By: Helena Selby
The main purpose for the daily struggle of people in the economy is to get their daily bread. It is obvious that man cannot live without food, as it is great source strength and energy. Gone were the days when food was in abundance, due to the greater percentage of the world population involving themselves in agriculture.
Things seem to have changed, technology and white collar jobs have gradually taken the place of agriculture, which has contributed to the reduction of food in the agriculture sector today.
Apart from people drifting away from the practice of agriculture, bad weather conditions have resulted into the few are engaged in agriculture not getting bounty harvests at the end of the season. This situation, coupled with rapid population growth, has resulted in food scarcity. Food scarcity is one of the problems facing the world today, especially, people in the developing countries, including Ghana. The situation has resulted in people spending the greater part of their incomes on food. It is the yearning of every individual to get three square meals a day, but from the look of things, this desire is being overshadowed by the level of food scarcity in the world today.
Food insecurity in Ghana
According to the World Food Summit in 1996, when all people, at all times, do not have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life, then indeed, the people are going through food insecurity. Food availability concerns food that is physically present in the area of concern, through all forms of domestic production, commercial imports, and food aid. A household’s access to food concerns the ability to regularly acquire adequate amounts of food, through a combination of its own home production and stock, purchase barter, gift, borrowing, or food aid.
In a research conducted by the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA), it was discovered that in Ghana, solely on the basis of household food consumption, 5% of the population of 1.2 million people have limited access to sufficient and nutritious food for an active and healthy life.
Food insecurity can be found mostly in the poorest regions, which are also the areas most prone to adverse weather conditions such as floods and droughts, and have been affected by soaring food prices. All over the country, about 2 million people are vulnerable to become food insecure. In the rural areas of the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions, 507,000 people were found to be vulnerable to becoming food insecure. Up to 1.5 million people vulnerable to food insecurity live in the rural and urban areas of the seven remaining regions with the largest share in the Brong-Ahafo Region.
Who are the most affected by food insecurity?
The most affected people, in terms of food insecurity, are the unemployed and unskilled labourers, whereas unemployment is on the verge of taking over the best part of the youth the numbers of unskilled labour is increasing. Half of unskilled labourers live in urban areas, and they form part of the urban poor population who spend 67% of their income on food, compared to the national average of 52%. The other half of unskilled laboureres live in the rural areas spread across the country, with the largest shares in the Ashanti and Upper East regions.
Apart from unskilled labourers, farmers, agro-pastoralists and food processors, who are considered to have the most access to food, form part of the people affected by food insecurity. In a survey by the CFSVA in the northern part of the country, it was disclosed that while 63% of agro-pastoralists average income is derived from livestock and animal husbandry, one- fifth of their income is covered by food crop production. The most common livestock are cattle and poultry. Lack of education among household heads was most identified among the agro-pastoralists, with 83% of them not having received any schooling at all. Four out of five households, that is 88%, were identified as poor, and 9% female headed.
In addition, food processors in the region also encounter great food insecurity. Their second most important income source is food crop production. They have one of the highest shares of poor households, with the third lowest annual per capital income of US$445.
Causes of food insecurity?
High food prices have been considered one of the stumbling blocks towards the achievement of food security in the nation. Every now and then, the prices of goods and services increase without a corresponding increment in wages and salaries of the people. As markets are the main sources of food for about 80% of households, the greater portion of the population becomes extremely vulnerable, when there are increases in the prices of goods and services. People have to spend most of their limited incomes on food, which sometimes, is not even enough for three square meals a day. For those who are jobless, or have no skill, they barely even have two square meals a day.
Additionally, natural hazards like floods, which have been an annual ritual in the country, contribute greatly towards food insecurity. According to the research by CFSVA, floods and droughts have a great impact on the poorer households in the northern regions of Ghana. So far, floods have destroyed large areas of cultivated land at crucial times during past cropping seasons, leaving the farming population in the region with reduced harvests to sustain them throughout the year, and a damaged asset base that takes a long time to replenish. Apart from the above-mentioned causes of food insecurity, lack of education and a high dependency on agricultural livelihood activities as primary income sources has as well been identified as being associated to the lack of food security in the country.
The government of Ghana, in helping to combat food insecurity in the country, has come out with policies intended to help the people. The National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) was launched in 2007, and was meant to provide a policy direction regarding the protection of persons living in extreme poverty, and those who are vulnerable to both expected and unexpected threats to their livelihoods.
Under this policy, is the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP). This policy is meant to be a safety net for the 20% people living in extreme poverty in the country. Most LEAP grants are targeted at women. There is estimated number of 880,000 extremely poor households in the country (GSS 2007), and the LEAP is intending to reach an estimated 164,379 (19%) in 168 districts over a five year rollout, between 2008 and 2010.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was established with the intention to remove financial barriers to access health care, especially, for the poor in society. In 2007, 48% of the total population was covered by the scheme. In 2008, the government announced that children under 18 years would be eligible for NHIS exemptions, regardless of the registration status of their parents.
The capitation grant is one major initiative to improve access to, and participation in basic education, with an emphasis on gender and geographic equity. The grant consists of GH¢3 per student per year for all basic public school pupils.
Additionally, the Ghana School Feeding Programme was also introduced to enhance school enrolment, encourage attendance, ensure retention, and improve the nutritional and health status of children. In 2008 1,435 schools and 614,291 pupils in 138 districts benefited from this programme, which the government is financing itself, by providing 78% of the overall resources.