Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), in partnership with the Institute of African Studies (IAS), has embarked on a research and advocacy project to assess the impact of COVID-19 responses on the country’s food systems.
NETRIGHT, which is a network of civil society organisations (CSOs) working together to bring gender perspective to national policy content and implementation, explained that the objective for this project is to understand the gender dimensions of COVID-19 responses on the political economy of Ghana’s food system.
According to them, since mid-March 2020 when the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Ghana, government introduced measures to reduce impacts of the pandemic such as intensifying social protection programmes and directives among others; however, most of the measures were devoid of active citizen engagement to ensure that the strategies developed are specific to addressing the fallouts from COVID-19.
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology-University of Ghana, Prof. Akosua K. Darkwah, in a presentation indicated that the research work is in progress; however, some of the observations made so far indicate that the pandemic had a negative impact in general but there are some positive impacts as well on the political economy of Ghana’s food system.
“Some of the positives included helping us to think about consumption of our local products over foreign ones, and how to diversify preparation and packaging among others; but unfortunately also, most of our local commodities do not have long lifespans, coupled with limited storage facilities – leading to shortages.
“In fact, we realised multiple effects of one leading to the other. For instance, when schools were locked down, those who produced food items for the schools were out of business. So it wasn’t only school owners and teachers, but a whole lot of retailers, food sellers, fish processors, farmers and a whole lot. However, the losses that were incurred during the period when schools were locked down is still a problem to be resolved,” she said.
Furthermore, she stressed that COVID-19 caused prices of food items to go up, meanwhile people’s income dropped and dependency ratios increased; therefore, there are a lot of credit issues that are unresolved – adding that even lots of market women brought in perishable goods but couldn’t sell them because markets were closed or running the shift system.
She admonished that as a nation we must begin to consider creative ways of addressing credit lapses. She therefore called on banks and financial institutions to offer expanded loan repayment rebates and create some schemes that can help offer flexible loans to these market women and other businesses.
NETRIGHT Convenor, Pauline Vande-Pallen, stated that as a network interested in how government policies and interventions respond to the needs and interest of women, the poor and vulnerable in society, it is interested in the implications of government’s COVID-19 responses on women and vulnerable groups to inform its advocacy on women’s rights and inclusion amid the pandemic and post COVID-19.
She opined that some impacts that could be realised at the end may well include an increase in school drop-outs among teenagers as a result of increased teenage pregnancies and increased dependency – adding that a delay in planting time occurred because of the pandemic, and this could lead to low yields leading to shortagea of food in the near-future.
The research project is a one-year duration initiative that will be monitoring and engaging stakeholders in the agriculture sector – both regulators and players, as well as the fisheries sector, traders and the whole food value chain – to identify the distinct and diverse food system dynamics.
Three projects sites were carefully selected due to their key role in Ghana’s food systems. These are Greater Accra Region, which recorded the majority of COVID-19 cases and is also a hub for food distribution, not forgetting its vibrant marine fishery sector. Second is the Upper West Region, which is a home to major cereal staples as well as being the most food insecure region in the country. And finally the Bono Region, a breadbasket of the country.