Food Security continues to be an essential topic for discussion in all social and academic discourse. It is imperative to note that achieving Food Security through Sustainable Agriculture will help meet SDG 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere) and SDG 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture) and also contribute significantly to and benefit from many of the other 15 SDGs.
Ghana, an Agricultural country with Agricultural Land Area of about 13,628,179 hectares representing 57.1% of the Total Land Area, ought to be more concerned about producing more food to achieve Food Security in order to address the problem of food shortages that often confront the nation. It is reported that in 2017, Ghana imported a total of over 135,000Mt (about 112 million birds) of frozen chicken from European Union (EU), which is 76% increase over the 2016 EU import. Meanwhile, the national potential poultry output is estimated at 4.4 million birds.
In January 2017, a report from Oxford Business School revealed that only 34% of rice consumed in the country is produced locally, whiles 66% are imported. The report also indicates that although the country’s domestic production has increased by 12 percent over the 2010-15 periods, domestic consumption increased by double that rate over the same time frame. As a result, Ghana imports between $300 million and $500 million of rice annually. The report further states that, between 1999 and 2008, rice consumption grew from 17.5 kg to 38 kg per capita and is expected to reach 63 kg per capita by 2018.
At the 37th World Food Day by the United Nations under the theme, “Change the Future of Migration-Invest in Food Security and Rural Development”, the President of Ghana revealed that the objective of the Warehouse initiative was to increase production of staples like maize by 30%, rice by 25%, sorghum by 28 % and soya bean by 25%.The programme was said to be part of the larger component of government’s Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP). Inasmuch as we acknowledge this laudable initiative, we need to also admit that there is more to be done if we want to achieve food security to avoid food shortages which could lead to extreme hunger and put pressure on the national purse. We need to be more practical in our approach and also understand that the responsibility lies on every citizen of Ghana and not just the government.
Concept of Food Security
Various schools of thoughts have given different definitions or explanations to Food Security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Food Security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (State of Food Insecurity,2001). The World Food Summit also states that food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Both definitions provide the basic ingredients of Food Security and therefore suggest that anything short of that will constitute food insecurity. The practical understanding of the concept of food security is that the small holder farmer at Amisano, Dabir, Amoanda and Simiw in the Central Region, Bupe in the Northern Region, Akateso and Elluokrom in the Western Region, Kasapin in Brong Ahafo Region, Akumadan and Bodwesango in the Ashanti Region, Maame Donkor, Yawkrom and Nketepa in the Eastern Region must be able to produce quality food and conveniently transport them to the market place at the right time for consumers to patronise for a healthy life.
Concept of Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable Agriculture seeks to sustain farmers, resources and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities. Sustainable Agriculture therefore fits into and complements modern agriculture. It rewards the true values of producers and their products. In other words, Sustainable Agriculture is achieved when farming is economically viable, socially responsible and ecologically sound (www.westernsare.org).This implies that farmers must have quality life and must be able to cater for their families, educate their children to any level they want and also pay for basic utilities. Again, farmers must be able to earn equitable or reasonable income from the farming business and protect the environment.
Achieving Food Security
We need to first of all understand that Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture are bedfellows; they are inseparable. Therefore, to achieve Food Security as a nation, it is imperative to ensure that Agriculture becomes a sustainable business. If Agriculture will be sustainable and help achieve Food Security, then the following ought to be put under serious analyses and for possible consideration:
1. Implementation of Farmer Training Programs.
Training is important in any field of endeavour. Thus, there is the need to train all our small farmers on morden agricultural techniques to be able to produce more food to help achieve Food Security. More specifically, small holder farmers must be trained on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Integrated Crop Management (ICP), Good Environmental Practices (GEP), Good Business Practices (GBP), Soil Fertility Management (SFM), and Financial Literacy. The current ratio of one Agric Extension Officer to 1,500 farmers in Ghana is inadequate for effective farmer training. Therefore the government must partner some private practitioners who have in place modern and tailor-made training models to ensure that every farmer in Ghana receives some level of training. It is interesting to note that due to inadequate or lack of training, most farmers do not know how to apply agro-chemicals properly. They usually over apply or under apply the agro-chemicals which affect the plant and the produce quality as well. This also affects crop yield per unit area. Also, most small holder farmers are unable to dispose off agro-chemical containers properly. Some wash and use them in the house and others just leave them on the farm. Others also find it difficult to adhere to instruction on agro-chemical usage such as pre-harvest interval. This perhaps, is the reason why vegetables sold on the market in recent times are reported to contain chemical residues making poisonous and unwholesome for consumption. In addition, most small farmers in Ghana are unable to tell whether they are making profit or loss in their farming business. Hence, it is important to implement farmer training programs to help build capacities of small holder farmers to help them produce more quality foods on sustainable basis to help achieve Food Security.
2. Provision of Micro Credit to Small Holder Farmers:
In Ghana, small holder farmers are usually neglected when it comes to access to finance. As result, they are unable to invest in their farm business to be able to produce more to feed the nation to help our food security situation. We must not forget that small holder farmers constitute the majority of the financially excluded in Ghana and until we acknowledge this fact we will never achieve the objectives of financial inclusion programs in Ghana. Owing to the neglect by formal financial institutions, small holder farmers usually have no option than to borrow at high interest rate from private money lenders to pay for labour and purchase inputs for their farms. When small holder farmers are given financial assistance, they will be able to improve their business by purchasing the necessary agro inputs at the right time to apply on their farms, do proper farm maintenance and also pay for labour cost. This will help increase farmers’ crop yield per unit area, increase farmers’ income, improve their livelihood and also help expand their farms. This will eventually help us to achieve Food Security.
3. Access to Quality Agro Inputs.
Having access to quality agro inputs is also another challenge facing the Ghanaian farmer. It is an undeniable fact that there is high influx of sub-standard and unapproved agro-chemicals on the market which farmers buy to apply on their farms. These sub-standard agro chemicals affect the health of the plants in the long term and also reduce crop yield per unit area. The interventions of both past and current government in the provision of agro inputs to farmers are commendable. It is also good that the private sector is involved. In addition to these government interventions, we can also have a National Agro Inputs Credit Scheme where farmers will be given inputs and allowed to repay in the major harvesting season. This will have to be management by professionals with the necessary experience. This will ensure that the farmers get accessed to the inputs at the right time, apply them at the right time to increase crop yield. It will also help stabilise farmers’ cash flow and therefore encourage them to produce more quality foods.
4. Farm Mapping and Farmer Database Development
Farm mapping is also critical in the quest to achieve food security. In Ghana, most small holder farmers are unable to tell the accurate size of their farms. Some use traditional means to estimate their farm size. As result, they are unable to know the right quantity of agro-chemicals required to apply on their farms. Hence, they either over apply or under apply the chemicals which affect crop yield negatively and also deteriorate the health of the plants. Again most farm management decisions are based on assumptions, but it must be noted that knowing the accurate size of the farm is the foundation from which the entire farming operation runs. A farmer needs to have accurate data about his/her land to be able to maximise the farm’s potential production. Therefore, farm mapping is the most accurate way to obtain essential information to assist in
- Farm management – Layout, Disease/Pest control, Labour, Yield, and Sales etc
- Planning – knowing what do and when to do it, taking critical decisions,
- Budgeting – cost of inputs, labour etc
- Application of right quantity of agrochemicals (fertilizer, pesticide, etc)
In addition, we must develop a farmer database system where we can have full details of the farmer, his/her farm information, years of experience and crop yield. This database will help us track the annual crop production in the country and guide us in our yearly planning and crop production target.
5. Implementation of National Micro Irrigation Program
Ghana has been practicing rainfed agriculture since independence; hence we always have to wait for the onset of rain before planting begins. If for any reason the rainfall pattern changes then we are found wanton. It is high time we moved away from weather dependent agriculture to a more advance form to be able to produce more to achieve food security. According to MOFA (2010), out of total agricultural land area of 13,628,179 hectares in Ghana, only 0.2% (30,269) is under irrigation. This provides us a bigger opportunity to implement micro irrigation programs for small holder farmers to produce more food to help achieve food security. This could be in the form of a scheme where farmers are made to form groups, registered and then given micro irrigation machines on credit and allowed to repay in bullet instalments during harvesting season. The micro irrigation credit will be based on farmers’ capacity to repay and the willingness to repay. This could be a public private partnership program where highly experienced and professional individual will be made to manage. It may even be a partnership between a bank and private company with support from the government. This initiative will keep small holder farmers in business especially vegetable farmers, cereal farmers, horticultural crop farmers, and cocoa farmers.
6. Establishment of Accessible Post-Harvest Facilities
Post-harvest handling, which is a component of Sustainable Agriculture, is also key in achieving food security and cannot be over looked. This stage crop production follows immediately after harvesting. As soon as a produce is harvested, it begins to deteriorate, hence there is the need for good post-harvest handling techniques. It greatly affects the quality of the produce and determines whether it should be sold for fresh consumption or processed. Ghana loses about 318,514 tonnes of maize annually to post-harvest losses (Tran, 2016), which represent about 18% of the country’s annual maize production. According to a research conducted in 2013 by the Urban Association Limited (TUAL) on post-harvest losses of selected food crops in 11 African countries including Ghana, revealed that almost 50% of food crops produced in the country do not get to the consumer. More than 50% of food crops produced in Ghana do not make it to the final consumer due to Post-Harvest Loss (PFAG, 2017). These information calls for establishment of post –harvest facilities to minimise food losses which affect food security in the country. There is the need to also include traceability systems in the post-harvest facilities to ensure that every produce could be traced to the farmer who produce it or the community where it was produce to check poor quality produce.
7. Provision of Reliable Market Source
In Ghana farmers usually do not have reliable market source for their produce. Apart from Cocoa and perhaps Cashew which have guaranteed and regulated market by COCOBOD, all the other agricultural produce are not easy to be sold because of lack of reliable market. The National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) which was established to provide guaranteed market for food grain is timely and commendable but similar institutions should be put up to cater for other crops such as vegetables, cassava, pineapple and pawpaw. When this is done, farmers will be encouraged to stay in business to produce more food for the nation and also make some reasonable income to take care of their families and improve their livelihood.
Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture are inseparable. They are bedfellows. We cannot achieve food security as a nation if we do not ensure that Agriculture becomes a sustainable business. Agriculture is said to be sustainable when it is economically viable, socially supportive and ecologically sound. This means that the average small holder farmer must see increase in crop yield per unit area, increased income, improvement in his livelihood and be able to pay for basic utilities and educate his children. Therefore our food security as a country is dependent upon having a Sustainable Agriculture. Hence, government must partner the private sector to analyse and consider implementing the above suggested practical interventions to help achieve food security in Ghana.
(BSc Agriculture, MBA in Strategic Mgt & Consulting, Cert in FNFM)
1. FAO. 1996. Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action. World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996. Rome.
2. FAO. 2002. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001. Rome.
3. Sen, A. 1981. Poverty and Famines. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
4. FAO. 2002. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001. Rome pp. 4-7.
5. World Bank. 1986. Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. Washington DC
6. AO. 1983. World Food Security: a Reappraisal of the Concepts and Approaches. Director General’s Report. Rome.
7. World Bank. 1986. Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. Washington DC
8. World Bank. 1986. Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. Washington DC
12. Darfour B. & Rosentrater K.A. (2016) Agriculture and Food Security in Ghana. Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering Conference Proceeding and Presentations
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