Commentary on achieving food security in times of crisis
Today, the 16th of October, 2009, Ghana joins the rest of the world once again, in celebrating yet another World food Day.
The day has been set aside by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to constantly remind the world that the right to food is not only a basic one, but also a human right.
Indeed, the theme for this year's celebration “Achieving Food Security in times of Crisis” is not just timely, but also eventful.
A recent Nations report says that more than a billion people are going hungry because of rising food prices and a global economic crisis. It has been pointed out that the number of the World's malnourished people has rapidly since the global financial downturn. The annual survey of world hunger also describes the food price crisis as prices settling at levels too high for many people in developing countries to afford.
The general increase in population is one factor well, while erratic weather patterns, coupled with higher oil and fertilizer prices, have a role to play in the current food and financial crisis situation.
For us in the developing world, it is becoming increasingly difficult therefore, to maintain food security in a world that seems to be beset by a confluence of “peak' phenomena. Nonetheless, for us in Ghana, the current food and financial crisis situation could rather be seen a challenge loaded with huge opportunities. This is because it can be said without contradiction or fear of error that Ghana is blessed with vast arable land that can and should be converted into food production for both local consumption and for export to earn foreign exchange.
The huge potential in the vast fallow lands of the Afram Plains, for example, could be tapped to the full benefit of all it can be argued that food security issues go beyond just having the lands to produce what we want to eat and for export.
This explains why concerns have often been raised about the high cost of food especially in urban communities in Ghana, despite the many efforts that have been made by our hard working farmers over the years to produce enough. The fact is that as economy develops the gap between the farmer and the consumer widens.
The task of food storage ad marketing therefore, becomes more complex. Modern methods of storage, processing and forms of retail distribution are required. The objective of food security therefore, is to remove the fear that there would not be enough to it.
Food security is achieved when the poor and vulnerable particularly women, children and those living in marginal areas of society, have secure access to the food they want. Food security is achieved when equitable growth ensures that these groups of people have sustainable livelihoods. Our focus therefore, should be on access to food rather than simply.
Thus, food security is not just concerned with the level and variety of food production, but also with causes and amounts of poverty, and the effectiveness of public and private food distribution systems.
It has also been noted that one other major factor militating against our quest for national food sufficiency is the lack of adequate cash committed to actual food security and that of the nation at large, we need to commit more resources to actual food production.
It is important to commit resources to other components of agricultural development such as training of project vehicles, but if concomitant levels of resource are not committed to committed to actual food production, very little would be achieved with all the huge efforts we are making as a nation to eradicate hunger. Farming as a business can not continue to thrive and grow on the poor farmers' pocket.
The astuteness of hardworking private entrepreneur such as the KWANIM FARMS located in the Afram Plains is an ample demonstration that if financial resources are made available to both small and large-scale farmers in the form of credit, Ghana's agriculture production and distribution can increase substantially in the face of debilitating world crisis. This requires that financial institutions would have to be forthcoming with the provision of various form of financial intermediation.
The extent to which this can be successfully pursued would depend much on our overall agricultural development policy as a nation. This obviously means that government policies must have in-built deliberate attempts at making resources readily available for actual agricultural production and processing.
As we celebrate this day, let us all remain reminded that having unrestricted access to the food we need in the right quantities and quality for active and healthy life, there are enormous challenges to be overcome in the face of global financial crisis.
BY: SAMUEL ARKU-KELLY NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST, AFRAM PLAINS
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