A GNA feature by Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah
Accra, Oct.16, GNA- Holed up in abject poverty at Nankese Asuoum, 52 kilometres of the North East of Accra in the Ga West District; Prince Tetteh Eyume, 51-year -old Odikro (Traditional leader) of the farming community took a wise decision in 1997, to register with the Food Security Programme of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in 1997.
Seven years later, he counted his blessings when he won the Best Tree Crops Farmers award in Ho in November 2004 at the annual National Farmers' Day celebration.
Mr Eyume, Head of a 16-member family and a school drop-out, had always entertained the dream of becoming a successful farmer like his father. However, his large family size, ignorance about sustainable farming practices and poor rainfall patterns frustrated his efforts. The fear of a gloomy future transformed him into a chainsaw operator and he started making a living by cutting round logs for sale. Government in the 1990's made chainsaw operation illegal and once again, Mr Eyume was made unemployed and resorted to menial jobs. The expectant Odikro captured the attention of ADRA who assisted him to cultivate teak and maize.
In his own words: "During the maize harvesting season, I could harvest maize the whole day employing the entire village". Encouraged by this positive development, he went into mango, citrus, cashew, and oil plantations and livestock production. Recounting the fond memory of his award in 2004 he said: " I cannot forget the moment the President rose on his feet to salute my efforts! I concluded that I should let today's achievement be a stepping-stone. You need to come from where I came from to understand why I am so elated".
This success story is among the countless testimonies of beneficiaries of ADRA's food security programme being supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with an annual budget of about five million dollars. ADRA Ghana implemented the five-year programme in eight regions of Ghana from October 1997 to September 2001, under the Development Assistance Programme (DAP). It sought to enhance food security for 16,000 resource poor farmer households in selected districts. According to Mr Seth Abu Bonsrah, the outgoing Programmes Director of ADRA, the programme used an integrated approach involving natural resource management, agricultural production, marketing, agro-processing, nutrition, water/sanitation and preventive health education to address the problems of food availability, access and utilisation in targeted households.
He said an evaluation of the programme reported tremendous increases in food crops yields and household income, improved nutritional status among children of targeted households, reduction in sanitation related diseases and improved access to potable water in client communities.
Mr Bonsrah, who joins ADRA International in November, said as a result of the initial success, the Agency had received further funding for another programme, which ends in 2006 to build on and expand the content and coverage of the first programme. Fourteen thousand (14,000) new farmer households in nine regions are being assisted to improve their food production capacity. The initial nutrition, water and sanitation component of the first programme has been expanded to cover HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention in all client communities.
A new strategy of targeting basic school children in the dissemination of educational messages on nutrition and health has been introduced.
Tree planting and conservation activities are also being supported in the new programme to help address issues of deforestation, loss of bio-diversity, land degradation and depletion of underground and surface water sources.
The overall goal of the current ADRA, Ghana DAP is to improve food security for 300,000 rural dwellers in the Northern and Coastal Savannah, the Transitional Zone and rural forest areas of Ghana by 2006. The goal is to be achieved through improved agricultural production and income targeting farmers through increased agricultural production, increased access to markets, agriculture credit and improved natural resource management practices.
It will also improve health and nutrition status of beneficiary communities through, nutrition and preventive health knowledge and practice and increased access to hygienic sanitation facilities. In order to realise these objectives, a two-pronged strategy has been adopted.
The strategy provides farm inputs on credit, access to potable water and hygienic sanitation facilities. It also promotes training and technical skills development in agriculture, natural resource management, health and nutrition for the beneficiary communities. Madam Elizabeth Abena Dogbatse, a mother of five, including triplets at Winneba in the Central Region has been supported by the programme to start petty trading and now all her children who dropped out of school are back to the classroom.
Mr Usman Buabeng a farmer at Gomoa Ajumako has also been assisted to start an economically viable vegetable farm. During the phase one of the programme in the Kintampo Operational area of ADRA in the Brong Ahafo Region, 1,000 farmers were selected for assistance.
Mr Kwame Afirim a 60 year-old farmer who was a beneficiary recalled how difficult he was finding life.
He took part in a business plan development and tree crop management workshop and educational sessions involving lining and pegging, transplanting of seedlings, proper fertiliser application, farm sanitation, pruning and record keeping.
He noted that before ADRA's intervention, he had no option but to abscond from the community and leave his starving family to their fate. When he was asked about the major benefit he had derived from ADRA's intervention, he pointed to a five-bedroom house he is building for himself and his family.
"I have graduated from the normal mud and thatch in this village to a modernised housing unit roofed with expensive aluminium sheets." Raising people from grass to grace is the ADRA dream and what better dream is corporate Ghana expecting from ADRA and USAID than to say thank you and more success stories to keep hope alive.