On this occasion of farmers’ Day, I join several other Ghanaians to salute our hard-working farmers across Ghana. Your contribution to the growth and development of this country cannot be underestimated.
Your continuous efforts help place food on the tables of millions of Ghanaians and several others across the globe. More importantly, your combined efforts as crop, fish and animal farmers keep our meals balanced. You are our heroes and heroines.
It is also in the right direction to commend the current government’s commitment to improving agriculture and making it more lucrative for more Ghanaians to engage in farming, especially the youth. Government’s “Planting and rearing for Food and Jobs” as well as “One Village One Dam” are very good initiatives geared towards sustainable development. These initiatives, if well managed, have the potential of improving the economic status of the population, which could translate into the overall growth and development of our country. It is also one clear indication of government’s commitment to the realization of Global Goal 2 of the new Sustainable Development Goals – “End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition, Promote Sustainable Agriculture”.
Food security, enhanced nutrition and socio-economic development are some of the potential positive health impacts these initiatives [Planting for Food and Jobs; One Village One Dam] could bring to bear, and should be explored to the greater benefit of the population.
Best practices, if employed in the management of these dams being constructed in rural communities, would give beneficiary farmers the luxury of year-round crop cultivation. The proposed project also has the potential to alleviating the rural-urban drift among the population in the proposed project area (northern part of Ghana). This population, most often than not, move from the Northern part of the country to the South, in search of non-existing jobs. Majority of them eventually end up sleeping on the streets while others engage in hazardous jobs.
The socio-economic empowerment impact of these initiatives for populations in the informal sector especially is a giant investment towards addressing one of the crucial structural determinants of health for Ghanaians.
However, it is also important that deliberate strategies are put in place to ensure that small scale farmers and or low income earner families (women especially) in constructed dam areas are given the priority and that level playing field with large scale farmers. The necessary innovative agriculture know-how and near to zero credit facilities should be provided to low income farming families to be able to fully harness the intended potentials of these dams. What about exploring the aqua culture potentials of these Dams?
We should also not lose sight of the potential negative health impacts such as potential spillage of the dams; potentials breeding grounds for mosquitoes; and the fact that unsupervised swimming in the Dams, may place a section of the population at risk to drowning and water-borne diseases like Schistosomiasis and Bilharzia (Osakunor et al., 2018; Kibret, 2018; Graham, 1999; Picarelli et al., 2017). Government should acknowledge these potential threats and adopt proactive approaches to mitigating them.
Good governance has everything to do with upstream/structural determinants of health for the population being governed. National policies, either good or bad, have some level of influence on the health of the people. The current transformational development policy for the agriculture sector is one clear example of a healthy public policy on one hand and health in all policies approach to policy making on another hand. It is therefore incumbent upon policy actors to take into account critically the health implications of any policy they formulate at all levels in order to improve population health and reduce health inequities. This should not be limited to health sector policies, but policies of all sectors.
“Ayekoo” to our farmers and to our policy actors of the agriculture sector. May God bless you and our homeland Ghana.
Health Promotion Activist & Social Entrepreneur