Accra, 27 Mar 2012 – World Water Day (WWD) with the theme “Water and Food Security” was celebrated globally on 22 March. In Ghana the only conclusion that can be reached is that the government has not been able to grasp the importance of coordination and synergy in order to look for real solutions to address critical issues.
International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first WWD.
Various activities to celebrate this day were reported to have taken place in Ghana.
Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL), commemorated WWD this year through a series of activities aimed at engaging its employees and focusing the attention of Corporate Ghana on the importance of and advocating for funding solutions that deliver sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Although the activities by GGBL must be commended in the light of a global water crisis situation, one would have expected them to slant the celebrations for 2012 towards the theme for the year, namely “Water for Food Security”.
An interesting development was the statement made by E.T. Mensah, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing who said the activities lined up were to draw the publics attention to the need to ensure safe water and food security.
The Minister pushed all the right buttons, but what became glaringly obvious was the inability by the government to coordinate and synergise various sector ministries as well as third parties to address the problem in a holistic way. One would have expected that the celebrations and activities should have been a joint operation between Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) who would have involved the many NGOs and research and development agencies active in the country.
The key issue of the 2012 WWD celebrations was, or rather still is, “Water and Food Security” under the auspices of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation – a theme that surely dictates a joint effort by the two Ministries and indeed many other organisations.
The expectation was that the key issues as highlighted by the UN on the WWD website would have formed the focus of the celebrations in Ghana, namely:
- Why is water a key to food security?
- How much water is needed to produce our food?
- How is the global demand for food evolving?
- How does water scarcity affect our food security?
- What effect does climate change have on our food security?
- Is the competition for water increasing?
- How has the Green Revolution degraded our land and water while allowing to supply more food?
- But can we produce more food with less water?
- Can we re-use and recycle water in food production?
- How can we protect this precious resource?
- How can we prepare for climate changes and natural disasters?
- Are there ways to improve the integration of different food production systems and increase water productivity?
- Finally, how can we reduce the waste?
At the heart of the 2012 WWD celebrations is the fact the 70% of water requirements are required for agriculture and thus food security, while only 30% of the rest of requirements are needed for personal and industrial use. According to the FAO it takes 1,000 times more water to feed the human population than it takes to satisfy its human thirst (see animated presentation below).
Food Security Ghana (FSG) has been criticised as being an “anti-government” initiative. Nothing can be further from the truth than that. FSG is an activist initiative and irrespective of which people are chosen by the people to ensure the well being of the people will be scrutinized when it comes to food security in Ghana.
In compiling this article FSG did a lot of research in order to get its facts right. Knocking on the doors of the website of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works & Housing as directed from the government portal we found the following error message, ““Bandwidth Limit Exceeded – The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.”
Food security globally and indeed in Ghana should be a top priority, and it would have been expected that MOFA would have made a statement on this. A much improved MOFA website was, however, silent on the issue of “Water and Food Security” and WWD 2012.
It is always easy to sit in the pavilion and criticise players and referees. In a free and democratic society such as Ghana criticism is however essential to keep the politicians and those in government honest and on their toes.
Government is no different from big business.
Big business appoints Directors who have a mandate from their shareholders or owners. If they mess that mandate up, they get fired.
Governments also have a mandate from their shareholders – the people who voted them in to look after their affairs. If they mess it up, they get voted out.
In big business an issue as critical as “Water and Food Security” would have been a major Board issue directing Management to give it top priority.
In government it should have been a Cabinet issue directing Ministries to give it top priority.
Time will tell, but our assessment is that the Government of Ghana has failed to make WWD 2012 not only memorable, but to join all the forces and resources available to serve the people of Ghana.