In March this year as the pandemic hit us; one ill-informed prediction of mine for the country was an imminent food shortage and hiked food prices. 

My information then was based on the fact that during the first couple of months, food prices went rocketing high and the market women’s explanation was that the farm gates were all dried up with Covid-19. 

My own guess, hence my doomed prediction, was based on the fact that farmers were going to be in locked down and so were all other activities around farming. I concluded that the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) agenda would face a jolt this year. 

And indeed, in May when we were recording increasing case counts, I was in the Ashanti Region for three days. Driving to and from Kumasi and beyond, the usual roadside food vending was not as bubbly. 

Some of the tables were overturned or covered up. The few who had set up shop had very little to sell and even that, the prices were quite steep. 

Today, I stand accused and so will take back my words and admit that I was a prophet of doom then. My prediction was truly ill-informed.

Abundance, food

Five months on, I am pleasantly surprised to see the abundance of foodstuffs even in the capital, Accra. I have witnessed loads of new yam at the famous yam market in Agbobloshie, a suburb of Accra. 

On the day of my visit, some of the yams were yet to be off-loaded from the trucks that had carried them from the northern parts of the country.  Trucks full of plantain could not be discounted, both green and ripe.

The abundance is not just for foods but vegetables as well. Tomatoes, fresh peppers and spinach (kontomire), had invaded our markets. 

Just as tubers of yams are being sold in traffic, particularly on the Graphic Road, baskets of tomatoes and peppers have also gained new markets in traffic and witnessed some at the Ministries traffic lights. 

Even in normal times, I never encountered anyone selling perishable vegetables in traffic.

Various fruits are equally available in the market and the prices are reasonable. It is a season of plentiful fruits and what a coincidence. We are advised by health professionals that one consumes regular fruits among other foods to boost one’s immunity.

With the limited movements as imposed on us by the protocols of the day and therefore restricted activity, what would have accounted for the abundance of food, including fruits, in our markets?

Strategy

A neighbour gave me a clue when we had a chat earlier this week about food sufficiency in these difficult times. He believes it is the good effects of the Planting for Food and Jobs strategy. 

Himself an absentee farmer, he owns acres of maize and yam farms in his village up in the northern part of Ghana. He told me, with glowing excitement on his face, that the pandemic did not stop them and that the vigour farmers put in their farms before the Covid-19 broke was bearing fruits in the pandemic.

On reflection, therefore, it seems to me that the country has been saved immensely from the apt Ministry of Agriculture’s (MoFA) PFJ strategy. This is a clear manifestation of how sound national strategies can take the nation forward. 

Vision for future

From what the neighbour recounted to me as a farmer, there is everything to believe that in this era of serious health crisis, we have been saved from food shortage and related hiked prices by the strategies of the MoFA. 

That is what a country needs to propel forward. If only all government departments were so forthright with their vision and plan for the future, perhaps this country would not have been where it is now. 

Our planners need to look far into the future as they plan on our behalf.

Can anyone imagine if we had had long term plans for our roads and even city and town planning? We certainly would have had a beautiful well laid out cities and towns today. The open drains, lack of pedestrian walkways, non-existent parks and gardens and poorly planned cities would all have been our joy today. 

But all is not lost.  If we could have sufficient food to feed ourselves in a pandemic era then surely, hope has not eluded us.

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You can contact the writer via email: vickywirekoandoh@yahoo.com