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Managing our land space to ensure food security

BY: Doreen Hammond
Features Editor Doreen Hammond
Features Editor Doreen Hammond

As a child, one of my enjoyable pastimes was to accompany my dad on hunting expeditions.

Most of the time we came home with nothing, but on rare occasions, our efforts were rewarded with a rabbit or ‘Akokohwedie3’.

Recently, I decided to trace my steps along our hunting grounds and realised that it no longer existed but is what is now known as Okpoi Gonno, Baatsonaa and Spintex.

I did not even see the cattle and could, therefore, neither watch the cows being milked nor bring home their fresh milk as we used to.

The entire area, which used to be bushy and uninhabited, has now become the habitat of thousands of families. The scenario I just painted is a national one as arable farm lands are lost for other commercially viable ventures at an alarming rate.

The stretch from Kasoa to Winneba junction was dotted with farms and plantations but has now been taken over by real estate developers.

The above situation is a disturbing one that must catch the attention of our policy makers and planners. Though the threat may not be obvious now, it may affect our very survival in the long term if not managed. The reason being, nature has given each nation a land space for their survival.

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This is fixed and cannot be expanded. Yet population continues to increase. This limited land space, therefore, needs to be managed in a sustainable and responsible manner.

On this available land, we have access to trees from which we get wood for use as fuel, for construction, furniture and decorative pieces. The trees also help us to prevent erosion, act as windbreaks and play a critical part in creating the oxygen we breathe.

We also find herbs which we use as medicine to treat all manner of illnesses and herbs which we use as health supplement.

On this very land space are different species of animals, some of which we use for food, as means of transport and some which merely exist in order to maintain our ecology. The land also provides us with rivers, mountains and valleys which all have a purpose.

Part of this very land is what gives us shelter. We build on land in order that we have houses to live in, educational facilities, health facilities, offices, recreational centres and many more.

Sadly, we are losing most of the arable lands through unsustainable practices such as illegal mining, sand winning and defforestation. Whether with permit or not, illegally or legal , the effect is that land gets used up if proper reclamation is not done, and some arable lands get degraded forever.

Out of the lot, real estate developers and the Ghanaian’s desire to own a house appear to be the real threat to our arable lands. They are gradually pushing into the hinterland acquiring lands for real estates.

Some of them are offering good money to farmers in exchange for land. During a visit to the Centre for Plant Medicine Research at Mampong some months ago, an official of the centre told me how farmlands on which farmers grew some of the herbs they used to manufacture various preparations had been taken up in such manner.

If this situation persists, we may gradually reach a stage where our food security would be severely threatened in the long term. We may have to break down the very structures we are building, even on arable lands, just because of the immediate benefit of accommodation and money in order to have farm lands.

It is true that our lands are vested in our traditional authorities and they decide how it is used but I think we should begin to have a conversation on the matter.

Is there a policy on land management which is governing how we are making use of our lands? Or is it about time that we looked at other methods of ensuring food security by using greenhouse technology so that we use a small space for greater output?

We should also consider paying greater attention to the use of mineral fertilisers to increase our yield.

This is one of the many initiatives that OCP, a mineral fertilser company based in Morocco, has been working on for some time now as hope for food security on the African continent. How about going into high rise buildings to maximise land use?

Whatever we choose to do, that action should culminate in a balancing act between our nutritional needs in the long term and the quest for decent accommodation.

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