activities, the small scale processing of produce and tree crop production.
He said the government was favouring the strategy that would not rely on programmes and projects that would set-up parallel structures in implementing interventions or resort to using the already existing structures put in place.
He called for the strengthening of the Regional Coordinating Council Planning Unit to be able to track and coordinate and monitor effectively all the development initiatives in the region.
Mr Ketekewu also encouraged all the districts and communities involved in the project to follow strictly the guidelines to ensure that they own it as the project was demand driven.
He asked them to also avoid misapplication of the project funds, which he said could lead to sanctions and exclusion from further participation.