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24.03.2006 General News

Vice-Chancellor asks assemblies to help improve quality of street-vended foods


Accra, March 24, GNA - Professor Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon on Thursday, called on the Metropolitan, Municipal and District assemblies to help improve the access of food vendors to clean water, proper disposal of sewage and regular refuse collection. He said a recent study in Accra on the quality, safety and economics of street-vended foods revealed that samples of 'waakye', a popular Ghanaian food made from rice and cowpea were found to be contaminated with lead, a heavy metal cadmium and pesticide called chloropyrifos which could be fatal.

Professor Asenso-Okyere noted that lead, a metal inhibited children's learning ability, cadmium could cause kidney failure and chloropyrifos could cause dizziness and confusion in low doses but could be fatal at high doses. Prof. Asenso-Okyere made the call at his inaugural lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in Accra on the topic: "Improving Human Livelihood, A Development Challenge of the 21st Century." He noted that the growing popularity of processing street foods, particularly for the urban poor, was a cause for concern because; few of such food vendors were properly trained in basic hygiene practices.

Prof.Asenso-Okyere painted a scenario where a food vendor scooped food for customers with bare hand; used the same hand to collect money from customers, the same hand for picking the nose and in some cases for cleaning after visiting the washroom.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere noted that the development process of any nation that did not impact positively on the livelihoods of its people was not worth pursuing, adding that though macro-economic stability was necessary for development, it should translate into micro-economic impact. He said though over the past few years, the Ghanaian economy had enjoyed improvements in the economic fundamental, " the major problem for Ghana's slow economic development is low factor productivity."

Prof. Asenso-Okyere blamed the low labour productivity on factors such as long annual leave in Ghana, time wasting social and socio-cultural activities, late reporting to work and early departure from work, idleness at workplaces, and inadequate personnel with productive skills. "Annual leave tends to be too long in Ghana. Whereas in many developed countries annual leave may be two to four weeks, it could be as long as nine weeks in Ghana. Such a long leave contribute to the low labour productivity," he said.

The Vice Chancellor argued that while Ghanaian workers' union fought for higher wages, they should bear in mind that the level of wages was proportional to the level of productivity, hence when productivity was high, wages would automatically be increased and vice versa. "We must all work hard to expand the economy so that wages can go up," he said. "Before the Ivorian crisis the GDP of La Cote d'Ivoire with a population of about 16 million was about 12 billion US dollars whereas that of Ghana with a population of about 20 million was around eight billion US dollars," he added.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere noted that though the biggest part of the Ghanaian workforce was in agricultural production, agricultural productivity in Ghana was low as compared with other African countries. He suggested that with the large proportion of the population in agriculture, the surest way to reduce poverty in Ghana was to improve farming profitability through diversification of foods cultivated on farms.

Prof. Asenso-Okyere said some of the biggest challenges that affected livelihood in Ghana were malaria, HIV/AIDS and child labour, adding that although it was illegal to make children below 15 years of age to work, the practice was rampant and yet no one had been prosecuted yet. He said poor health could also be tackled effectively by intensifying education on pursuing healthy lifestyles of eating balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly and staying out of trouble.