Mr Edouard Tapsoba, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in Ghana yesterday commended the government for making 'impressive progress' towards achieving food security for Ghanaians.
Mr Tapsoba said an FAO study entitled 'The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2006', showed that in Ghana, the number of malnourished people declined by 59 percent from 5.8 million to 2.4 million over a 10-year period between 1993- 1995 and 2001 and 2003.
'We have been encouraged in recent years not only because of the remarkable progress made by Ghana in its fight against hunger and malnutrition, but also by the deliberate decision by government to formulate a Food and Agriculture Sector Policy', he said at this year's World Food Day.
The Day, which is observed on October 16 every year, focuses attention on agriculture and food production to stimulate national, bilateral, multilateral and Non-Governmental Organisation efforts to heighten awareness of defeating hunger in the world.
This year, 'The Right to Food - Make it Happen', was chosen as the theme for the Day, to reflect the international community's growing awareness of the crucial role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty.
Mr Tapsoda observed, however, that even though the statistics were encouraging, it showed that there was still 'room for improvement' since there were some 41 percent of the population that were still malnourished.
'Moreover, effort should be made on the nutrition aspect, particularly for children. We are optimistic as the ambitious School Feeding Programme that government has launched recently is very promising,' Tapsoba said.
Tapsoba noted that while the FAO was confident that Ghana was making progress to achieve one component of the Millennium Development Goals- the elimination of hunger by 2015- the adverse effects of disasters, such as droughts and floods, which hit the northern parts of Ghana this year, put a sizable number of people on a transitory food insecurity situation.
He held that giving top priority to food and agriculture, as a means of eradicating poverty and hunger in the country, made economic sense, since the sector contributed about 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Products.
The FAO Representative noted that since most of the poor lived in rural areas and derived their livelihoods from the sector, priority should be given to the sector to reduce poverty nationwide. 'Thus, adequate resources should be allocated for investments in productive activities, basic infrastructure and supporting services', he added.
Mr Tapsoba said that achieving universal food security for all Ghanaians was a national challenge and should therefore be made a national affair. He called on all, including all ministries, the private sector, civil society organizations to be part of the preparation and implementation of a food security action plan, adding that the FAO would endeavour to do its part in Ghana's efforts to reduce poverty, eradicate hunger and realize global food security.
Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Ms Anna Nyamekye noted that the right to food as a basic necessity could only be meaningful if people live up to their civil and moral responsibilities.
'The right to food therefore can only be meaningful if we the people will live up to their civil and moral responsibilities, by avoiding conflicts, making our roads and homes safe, working hard and recognizing the right of your fellow human being to live and enjoy life'.
Mrs Nyamekye noted that while the Constitution guaranteed the right to basic necessities of life, 'We cannot survive if negative activities like armed robbery, theft, corruption, religious and ethnic conflicts take the better part of us'. 'We shall not be able to work and produce enough to ensure our food security if we do not have the peace needed', she said.
She said while every individual had the right to food, 'we must also help to make it happen', adding, 'The right to food does not mean we should sit and demand it as a right'. 'We have to work for it, except when we are constrained by situations like illness, age, handicap, famine or disasters as happened in the North. 'Under such conditions, it is justified for the state to come in and assist', she said.
Ms Nyamekye said the Ministry had made it its objective to ensure universal food security, and improve growth in agricultural incomes by adopting policies that would enhance and facilitate increased productivity.
She said it was the Ministry's goal to improve productivity in agriculture and attain an annual growth rate of about six percent to conform to the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy by 2015.
Mrs Gladys Asmah, Minister for Fisheries on her part said agriculture and fisheries production and productivity held the key to growth and poverty reduction strategies of nations.
She thus called on Ghanaians to take advantage of the good soil, favourable rains and the numerous water bodies to increase fish and food production to make the 'Right to food' happen to rally the energies of the people for productive ventures.
Sheik I. C. Quaye, Greater Accra Regional Minister chaired the function which had a lively patronage from members of Amen Amen Church, students, Ministers of State, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Clergy,