The Ghana zero hunger strategic review set out to identify the causes of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in Ghana, as well as the measures taken so far to address the problems, the gaps that exist and what government and its development partners can do to ensure zero hunger by 2030. The process was very participatory, involving all levels of stakeholders from the national to the community level.
Ghana has done relatively well with respect to reducing both food insecurity and malnutrition compared to other countries on the continent but it is still confronted with the triple burden of malnutrition (i.e. Protein Energy Malnutrition, Macronutrient Malnutrition and Overweight & Obesity). Protein Energy Malnutrition and Macronutrient Malnutrition are still prevalent in rural areas, especially in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.
The cause of hunger and malnutrition in Ghana are basically poverty due mainly to the inability of farmers to obtain secure market for their produce and low prices, lack of education/knowledge, the promotion of unsustainable farming systems, post-harvest losses, socio-cultural factors, and climate change, which reflects in irregular rainfall and droughts. T
he government and its development partners have formulated policies and instituted strategies, programmes and project over several decades and even though there have been some successes, about 1.2 million Ghanaians still constitute the hungry. Others may also be hungry without knowing it since there is relatively high ignorance about “hidden hunger” or micronutrient malnutrition.
Ghana could have done better if it had taken a number of measures and actions. They include the following:
- Adequate funding of food and nutrition security interventions instead of depending almost wholly on donor support.
- Effective and adequate inter-sectorial and inter-ministerial collaboration.
- Effective monitoring and evaluation of food and nutrition security programmes to help improve programme deliverables. Effective M & E would have also prevented unnecessary duplication of efforts by development partners and NGOs.
It was found that gender inequality impacts negatively on food and nutrition security in several ways. Specific gender-related issues include difficulties in accessing productive resources such as land, labour, credit, and mechanization services.
Work overload as well as the perception that females are not farmers even though they do a lot of farm work, are other gender-based problems facing rural women. On the positive side women as home keepers determine to a large degree the nutritional content of the food eaten by farm families and thus their empowerment necessarily implies better access to nutritious food by the whole family.
Food-based approaches (including food systems involving livestock and poultry) are the most sustainable ways for food and nutrition security thus nutrition-sensitive agriculture is key to eliminating hunger. It is being argued that small farmer production of mixed cropping and mixed farming and the ecosystem-friendly practices employed in production ensures holistic production of nutritious food for the family and food for sale.
However the small farmers have to be supported to produce more efficiently and to gradually increase his acreage over time. Profitable agricultural production can be achieved by small farmers if they understand the principle of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI). The youth can be attracted to agriculture under SAI and the development of irrigated agriculture. Some aspects of the “planting for food and job” such as home vegetable gardens are aimed at food and nutrition security and should be encouraged. Another area that needs priority attention is the institution of grades and standards for various commodities to promote effective marketing.
Private sector involvement is important if the zero hunger targets are to be achieved. Farmers are part of private sector but other agribusiness concerns such input dealers, aggregator, marketers, financiers and others are critical in ensuring the proper functioning of commodity value chains.
It is also necessary to foster private-public partnership across all levels. Government needs to engage the private sector with the aim reducing tariffs, import cost concessions, targeted subsides to providers of storage equipment and tools. The private sector and other organizations, for example, should help fund social intervention programmes.
Internally Generated Funds (IGFs) can supplement what the government receives from donor agencies and should be considered in addition to the budgetary allocations from government. At the local level, zero hunger will require mobilization of grass-roots organizations, NGOs, and community groups. At the grassroots, the people should be made to own programmes for sustainability sake, and actively participate in policymaking, as well as monitoring the implementation of guidelines and programmes at all level.
The food systems model being proposed to be piloted at chosen food-insecure locations is a variant of the agricultural clusters model. It is a model that relies on the cooperation and collaboration of all value chain actors within a particular farmers’ location.
The model does not distort the holistic food system of the small farmers but also incorporates the value chain concept to ensure value addition of the produce and remunerative returns to the farmer. The model is based on adequate financial input by the credit system. It is hoped the Bank of Ghana proposal for agricultural financing will see the light of day to support the clusters.
To implement the strategies as outlined in the document the following recommendations are suggested.
- A multi-sectorial and multi-level approach for maximum impact is required in order to eradicate hunger in Ghana. The SDG2 target must be mainstreamed in all sectors and all levels from national to local level. All stakeholders should be welcomed on board as per the framework (Figure 1). Health, gender and social protection, agriculture, environment and sanitation, soil and water, climate change, civil society, finance and others, are all relevant factors in addressing Zero Hunger. Coordination is key and the success of the Zero Hunger Initiative depends on a strong, powerful and vibrant coordinating institution.
- Effective implementation begins with commitment at the highest level. Tackling hunger and malnutrition must be a priority for the Government of Ghana. The Government needs to ceaselessly take all measures within its means to ensure that its people are protected against food insecurity throughout the country. This high-level commitment will ensure that concerted efforts are directed towards the Zero Hunger Challenge campaign to end hunger through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach.
- At the top of the hierarchy should be an Advisory Board in the Office of the President and at Cabinet level which should include representatives from other development partners (WFP, UNICEF, USAID etc.) and research Universities and other institutions. This would facilitate integration at the highest level. Currently, some of these development partners are doing their best to help but efforts are fragmented and often duplicated.
- There is a need to create a Food and Nutrition Security Inter-ministerial Board responsible for the drafting and implementation of the food and nutrition security plan. The Board would be responsible for close coordinating of government agencies at national, regional, district and local levels to ensure they work together. It would work closely with Cross-Section Planning Groups (created under the SUN movement agenda) at regional, district, and community levels. The Food Nutrition Technical committee (FNTC) will continue to play its leadership role, but needs to be enhanced strengthened through financial and technical support to enable it to fully plays its coordination role more effectively. All these platforms need to be adequately resourced to coordinate planning, monitoring and evaluation of food and nutrition security interventions.
- There is a need to intensify education, awareness and sensitization programmes on attitudes and behaviour change particularly in relation to cultural beliefs and practices towards food and nutrition issues.
- It is important to encourage effective coordination, monitoring and supervision at all levels of policy formulation and implementation.
- Programmes that target females in agriculture should be strengthened. Women should be empowered for example, to rear animals as an alternate means of livelihood to supplement their income and also to feed their families.
- Programme design should be informed by gender and location-disaggregation assessment plus monitoring and reporting.
- To sustain programmes and to prevent them from collapse, there should be partnership with the private sector and also a consideration of how to internally generate funds (IGFs).
- There is a need for proper monitoring and setting up of a reporting system on health, social protection and gender issues in order to track improvements in nutrition, health and social intervention programmes such as LEAP and GSFP. Monitoring through the involvement of research institutions and CSOs is key in ensuring that the social intervention programmes are working at all levels and that they are tailored to be culture-specific. The use of ICT would be useful in monitoring and tracking the LEAP to ensure its effectiveness.
- There is a need for setting up a realistic transfer value for social intervention programmes to enable adequate provision for the needs of its beneficiaries. Provision for social programmes such as the school feeding programme which currently stands as 80 pesewas per day is simply unrealistic to provide for the nutrition needs of school children.
- Social intervention programmes should be reviewed to identify those which must be made more nutrition sensitive. For example, there is a need to ensure that the LEAP1000 programme is conditional on attendance of antenatal care (ANC) services and Child Welfare Clinics (CWC).
- There is a need for collection of food and relevant data at the district level on social intervention programmes to help track progress. The districts therefore need to be well-equipped and resourced to enable them keep accurate data on the progress made by social protection programmes.
- Finalise the legislation for social protection and GSFP to ensure adequate allocation of resources in the national budget.
About the Writer:
Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa is the Lead Consultant at Agrihouse Communications, the premier data-driven agro Public Relations, Media Relations and Events Management firm. She is also the Founder of Agrihouse Foundation, a non-governmental capacity building organization, with a special focus on agro-based youth mentorship and leadership grooming, agribusiness development through the organization of exhibitions, training programs, research, agri-trade relations and promotions.