Food Security in Ghana: Does the Govt Understand the Concept?

Thu, 6 Oct 2011 Source: Food Security Ghana

Food Security in Ghana: Does the Government Understand the Concept? World Food Day 2011 takes on a special significance in the light of the current global food crisis and the famine across the Horn of Africa this year’s celebration takes on a special significance. After all it is about food security. But does the Government of Ghana (GoG) and other governments really understand the concept of “food security”.

It is important all people involved in the delivery of food understands the concept of food security. The following explanation is given by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In many countries, health problems related to dietary excess are an ever increasing threat, In fact, malnutrion and foodborne diarrhea are become double burden.

Food security is built on three pillars: * Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis. * Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. * Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) defines food security as follows:

Food securityexists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferencesfor an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern.

It is important to note the addition of the concept of “preference” to the currently accepted definition of food security. In other words, if people prefer to eat rice (for example), and there is a shortage of rice, then a situation of food insecurity exists.

Furthermore it is extremely important to note that nowhere in the definition does it state that a country must be self-sufficient with regards to all foodstuff in order to satisfy the criteria for food security.

Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade. There is a great deal of debate around food security with some arguing that: * There is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately; the problem is distribution. * Future food needs can – or cannot – be met by current levels of production. * National food security is paramount – or no longer necessary because of global trade. * Globalization may – or may not – lead to the persistence of food insecurity and poverty in rural communities.

Issues such as whether households get enough food, how it is distributed within the household and whether that food fulfils the nutrition needs of all members of the household show that food security is clearly linked to health.

Agriculture remains the largest employment sector in most developing countries and international agriculture agreements are crucial to a country’s food security. Some critics argue that trade liberalization may reduce a country’s food security by reducing agricultural employment levels. Concern about this has led a group of World Trade Organization (WTO) member states to recommend that current negotiations on agricultural agreements allow developing countries to re-evaluate and raise tariffs on key products to protect national food security and employment. They argue that WTO agreements, by pushing for the liberalization of crucial markets, are threatening the food security of whole communities. Related issues include: * What is the net impact of the further liberalization of food and agricultural trade, considering the widely differing situations in developing countries? * To what extent can domestic economic and social policies – and food, agricultural and rural development policies – offset the diverse (and possibly negative) impacts of international policies, such as those relating to international trade? * How can the overall economic gains from trade benefit those who are most likely to be suffering from food insecurity? * Do gains “trickle down” to enhance economic access to food for the poor? * How can food and agricultural production and trade be restrained from the over-exploitation of natural resources that may jeopardize domestic food security in the long term? * How to ensure that imported food products are of acceptable quality and safe to eat?

The debates on food security will continue for years to come. The fact is that the latest projections are that food production will have to increase by 70 percent to feed the more than 9 billion people by 2050 (current world population is estimated at around 7 billion.)

In Ghana much has been said and done (or not said and not done) about food security. The question is if Ghana enjoys food security or not?

In 2010 the GoG was warned (The Chronicle) that the country is facing a food crisis, and that the GoG must urgently review all policies related to food security, including trade policies. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) by mouth of the Minister “denied categorically that Ghanaians are facing imminent food insecurity” (GhanaWeb).

Since then alarming information came to light about the situation in Ghana. This year The Chroniclereported that “as many as 12.7 million people, out of a population of 24 million of this country, are unable to afford the cost of food” based on a Gallup poll. These figures were initially rubbished by the GoG, who later conceded that there is indeed a problem in the “Northern Regions.”

However, many reports emerged stating that Ghanaians all over the country are battling to make ends meet and that they can hardly afford food.

If the above situation does not constitute a state of food insecurity, Food Security Ghana (FSG) does not know what does?

It seems as if the GoG has redefined the concept of “food security” for Ghana as meaning “self-sufficiency.” This is clear from various statements and in-actions by MOFA and the GoG.

Ghana’s main crops are corn, yams, cassava, and other root crops. Lately the issue of rice production has become a hotly debated issue and the best example to demonstrate that something is amiss in Ghana.

The fact is that Ghana produces only 30 percent of local demand for rice, and the other 70 percent is being imported to ensure food security. During the 2007 - 2008 food crisis the previous government realised the impact of rising global prices and scrapped a 20 percent import duty on rice and other essential foodstuffs such as cooking oil.

When the 2010 - 2011 food crisis started, the current government re-introduced the 20 percent import duties stating that it was to protect local producers and to become self-sufficient with regards to rice production within two to three years. This immediately created greater food insecurity (affordability) for millions of Ghanaians.

Despite many requests to review this policy, the government stuck to the bandwagon of “self-sufficiency”.

FSG recently clearly demonstrated that self-sufficiency with regards to rice production is a laudable but long-term strategy. The claims by government of self-sufficiency within two to three years and the realities on the ground are in stark contrast. Realities show that self-sufficiency in rice production within two to three years is a pipe dream.

The fact is that there is perfect food security in Ghana in terms of rice availability. However, food security in terms of affordabilityof rice is threatened by the government’s short-term trade policies.

Does the GoG understand the concept of “Food Security”?

In the next FSG issue as build-up to World Food Day 2011 on 16 October 2011 we will have a look at what governments are doing in the short-term to alleviate the plight of their citizens.

Food Security Ghana http://foodsecurityghana.com info@foodsecurityghana.com

Columnist: Food Security Ghana