Halving hunger and extreme poverty by 2015 is the first priority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
However, persistent hunger is still prevalent worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This is ultimately slowing down the progress towards all other MDGs. As a matter of fact, most African countries are seen not to be working towards meeting the MDGs.
A large number of hungry people who are marginalized from work can create social instability and conflict and this appears to be one reason for the persistent crisis in many parts of the world.
While a national increase in production generates more food and income, it does not always deliver food for everyone. Food production, and affordability is also important. Many regions such as South Asia have progressed towards achieving food security since the Green Revolution but African countries are lagging far behind.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only developing region where food security has worsened in recent decades. Recently in Kenya reports say drought has caused untold hardship on the citizens as many farmlands have been devastated.
Many problems facing Africa today are due to decreasing investment to donor and African governments in agriculture in the last 20 years.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that global financial assistance for African agriculture decreased from $6.2 billion to $2.3 billion between 1980 and 2002, with funding going to other sectors instead.
This was because donors and governments felt that agriculture had failed to achieve sufficient progress towards food security.
Although it appears that this situation is changing, much effort is still required to see to it that the African continent does not continue to lag behind in agricultural production.
Some African leaders and development partners are once again recognizing the importance of agricultural development towards achieving economic growth, poverty reduction and food security.
This is one reason African leaders gathered in Nigeria in June 2006 for a summit titled, 'All African Fertilizer Summit'. At that very crucial gathering, African leaders, among other things, recognized that fertilizer has an important part to play towards solving the food crisis in the region.
However, it appears NEPAD seems to have fallen short in this regard as there appears not to be any mechanism in place to monitor the implementation of the outcomes the afore-mentioned summit on food security.
The Comprehensive African Agricultural Developments Programme (CAADP), a policy document developed by NEPAD, was adopted in its entirety by the African leaders, as a framework for the restoration of agricultural growth, food security and rural development in Africa.
CAADP sets a target of achieving at least six percent annual growth in agricultural production in order to attain the UN's Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.
One can then ask, what efforts are there on the part of NEPAD towards the realization of the noble policy objectives as enshrined in the CAADP?
In this regard, one can ask whether the farmers in Africa and Ghana in particular are even aware of the CAADP document. What effort is there on the part of NEPAD to bring this document and its uses to the knowledge of farmers? What policy directions has NEPAD put in place to accelerate agricultural improvement and food security in Ghana and the rest of Africa? As a matter of fact one does not seem to see any action in this regard.
Ghana is one of the countries that could be hit by the global food crisis if urgent steps are not taken to tackle it from inception. This is despite the fact that it is a very rich country which should not have anything to do with hunger.
NEPAD Ghana and the Ministry of Agriculture should as a matter of urgency digest the various policy documents meant to improve farming in Ghana. It is high time we stopped speaking big grammar on issues that require practical solutions.
NEPAD Ghana should do well to re-examine its activities and check if they are in line with what it is meant to be; in line with the vision of African leaders who founded the programme.
This is therefore a call on NEPAD to facilitate the practical implementation of the various policy documents meant to improve agricultural production in the country. Let them evolve mechanisms for the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of these policies.
They should also help to educate farmers on the various methods of farming and farming equipment available to them and also create more awareness on how they can source for and obtain agricultural loans.
Food crisis will be a thing of the past if the visions of the African leaders who initiated NEPAD are translated into practical usage for the African people. This is the time to take another look at the CAADP and other related documents with a view to translating them into useful and practical usage for farmers across the continent.
By Felix Dela Klutse