Policy actions are needed to avert imminent food shortage and nutritional crisis in Ghana this year. A two-week successive and subsequent intermittent rain floods have caused a number of farmers in northern Ghana to lose their crops, as they have had their farms submerged by the floods, while residents of two major border cities, Elubo on the Ghana-Ivory Coast border in the Western Region and Aflao on the Ghana-Togo border in the Volta Region have been calling on the government amidst street protests, for the opening of the two respective land borders which were closed a little over a year ago as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Daily Graphic (graphic.com.gh) report of August 30, 2021, suggests that the devastating impact of the floods in the northern part of Ghana, which is the country’s food basket, puts the whole country at risk of food insecurity, should the state fail to put in place immediate and workable measures.
Farmers in the five-region Savannah enclave of the country are predominately smallholder, who, together with other smallholder farmers in other parts of the country contribute over 90% of domestic food production. The woes of the farmers in northern Ghana, who depend on seasonal rainfall (between June and November)—for planting and harvesting their crops have been compounded by government’s inability to release its annual fertilizer subsidy to them on time, due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 on the national economy.
The majority of Ghanaians’ have their daily dietary intake, directly or indirectly, tied to the outcome of the farms in northern Ghana. Popular food items these farmers produce include millet, maize, yam, rice, soya bean, watermelon, groundnut, and beans.
Maize is the most staple crop across the country, it is also the main food crop used as poultry feed in the poultry industry. This suggests that shortage in the crop has direct implications for the survival of the domestic poultry industry. The price of maize in the country has increased since the last two months, with fears of a further rise in the coming months, in view of the floods’ impact on the farming northern enclave of the country.
Poultry World (www.poultryworld.net), published a story written by freelance journalist Natalie Berkhout on August 2, 2021, under the heading “Feed shortage, threatens Ghana’s poultry industry.” The report quoted the chairman of the Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana, Isaac Essiaw as saying, “All poultry farms in Ghana are on the verge of collapse if no drastic measures are taken by the government to sustain the industry.” The concern is attributed to the high cost of poultry feed, mainly maize and soya bean.
Where food security includes both availability and accessibility, the closing of the two major land borders — of Elubo and Aflao in the Western Volta Regions respectively for over a year, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the incomes of residents in these cities, as they are unable to do cross border trade, as this had been a source of livelihood to them.
The flooding of farmlands in northern Ghana has been a perennial issue, which derails the efforts of farmers whenever it occurs. Policy action and pragmatic measures are needed to offer lasting solutions. Investing in and creating irrigation farming technology opportunities—to give the farmers an alternative farming season, other than, or in addition to the rainfall farming, will not only help them make up their loses in the rainy season but it will also enable the farmers to engage in some form of precision agriculture where they can determine the amount of water to give their crops only at the time the crops need it. Irrigation farming in the dry season, which is prolonged in northern Ghana, to the farmers, will also mean farming without the fear of floods.
Neighboring Burkina Faso, from where Ghana imports fresh tomatoes in large volumes, is comparatively a leader in irrigation farming. One area of the best practice to learn from Burkina Faso is their micro-irrigation program. As reported by the Africa Report (www.theafricareport.com) of April 22, 2021, under this program, Burkina Faso has gone from 20 pilot farms in 2019 to implement this method in nearly 500 farms.
The government of Ghana has launched an agriculture policy of ‘Planting for Food and Jobs. Under this policy, it has started the construction of dams in northern Ghana. The government apparently has not invested enough to make what is called ‘one dam one village’ project an effective policy intervention. A good investment in this policy and other irrigation farming technology will help deal with the looming food insecurity in the country.
Boosting the farming of tree crops such as cashew, mango, and Shea trees, which equally do well in that geographic zone will also save farmers from total loss in the future in the wake of floods.
The signs are clear, that many low and middle-income countries around the world will have to grapple with post-Covid-19 economic realities, alongside the rising impact of climate change on food systems and food production. As the UN holds the Food Systems Summit in New York later this month, innovative support to low-income countries and climate action will go a long way to save children, from the multi-effect of malnutrition, arising from the impact of Covid-19 and climate change and its effect on food production.