17.10.2005 General News

Let's not fail our people - Minister

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Accra, Oct. 17, GNA - Mr. Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Monday urged African leaders to put in place some interventions that would reduce the level of hunger. "If the necessary interventions are not put in place, we will be failing our people," he said.

"It is in recognition of this fact that NEPAD under the African Union developed a comprehensive African Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP), which seeks among others to address issues of improving agricultural production and productivity," he added.

Mr Debrah, who was speaking at the 25th World Food Day celebrations in Accra, mentioned some of the intervention requirements as improving access to irrigation water, improving access to markets with emphasis on value addition and the development of human resource capacity. The day, which also marked the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), was under the theme: "Agriculture and Intercultural Dialogue - It's Our Common Heritage".

Ghana and FAO flags were hoisted to mark the occasion. Mr Debrah said Ghana was already implementing some of the interventions in areas such as expanding access to irrigation water, through the construction of dams and dugouts, sinking of tube wells and application of other small-scale irrigation systems.

"We are also supporting farmers with improved planting materials and enhanced extension services to improve their practices," he said. Mr Debrah called for the engagement of more cultural dialogue as a way of bringing about improvement in agricultural productivity and production and also to ensure food security for all people in the world.

Mrs Gladys Asmah, Minister of Fisheries, who chaired the occasion, said the developing world had been unable to feed itself because its leaders had paid half-hearted attention to the development of agriculture and food security.

Most countries, including Ghana, she noted, still relied largely on subsistence and rain-fed agriculture and the crops were produced on smallholder peasant farms with primitive equipment, including the hoe and cutlass.

Mrs Asmah said it was for these reasons that the FAO thought it expedient to draw attention of governments and international bodies to the need to produce more food to feed the world's teeming population. "We cannot reduce poverty without making conscious efforts to reduce hunger," she said.

Mrs Asmah said agriculture would continue to be the major driving fore behind the country's development for a long time to come. She urged policy makers, researchers, extension officers and other agricultural experts to liaise closely with the farmers and fishermen to exchange ideas through frequent organisation of field days for increased output.

Mrs Asmah expressed the hope that the nation would soon enjoy adequate food security, diversify its exports as well as provide the needed raw materials for an industrial take off.

Mr Oloche A. Edache, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, said the time was getting close to reach the goal of the World Food Summit (WFS) held in Rome in 1996, where world leaders pledged to reduce hunger by half by 2015.

"It is time to increase the pace and to start acting energetically on what we know can and must be done," he said, adding, "although we are far from reaching the WFS target at least... this objective is still both attainable and affordable".

Mr Edache said there was evidence that applying a twin-track strategy that attacked both the causes and the consequences of extreme poverty and hunger could make rapid progress.

Touching on the significance of the day to the FAO, Mr Edache said World Food Day was an event that had pride of place in the calendar of the FAO because it commemorated the birthday of the organisation.