At a time when more people than ever are going hungry worldwide, Ghana has been successful in fighting the trend, but continues to face new challenges, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said during a joint visit to the West African country.
Based on FAO statistics, the estimated number of undernourished people in Ghana dropped steadily from 5.4 million people in the 1990-92 baseline period to 3.0 million in 1995-97, followed by a further decrease to 1.9 million in 2003-05, though child undernutrition is not improving.
The financial crisis, rising inflation, food price increases and climate-related shocks, such as floods and droughts, threaten to keep Ghana’s success from reaching more people in this country of about 23 million.
“The global financial crisis is a major threat to the progress that Ghana has made in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “We will do everything we can to ensure the MDG can still be achieved and urge the international community to step up support at this crucial time.”
“Ghana has shown that real progress against hunger, malnutrition and poverty can be achieved through growth and diversity in agriculture and better access to food,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “But Ghana will need greater support in identifying and helping the millions of people who remain food insecure and vulnerable.”
Bracing for the lean season
At the peak of the lean season in June/July, WFP and FAO will join forces to enhance food security and nutritional well-being in the three northern regions of Ghana through the joint UN Trust Fund for Human Security, a joint UN programme against malnutrition and a recovery operation targeting approximately 500 000 people.
The initiative includes productive safety-net projects supporting land reforestation, construction of irrigation systems and small dams. FAO and WFP will also collaborate on the Purchase for Progress initiative, designed to shift the market benefits of local procurement to smallholder farmers.
During their 21-24 April stay in Ghana, the heads of the two agencies were scheduled to visit the Buduburam area, close to the capital Accra. In Buduburam, UN agencies provide support to vulnerable populations in the form of nutritional safety nets as well as income generating activities, small scale gardening, livestock and water systems for irrigation.
High prices persist
High food prices reached their peak in Ghana in mid-2008 but staples like rice, cassava and maize have remained at unusually high levels until now, despite a very good harvest.
An FAO interactive index of staple food prices on national markets in 55 developing countries shows that while food prices have fallen internationally, prices in developing countries have not fallen as quickly, if at all. Furthermore, while food represents about 10-20 percent of consumer spending in industrialised nations, it accounts for as much as 60-80 percent in developing countries, many of which are net food importers.
A WFP assessment on the impact of the global financial crisis on food security conducted in April 2009 indicated that smallholder farmers and households relying predominantly on remittances will be most severely affected, should local food prices remain high and cash crop prices and remittances maintain their downward trend.
Investing in the future
In addition to the joint activities, each Organization is leading a series of projects designed to improve food security in Ghana. FAO’s Regional Office for Africa, based in Accra, supports projects to improve smallholder crop production, livestock breeding and the sustainability of fisheries, in addition to supporting development of alternative income-generating activities and improvement of infrastructure.