Ghana’s Farmers Warn of Food Disaster
Farmers in Farfar, a farming community in the Garu-Tampane district of Ghana’s Upper East region, are predicting food shortages, severe hunger and even starvation in the near future if nothing is done to improve their traditional farming and cropping systems. “We are in pain, we are living in critical moment,” a farmer calling himself Kombien pointed out. “The rains have been failing us for years now.”
According to the farmers, traditional crops on which whole families survive are failing because of inconsistent rainfall and high temperatures. They say urgent action is required to protect their livelihoods and to cope with the foreseeable severity of their food situation. They called on Ghana’s Ministry for Food and Agriculture (MOFA) to provide them with short duration or maturing, drought- and heat-tolerant crops and new technologies, and particularly irrigation systems, to support food production. Otherwise, they warned, the whole nation would plunge into food insufficiency, with disastrous consequences.
Farmers also insisted an alternative fertilizer be developed because the chemical fertilizer they use, which has made them more dependable instead of self-sufficient, should be replaced with a cheap and effective fertilizer. Local women in particular, indicated that the cost of the quantity of fertilizer they needed to produce an acre of maize today is more than what they were applying previously on the same piece of farmland and that ought to be looked at by the government.
These were the sentiments expressed by farmers at a community engagement meeting held at Farfar Community. Among the issues discussed were food security, livelihood development, agriculture and climate change adaptation. The event, organised by the Presbyterian Agriculture Station Garu (PAS-G) under the Care International Ghana’s Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP), aimed to solicit information from the community on their livelihood activities.
Mr Joseph Duut Yennukua, an assembly member for Farfar Electoral Area, pointed out that those whose farming and livelihood conditions were deteriorating needed urgent attention and support, but it was difficult for them to access such support. As a matter of urgency, Yennukua also called the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, to supply farmers with short duration improved crop varieties. The Upper East Regional Director of the Savanna Agriculture Research Station (SARI) Dr Roger Kanton promised to deliver short duration (Abontem) and high quality protein maize varieties to the community so they could improve their crop production.
Thomas Ayamga, the monitoring and evaluation officer of CARE International Ghana, explained that such community engagement fora intend not only inform community members about social services available to them, but also help deepen governance, promote participatory democracy, bridge the relationship gap between the communities and duty bearers and bring governance to the doorsteps of the communities.
“The programme seeks to change the old way of doing things because there are considerable changes in the system, most of which are effected by climate change and human activities,” he said. According to him, such events were designed to help communities to identify gaps and design their development action plans and strategies, and to enable them benefit from the ongoing programmes implemented by the government and NGOs to improve their lives.
The fora, which were held in eight communities in the Northern and Upper East regions – Zambulugu, Jawani, Demia, Saamini, Tariganga, Akara, Farfar and Kugri – also sought to educate farmers on adaptation and mitigation measures against the effects of climate change. It engaged decentralised departments including district assemblies, Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, National Disaster Management Organisation and the Meteorological Agency.
These are to respond to the basic infrastructure needs of the communities such as roads, water, health posts, schools and agricultural extension services, explained Francis Babongte Avura, local governance and advocacy officer for CARE International Ghana. He added that the idea is also to gather testimonies from the communities regarding changes that are taking place and impact negatively on their economic and social lives.
Romanus Gyang, ALP’s programme manager who actively participated in the processes, told Thinkbrigade in an interview that ALP is a community-driven and life-changing programme that supports vulnerable communities in their effort to adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieve sustainable livelihoods.