From Francis Owusu-Ansah/Sara Amankwaa, Sunyani .
The Brong-Ahafo Regional Veterinary Officer, Dr Saviour Denueme has said that the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme being implemented by government is expected to increase agricultural production by an additional 14.9 m tonnes between 2017 and 2020.
This, according to him, will ensure food security for the country and reduce food import bills to the barest minimum.
Dr Denueme said this at a stakeholder engagement on malaria prevention in Sunyani on the theme: “Working with the Private Sector to Improve Malaria Prevention”, organised by Private Sector Malaria Prevention (PSMP).
The engagement was to afford the stakeholders the opportunity to find innovative ways of harnessing private-sector support for malaria prevention in the agricultural sector, especially promoting the use of treated mosquito nets.
The workshop also brought to the fore how some companies have made great strides in preventing malaria and increasing productivity through the Malaria Safe Initiative.
According to the Veterinary Officer, one of the major health problems confronting Ghana is malaria, which currently accounts for an estimated 38% of all out-patient cases in clinics and hospitals in the country.
Dr Denueme said business wise, malaria affects productivity and profitability of many private sector businesses in Ghana. He noted that the impact of malaria on farm business can be devastating, because malaria can strike a farming community at critical planting, weeding and harvesting times, leading to low productivity.
Mr. Denueme said productivity is reduced due to sick workers and workers who care for sick family members to the neglect of their farms.
He added that, with reduced labour productivity, demand for agricultural inputs and goods and services can be reduced and “the effect goes on and on”.
Mr. Felix Nyanor-Fosu, Chief of Party of the Private Sector Malaria Prevention, said in a 2016 survey in Ghana, business leaders affirmed that malaria affects efficiency, employee attendance, productivity and expenses.
He said importantly, the study found that the services sector, which spent the least on malaria prevention activities, spent the most on malaria treatment for employees and dependents.
According to Mr. Nyanor-Fosu, conversely, the manufacturing and processing sector spent the most on malaria prevention and the least on malaria treatment.
The PSMP Chief of Party said the four Malaria Safe pillars are protection, education, visibility and championing and, therefore, appealed to stakeholders at the engagement to take protection against malaria serious.
He noted that business leaders who understand the four pillars can help reduce the impact of malaria on productivity, income and the health of the nation.
“They can provide the tools to help employees protect themselves from malaria and its effects. Businesses can educate their staff and their staff’s families about malaria”, he said and added that, “They can help make malaria prevention efforts visible and businesses can champion the use of each of these elements to expand partnerships and inspire action”.
Farmers at the engagement raised concern on the heat in treated mosquito nets and appealed for improved nets if possible.
But speaking to The Chronicle, the Tano South Municipal Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Mr. Samuel, said the health benefits of the treated mosquito nets far out-weigh the heat associated with them and, therefore, urged the public to endeavour to sleep under the nets to prevent malaria.
He said for now, the treated mosquito net is the cheapest way to prevent malaria for the people to stay healthy.
The Private Sector Malaria Prevention Project and Malaria Safe Initiative which is spearheaded by Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs is targeted at getting businesses in Ghana to make their working environment Malaria safe, their workers Malaria safe and supporting communities in Ghana to be Malaria safe through creating awareness and championing Malaria free campaigns within their institutions and Ghana as a whole.