In the previous issue Food Security Ghana (FSG) highlighted the fact that food security is not only a global issue of concern, but indeed an issue that should be high on the agenda when Ghanaians go to the polls in 2012.
In the previous article we touched on the following issues that need clarification by the government of the day:
Food Security v Food Self-sufficiency – Government statements and actions leaves an impression that there is not a clear distinction between food security and food self-sufficiency, and that this distorts policies and actions?
Tariffs and Duties – Whereas many countries apply duties and tariffs to support consumers, the structure in Ghana seems to be totally insensitive to supply and demand issues?
Food Statistics – In the absence of correct statistical information government policies and thus resource allocation may be directed in the wrong direction.
In the latest IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) report on Global Food Policy it states that “decisions based on flawed data can damage economies, harm people’s well-being, and lead to significant financial losses, so policymakers and voters need realistic and accurate baseline data.”
The accuracy of statistical information in Ghana has been questioned for quite some time, and the question is what is being done about it?
Shortages and Surpluses (The Food Balance Sheet) – The management of the food balance sheet and policies with regards to this are crucial in securing food security. Dealing with the gaps (shortages and surpluses) for each major food item requires different policies and plans for each with different time frames and this does not seem to be clear at all?
Investment - Investment in both agriculture and agricultural research is fundamental to ensuring food security, and the true situation in Ghana is vague. On the one hand it seems that hopes on foreign grants form a major part of the budget for food and agriculture, while the investment in research is totally inadequate as acknowledged by the government.
Other issues that should be raised by the electorate include “land grabs”, agriculture and employment,
FSG has reported extensively on the issue of “land grabs” in Africa, and specifically in Ghana.
in Ghana, development agencies have reported that the spread of jatropha is pushing small farmers, and particularly women farmers off their land. Valuable food sources such as shea nut and dawadawa trees have been cleared to make way for plantations. Some 50 per cent of the Ghanaian population work on the land, mostly growing food for local consumption.
One would have expected that a responsible government would establish a commission of enquiry into these allegations, but to date nothing has been done. From statements raised by Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) top officials and by its inaction it looks as if these land grabs are not only condoned, but indeed welcomed by the government.
Ghanaians should demand an answer from the politicians about the current status and more importantly, about policies with regards to these land grabs.
Agriculture and Employment
A fundamental issue of food security is poverty and unemployment. The youth segment (people younger than 30) comprises close to 70% of the population of Ghana and most developing nations. It is a large group of people who are “jobless, hungry and angry”.
Under the previous government an initiative called NYEP (National Youth Employment Programme) was initiated, and it looks as if this initiative disintegrated when a change of government came about in 2008/09.
The current government introduced the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP), a Government of Ghana (GOG) agricultural sector initiative with an objective of motivating the youth to accept and appreciate farming / food production as a commercial venture, thereby taking up farming as a life-time vocation.
Since its introduction the government have made claims of “miraculous” new employment levels for youth in agriculture, especially on Block Farms. Visits to some of the these government assisted farms by independent journalist however revealed that this was far from the truth, and that most of the farmers were existing farmers who moved to the Block farms.
The YIAP must be lauded. The reporting on its results and impact on youth employment, however, is highly questionable and Ghanaians must insist on the truth.
Cost of Imports
The cost of imports has a dramatic impact on food security. The higher the cost, the less affordable food becomes and thus the higher food insecurity becomes.
The Ghana Cedi has hit an all-time low at 1.85 to the US Dollar, and predictions are that it will reach 2 in the foreseeable future.
Basic and staple foodstuff such as rice and poultry are subject to 70% imports, and the declining value of the Ghana Cedi has a huge impact on the cost of foodstuff to Ghanaians.
While the government is fighting a war against imports, the fact is that many agricultural inputs such as capital goods and consumables such as fertilisers are imported. This means that even if Ghana is self-sufficient in these foodstuffs, the cost of production and thus to consumers is rising steadily and at a fast rate.
According to Bloomberg, “while Ghana’s economy expanded 14.4 percent in 2011 spurred by oil production, demand for dollars by local producers to buy equipment and raw materials has sent the currency tumbling. Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December are limiting investor inflows on concern of potential violence and increased government spending.”
The question Ghanaians should ask is if government could have managed the decline, and if yes, why they did not interfere more aggressively and timely?
Should Food Security be an issue in the 2012 elections in Ghana? There is little doubt that it should be very high on the agenda.
As IFPRI concludes in its latest report on Global Food Policy, “To develop and implement effective food policies, decisionmakers need resources, institutional capacity, political will, solid evidence, and timely information, among other things.”
The most important according to FSG is political will. The question Ghanaians should ask themselves is if the current or prospective governments really have that will, or whether it is just about power.