Recently, Ghana affirmed its commitment to banishing hunger as President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo launched the national Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR). The comprehensive national report and road map is expected to inform national efforts to achieve zero hunger by 2030, and was applauded by many social commentators as a commendable feat in efforts to realise Sustainable Development Goal 2.
Prepared under the Ministry of Planning’s supervision, the Report establishes the current state of hunger in the country and offers tangible options available to help reverse the situation.
In his address at the launch, which was organised by the John A. Kufuor Foundation and World Food Programme, President Akufo-Addo submitted that Ghana had excelled in its attempts to stop hunger in its tracks.
“Indeed, we were the first country on the African continent to attain the Millennium Development Goal No. 1 of halving poverty and hunger, for which the country received an award ‘for reducing the level of its malnourished population from 7 million in the early 1990s to less than 1 million today’,” he asserted.
In this piece I present key excerpts from chapter 4 of the Report, which reflect its ‘Priority Actions and Key Findings’. Read on…
Ending hunger and malnutrition cannot be achieved without critically improving the agricultural sector in all spheres, as well as harnessing the efforts of all sectors of government which directly or indirectly affect food production from farm to table in both quantity and quality. Having enough food must however be coupled with nutrition education and behaviour change communications for zero hunger and malnutrition to be achieved. People must be able to make healthy food choices and apply preparation methods that conserve nutrients.
It is a fact that if Ghana must end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all form by 2030, the people to target are small-scale farmers, the poor in both rural and urban areas, rural woman, people living under severe environmental conditions, the disabled and the aged. However, food value chains must function so that value can be added to the pro-aggregators, food processers, marketers, financiers and others to facilitate the production, processing, marketing and consumption processes.
SDG target: End Hunger
To end hunger by 2030, the following priority actions are recommended by the Report:
- Poverty eradication (SDG 1) is critical for ending hunger, but SDG 2 will be very important for the eradication of poverty especially in rural areas; and with the reduction of north-south, rural-urban and female-male inequalities, national statistics indicate there has been significant poverty reduction nation-wide – yet in the rural and peri-urban communities, all groups interviewed felt poverty and hunger had increased over time. This clearly indicates a widening rural-urban inequality and hunger gap. Government has to show greater commitment to SDG 2 targets in terms of providing resources to support actions being suggested here. If government does not show commitment by action, development partners will be luke-warm in their support.
- Small-holder farmers are largely the poor – and their poverty arises mainly from lack of markets as well as the low prices. They however produce over 90 percent of Ghanaians’ food. There is therefore need to innovatively create markets for foodstuffs being produced by them, and many suggestions were made in respect to this issue during the country-wide stakeholder consultations.
They included the need for a drive to promote consumption of locally-made foodstuffs and to incentivise the private sector to purchase local foodstuffs for processing or for onward sale to areas of need. The public procurement system should also enable schools, hospitals, prisons and other organised institutions to purchase local foodstuffs.
There are also suggestions to create farmer’s markets across the country where farmers can once in a week sell their produce directly to consumers. As stated earlier, effective marketing cannot take place without grading and standardising of the produce. Methods such as those used by WFP in parts of the Brong Ahafo Region should be replicated across the country.
- Apart from market-creation within Ghana, there is a need to look beyond the country to the Sahel countries…and even to countries outside West Africa. There should indeed be greater South-South cooperation in the area of agricultural trade to redress the problem of wastage in developing countries. A priority action is for the various agricultural and trade ministries in countries interested in the idea to start discussions and drawing up plans to start the process.
- Many stakeholders at all levels have also called for the promotion of small and medium-scale irrigated agriculture, especially in the drier parts of the country. That is certainly necessary and helpful for the eradication of hunger, especially in the rural areas. At our current level with irrigated agriculture in Ghana (less than 5 percent of total cultivated area), and given the level of investments required for irrigated agriculture, sustainable irrigation development can only be undertaken gradually within a long-term plan. The promotion of sustainable rain-fed agriculture should be the short-, medium- and long-term priority.
SDG target: End Malnutrition
Ending malnutrition means starting from the beginning of life cycle; that is, maternal nutrition should be given a lot more attention because a malnourished mother will give birth to a malnourished child, and the cycle will continue. The NHIS is available, but it does not meet all the needs of pregnant women. There are also programmes by government and other agencies to ensure proper child care and feeding practices in Ghana.
Pro-poor programmes include the LEAP, which targets poor households and pregnant and lactating women. Exclusive breast-feeding and complementary feeding, school feeding programme, Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), free NHIS and others are other government programmes which support child nutrition. However, due to several factors including a lack of resources, the programmes are not very effective.
Challenges of food and nutrition security programmes
The following are some of the main challenges for food and nutrition security programmes:
- Inadequate funding of food and nutrition security programmes at all levels – national, regional, district and community – has been a chronic problem.
- Human resource capacity of districts for nutrition activities is woefully inadequate. Most districts have 2-3 nutrition officers in charge of all nutrition programmes, so there are hardly any nutrition technical officers at the point of service delivery.
- There is weak inter-ministerial collaboration. Food and nutrition security are multi-sectorial, and so without strong collaboration of the relevant ministries and agencies very little can be achieved.
- There is lack of proper documentation on what segments of the population are food insecure, and what foods are considered as staples by the people.
- Disproportionate attention is paid by partners to nutrition programmes in different districts even within the same region.
- There is very inadequate supervision and monitoring of programmes.
- The process selecting schools for school feeding is an issue in several places. In some regions the right schools have not been selected, and therefore the meals are not provided for those who are most in need.
Additionally, the amount of money spent on each child in the school feeding programme (GH¢0.80 per child per day) is grossly inadequate. This tends to influence the kind of meals given to the schoolchildren. This therefore defeats the purpose of the programme. Also, meals provided by the school feeding programmes are substandard – partly due to lack of nutrition personnel to help with meal-planning. The school feeding caterers are also not using fortified food ingredients.
- IYCF has some major gaps:
- Exclusive breastfeeding is not done by a majority of mothers due to time constraints as well as the duration of maternity leave, which is only for 3 months.
- There are sub-optimal complementary foods and feeding practices coupled with shortfalls in minimum dietary diversity standards for IYCF.
- Women and children do not meet nutrient requirements for micronutrients of public health importance (vitamin A Folic acid, Iron, and iodine) partly due to lack of knowledge, poverty and seasonality issues.
- There is lack of dietary diversity due to limited education on the subject to farm families.
- Though males form the largest percentage of farmers, they have not been involved in many of the educational programmes on proper care and feeding practices. This limits their understanding of nutrition security and their ability to ensure that children and other vulnerable groups are well cared for and fed.
- Poverty is the backbone of hunger and malnutrition, but support systems for farmers to increase production to ensure food security is not efficient – partly due to inadequate agricultural and nutrition extension.
- There is very inadequate promotion of bio-fortified foods such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and yellow-fleshed cassava.
Healthcare delivery challenges that indirectly impact on nutrition
Other challenges related to health care delivery which indirectly impact nutrition include the following:
- There is inadequate staff at health facilities.
- There is also inadequate monitoring and supervision of the work being done by health workers.
- There are very poor health worker attitudes (health workers these days, especially the nurses, enter the profession because of benefits they will get and not the passion they have for it).
- There are very inadequate rehabilitation centres to manage malnourished children.
- There is also inadequate health education. (Instead of doing house to house education in the communities, especially the CHNs/CHOs, they rather do static education at one point.)
- Access to water (for personal hygiene and sanitation) in most health facilities is a big challenge. Most of the facilities do not have access to clean water, making it difficult for staff and clients to use toilet facilities.
Nutrition-specific areas that need action
For the above challenges, the following actions are suggested:
- Food and nutrition security are so important that government funding for food and nutrition security programmes must be ring-fenced and provided at the times required.
- There should be nation-wide nutrition sensitisation since many people at all levels lack a good understanding of nutrition. Hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiency), for example, is not well known to the generality of the population – and that explains why many people do not regard fruit and vegetables as ‘food’. Also, foods that are fortified are not popular among the populace due to lack of information. Besides, adolescents constitute a key subgroup for special nutrition attention since early pregnancies are high and the young expectant-mothers need special nutrients.
- Males should be encouraged to attend ANC/WCW with their wives.
- The amount given for the school feeding programme per child must be drastically increased.
- Government needs to partner the private sector to strengthen the school feeding programme.
- Nutritionists at the district and community levels should be tasked to monitor schools under the school feeding programme, and to advise on meal planning and preparation of quality foods.
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.