Coronavirus:A threat to Ghana's aged farmers and national foodsecurity

11May 2020
The Guardian
Coronavirus:A threat to Ghana's aged farmers and national foodsecurity

The outbreak of the coronavirus, also known as covid-19, is the new epidemic ravaging the world.The main coronavirus affected countriesare Ghana's key trading partners and sources of our food imports, which is a threatto our national food security.

By Dr. Eli Gaveh

A March 20, 2020, publication by the U.S. Government's Feed the Future Programme on impact of coronavirus on food supply, cautions that a community spread of the pandemicin Ghana could create a situation comparable to the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak whichdisrupted Food systems and increased food insecurity in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guineabetween 2013 and 2016.

The population segment most affected by the coronavirus is the aged of over 60 years. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) stated in 2019that,the average age of active farm workforce in the developing world, including Ghana as a lower middle income country, is 60 years.Each of these aged smallholder farmers cultivate 1.6-hectare land on average. Agriculture account for up 90 per cent of Ghana's food supply, 54 per centof the country's GDP and 40 per cent of her export earnings as reported by the FAO Committee on Food Security.

It is worrying that the over 60-year-old groupconstitutes the largest proportion ofcoronavirus infections and mortalities. In Italy, the current epicentre of the pandemic, infection rates are 1.2 per cent in the 0-18 years' group, 25 per cent in the 19-50 years' group, 37.3 per cent in the 51-70 years' group and 36.5 per cent in the older than 70 years' groupaccording to Statista data of March 22, 2020.The loss of the aged farmers in Ghana will be grave for national food securityand the quest for food self-sufficiency should the pandemic spread in Ghana. Ghana's life expectancy of 55-60 years already makes the situation dire even without the coronavirus outbreak.

Our aged farmers could be described, figuratively, as "endangered species." Losing them will greatly impact our local food production, increase food insecurity vulnerabilities,deepen our import dependency anddefeat gains made in agricultural development in Ghana over the years.

Low youth involvement in well-developed, mechanised and profitable commercial agricultural ventures in Ghana,despite numerous public and private interventions to promote the transition of youth intoagriculture, is a clear indication that youth in commercial agriculture interventionshave not yielded desired outcomes.

Overreliance on aged farmers and use of poor technology in agriculture has not helped Ghana's agriculture and national food security. AGhana trade report of March, 2020, showed thatamong Ghana's leading agricultural imports, rice is imported from Pakistan, Korea, India, Thailand, Japan, China, Vietnam and the U.S. Wheat is imported from the U.S., E.U. and Canada. The local poultry industry is not able to compete with foreign imports. An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) report of 2018 on the Competitiveness of the Ghanaian Vegetable Sector, reported increasing annual imports of onion, chili and tomato from neighbouring countries. This, coupled with thecoronavirus threat, achievement of only 50 per cent of our crop yield potentials and high postharvest losses of 30 to 50 per cent and beyond, as data from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture indicates, presents a bleak picture forour future food self-sufficiency.

Concerted effort is needed to protect the nation's agricultural workforce of all ages and gender to help secure our food supply amidst the coronavirus outbreak and other unforeseen crises.

Proposed mitigation strategies

The followingbroad strategies are proposed for Ghana to manage the coronavirus and other threats to agriculture and food security:

Deepening coronavirus engagement with local farmers. Farmer education oncoronavirus prevention protocols tailored to the literacy, language, understanding and technology level of local farmers should be intensified.The National Commission on CivicEducation and Ministry of Food and Agricultureshould produce and disseminate educational materialsto local farmers through social media, interactive rural radio programmes, farmer networksand bulk text messaging through mobile services.

Developing Block-Chain and e-Commerce technology for agriculture. Ghana's agriculturaltrade and services should be modernized through digitization, automation and tracking for efficiency. Integratingagro-commodity trade platforms, National Food Buffer Stock Company,communitywarehouses, market information systems, agro-financing, crop insurance,agro-logistics hubs, local markets, e-Extension services and Ghana Post GPS etc. in a block-chain.

Incentivesfor youth into commercial agriculture through irrigation development. Irrigation water should be directly delivered to crops from theOne Village One Damprojects and Ghana Irrigation Development Authority's irrigation schemes across the country. The farms should be laid out, developed and GPS mapped. Each farmer in the scheme should have at least an acre of production land irrigated by canal, drip or sprinkler and supported to mechanise operations.

Improving value addition to primary agricultural commodities. Primary commodities should be processed to improve their storability. Some farm products such as cassava, yam and pepper can be solar-dried. Fruits such as mango, pineapple and citrus can be stored asconcentrates. Tomato can be turned into purees or paste and stored inhermetic containers. Local food processors should be supported to acquire simple processing equipment for value addition to fresh produce.

Amendment to the Free Zones Act to restrict food exports. The parliament of Ghana passed the "Imposition of Restriction Bill" to address coronavirus challenges.Movementof agricultural products out of the country in emergenciesmay also need to be curtailed. TheFree Zones Act Mandates Free Zones companies to export 70 per cent of their products. Amendment to the Free Zones Actshould allow 100 per cent sale of Free Zones products on the local market in times of crisis to guarantee national food security.

Promoting home gardening. Households can begin home gardenson beds constructed around the house or even convert lawns to farms.Old gallons, car tyres, crates, buckets, waste rice and polyethylene bags can also be recycled to grow crops. They can be arranged on paved or concreted areas and filled with amended topsoil, coco peat, bio-char, saw dust or rice husk to grow crops. The Department of Horticultureof KNUST, Kumasi, and other research institutions can provide technical support.

Ghana officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the sub region of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

The first permanent state in the territory of present-day Ghana dates back to the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Ashanti. Beginning in the 15th century, numerous European powers contested the area for trading rights, with the British ultimately establishing control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of native resistance, Ghana's current borders were established by the 1900s as the British Gold Coast. It became independent of the United Kingdom on 6 March 1957.

Ghana's population of approximately 28 million spans a variety of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. According to the 2010 census, 71.2 per cent of the population was Christian, 17.6 per cent was Muslim, and 5.2 per cent practiced traditional faiths. Its diverse geography and ecology ranges from coastal savannahs to tropical rain forests.

Ghana is a unitary constitutional democracy led by a president who is both head of state and head of the government. Ghana's growing economic prosperity and democratic political system have made it a regional power in West Africa. It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Group of 24 (G24) and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Ghana was already recognized as one of the great kingdoms in Bilad el-Sudan by the ninth century.[21]

Ghana was inhabited in the Middle Ages and the Age of Discovery by a number of ancient predominantly Akan kingdoms in the Southern and Central territories. This included the Ashanti Empire, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira, and the Mankessim Kingdom.

Although the area of present-day Ghana in West Africa has experienced many population movements, the Akans were firmly settled by the 5th century BC. By the early 11th century, the Akans were firmly established in the Akan state called Bonoman, for which the Brong-Ahafo Region is named.

From the 13th century, Akans emerged from what is believed to have been the Bonoman area, to create several Akan states of Ghana, mainly based on gold trading. These states included Bonoman (Brong-Ahafo Region), Ashanti (Ashanti Region), Denkyira (Central region), Mankessim Kingdom (Western region), and Akwamu Eastern region. By the 19th century, the territory of the southern part of Ghana was included in the Kingdom of Ashanti, one of the most influential states in sub-saharan Africa prior to the onset of colonialism.

The Kingdom of Ashanti government operated first as a loose network, and eventually as a centralised kingdom with an advanced, highly specialised bureaucracy centred in the capital city of Kumasi. Prior to Akan contact with Europeans, the Akan Ashanti people created an advanced economy based on principally gold and gold bar commodities then traded with the states of Africa.

The earliest known kingdoms to emerge in modern Ghana were the Mole-Dagbani states. The Mole-Dagomba came on horseback from present-day Burkina Faso under a single leader, Naa Gbewaa. With their advanced weapons and based on a central authority, they easily invaded and occupied the lands of the local people ruled by the Tendamba (land god priests), established themselves as the rulers over the locals, and made Gambaga their capital. The death of Naa Gbewaa caused civil war among his children, some of whom broke off and founded separate states including Dagbon, Mamprugu, Mossi, Nanumba and Wala.

European contact (15th century)

18th Century Ashanti kuduo. Gold dust and nuggets were kept in kuduo, as were other items of personal value and significance. As receptacles for their owners' kra, or life force, kuduo were prominent features of ceremonies designed to honor and protect that individual.

Akan trade with European states began after contact with Portuguese in the 15th century. Early European contact by the Portuguese people, who came to the Gold Coast region in the 15th century to trade and then established the Portuguese Gold Coast (Costa do Ouro), focused on the extensive availability of gold.[33] The Portuguese built a trading lodge at a coastal settlement called Anomansah (the perpetual drink) which they renamed Elmina.

In 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d'Azambuja to build Elmina Castle, which was completed in three years. By 1598, the Dutch had joined the Portuguese in the gold trade, establishing the Dutch Gold Coast (Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) and building forts at Fort Komenda and Kormantsi.[34] In 1617, the Dutch captured the Olnini Castle from the Portuguese, and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony).

Other European traders had joined in gold trading by the mid-17th century, most notably the Swedes, establishing the Swedish Gold Coast (Svenska Guldkusten), and Denmark-Norway, establishing the Danish Gold Coast (Danske Guldkyst or Dansk Guinea). Portuguese merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it Costa do Ouro or Gold Coast.

More than thirty forts and castles were built by the Portuguese, Swedish, Dano-Norwegians, Dutch and German merchants; the latter Germans establishing the German Gold Coast (Brandenburger Gold Coast or Groß Friedrichsburg). In 1874 Great Britain established control over some parts of the country, assigning these areas the status of British Gold Coast. Many military engagements occurred between the British colonial powers and the various Akan nation-states. The Akan Kingdom of Ashanti defeated the British a few times in the 100-year-long Anglo-Ashanti wars but eventually lost with the War of the Golden Stool in the early 1900s.

In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) by The Big Six called for "self-government within the shortest possible time" following the Gold Coast legislative election, 1946.[35][41] Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and President of Ghana and formed the Convention People's Party (CPP) with the motto "self-government now".

Nkrumah won a majority in the Gold Coast legislative election, 1951 for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1952. Nkrumah was appointed leader of the Gold Coast's government business. The Gold Coast region declared independence from the United Kingdom on 6 March 1957 and established the nation of Ghana.

On 6 March 1957 at 12 a.m. Nkrumah declared Ghana's establishment and autonomy. On 1 July 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum, 1960 and Ghanaian presidential election, 1960 Nkrumah declared Ghana as a republic as the first President of Ghana. 1 July is now celebrated as Republic Day.

At the time of independence Nkrumah declared, "My first objective is to abolish from Ghana poverty, ignorance, and disease. We shall measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages; and by the happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride, and it is by this that the government will ask to be judged.". In 1966, a group of military officers overthrew Nkrumah in a coup d'état and placed Ghana under the authority of the National Liberation Council.

The flag of Ghana, consisting of the colours red, gold, green, and a black star, became the new flag in 1957 when Gold Coast gained its name Ghana. It was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh; the red represents the blood that was shed towards independence, the gold represents the industrial minerals wealth of Ghana, the green symbolises the rich grasslands of Ghana, and the black star is the symbol of the Ghanaian people and African emancipation.

Nkrumah was the first African head of state to promote the concept of Pan-Africanism, which he had been introduced to during his studies at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the United States, at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his "Back to Africa Movement".Nkrumah merged the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the naturalised Ghanaian scholar W. E. B. Du Bois into the formation of 1960s Ghana.

Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, as he became known, played an instrumental part in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, and in establishing the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute to teach his ideologies of communism and socialism.[47] His life achievements were recognised by Ghanaians during his centenary birthday celebration, and the day was instituted as a public holiday in Ghana (Founder's Day).

Operation Cold Chop and aftermath

Main article: History of Ghana (1966–79)

The government of Nkrumah was subsequently overthrown by a coup by the Ghana Armed Forces codenamed "Operation Cold Chop." This occurred while Nkrumah was abroad with Zhou Enlai in the People's Republic of China, on a fruitless mission to Hanoi in Vietnam to help end the Vietnam War. The coup took place on 24 February 1966, led by Col. Emmanuel K. Kotoka. National Liberation Council (N.L.C.) formed and chaired by Lt. General Joseph A. Ankrah.

A series of alternating military and civilian governments, often affected by economic instabilities,[50] from 1966 to 1981 ended with the ascension to power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) in 1981.[51] These changes resulted in the suspension of the Constitution of Ghana in 1981, and the banning of political parties in Ghana. The economy soon declined, so Rawlings negotiated a structural adjustment plan changing many old economic policies, and economic growth soon recovered during the mid–1980s. A new Constitution of Ghana restoring multi-party system politics was promulgated in Ghanaian presidential election, 1992; Rawlings was elected as president of Ghana then, and again in Ghanaian general election, 1996.

21st century

Winning the 2000 Ghanaian elections, John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was sworn into office as president of Ghana on 7 January 2001, and attained the presidency again in the 2004 Ghanaian elections, thus also serving two terms (the term limit) as president of Ghana and thus marking the first time under the fourth republic that power was transferred from one legitimately elected head of state and head of government to another.

Kufuor was succeeded to the presidency of the Republic of Ghana by John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) following the Ghanaian presidential election, 2008. and John Atta Mills was inaugurated as the third president of the fourth republic of Ghana and eleventh president of Ghana on 7 January 2009,[54] prior to John Atta Mills being succeeded as president of Ghana by then vice-president of Ghana John Dramani Mahama on 24 July 2012.

Following the Ghanaian presidential election, 2012, John Dramani Mahama became President-elect and was inaugurated as the 4th President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana and 7th President of Ghana on 7 January 2013, to serve one term of office of four-year term length as President of Ghana until 7 January 2017, maintaining Ghana's status as a stable democracy.

As a result of the Ghanaian presidential election, 2016, Nana Akufo-Addo became President-elect and was inaugurated as the 5th President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana and 8th President of Ghana on 7 January 2017, to serve one term of office of four-year term length as President of Ghana, until 7 January 2021.