09.03.2005 Regional News

Poor rainfall causes precarious food situation in Upper East

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Bolgatanga, March 9, GNA - Poor rains in the Upper East Region last year did not only affect crop harvest at the end of the farming season, but also set irrigated farming during the current dry season on a wrong footing, Alhaji Misbau Ahmed, Bolgatanga Municipal Director of Food and Agriculture said on Wednesday.

As a result, the Region is suffering one of the worst periods of food shortage at the moment and farmers are unable to cultivate as much dry season crops as they had planned.

Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga, Alhaji Ahmed said all the main crops, including millet, groundnuts, and sorghum failed to do well because the rains stopped earlier than expected. "The inadequate rainfall also caused low levels of water in the small-scale dams dotted around the region, which are normally used for crop irrigation during dry seasons," he added.

He said the farmers usually undertake dry season gardening in tomato, onion, pepper and rice to supplement their income and provide for their families but as the dams could not provide much water, they cultivated less than they had planned to do.

Alhaji Ahmed said, while many families had used up all their food reserves presently, others were rationing the little food left, thereby taking one meal a day.

A few people the GNA spoke to at Sumburungu, Soe and Tindansoblogo communities near Bolgatanga said they were "depending on God" to see them through to the next rainy season when they could farm again.

Mr. Adongo Awuni, head of a family at Tindansoblogo, said he was rationing the little food he had left to his two wives, saying, "I know what I have in the barn would not last until the rains set in but I'm trying and hoping we will survive with the help of two of my children who weave baskets and sell to help."

He said he had reserved seeds for next farming season and hoped that he would not be forced by the situation to use it.

Madam Asunzaaya Akani, a widow and mother of six children who brews pito at Soe said a bowl of millet, which sold at 6,000 cedis and 240,000 cedis per maxi bag last January now sells at 9,000 cedis and 450,000 cedis respectively at the Bolgatanga market.

"I cannot see how I can maintain my business and still take care of my children and once I lose my capital, I am afraid I would not be able to get back on my feet again", she said.

A vast majority of the region's population depend on rain-fed agriculture but the rains are often erratic. The situation is worsened by degraded and poor soils, resulting in very low crop yield and perennial food insecurity.

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