Achieving zero hunger: Ghana joins others to mark World Food Day
The world is observing World Food Day today on the theme: “Water is Life, Water is Food. Leave No One Behind,” to highlight the critical role of water on earth and water as the foundation of the world’s food.
On October 16 every year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) marks the day to serve as a valuable platform to raise awareness of hunger and inspire action for the future of food, people and the planet, while promoting understanding of healthy diets and nutritional needs.
The FAO officially declared October 16 as World Food Day in 1979.
The day serves as an opportunity to advocate a stronger dedication to realising Sustainable Development Goal Two (SDG 2).
It is a moment to put a spotlight on FAO’s pivotal role in spearheading global initiatives towards achieving zero hunger, a mission embedded in the organisation’s foundation since 1945.
Last Saturday, the Ministries of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, together with the FAO and other development partners, organised a float to raise awareness of issues of hunger, water shortage and the need to take urgent action to avert them.
Today, the MoFA will hold a presidential breakfast meeting on agriculture and agribusiness financing, to be followed by a flag-raising ceremony at its forecourt to signify the country’s resolve to address the burning issue of food security.
Financing agriculture has been a major challenge for financial institutions, considering the high risk associated with agricultural activities, especially farming.
It is in that light that the establishment of the Ghana Incentive-based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending Scheme (GIRSAL) to guarantee agricultural loans can be seen as a bold step to finding solutions to reduce the risk and ultimately the cost of lending to agriculture.
GIRSAL’s core objective is to de-risk agribusiness financing by Ghanaian financial institutions, and increase lending to the agricultural sector.
Many financial institutions are willing to support farmers and those in the value chain and agribusinesses, but the high risk nature of the sector, most of which is due to natural occurrences, makes it less motivating for such financial institutions to support farmers.
Therefore, a better engagement with such financial institutions by GIRSAL will give the institutions confidence to dedicate and strengthen designated desks for agriculture and agribusinesses.
This year's theme, which focuses on the importance of water for humans’ very survival, is crucial for the human race and all living creatures, with the current serious impact of climate change on water bodies.
Most water bodies are drying up as a result of low rainfall, while the rise in the sea level has the potential of affecting freshwater quality through the increase of the salinity of coastal rivers and bays.
Water, indeed, is life and food because there cannot be food if there is no water.
This is a call for action to preserve water bodies for the continuous survival of the living things on the planet.
In Ghana, the relevance of the theme for us as a people cannot be over-emphasised, considering the devastation and havoc wreaked on our water bodies in recent times.
Our water bodies and sources of drinking water are getting polluted with the activities of illegal mining, popularly called galamsey.
Galamsey, indeed, has become an issue of public emergency, threatening the very lives of not just the communities where it is carried out, but the country as a whole.
In an attempt to fight the activities of galamsey operators, the government set up a number of bodies such as the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), the Operation Vanguard and the Operation Halt (targeted at protecting water bodies), the National Alternative Employment and Livelihood, the Alternative Livelihood Programme and the River Warden.
Although all these are positive steps the government has taken to showcase its commitment to fight galamsey, the root cause of the sordid situation of our water bodies, a lot more still needs to be done to save the people from the activity, which has taken serious dimensions all over the country.
This year’s theme should serve as a clarion call to our authorities to ensure that there is water and of good quality for consumption.
It is good that this year, the FAO focuses attention on water — a major commodity that must be made accessible, available and in sound quality for all.
Our sources of drinking water are under siege due to human activities, which pose a risk to water security.
Aside from the springing up of structures close to the course of the Weija Dam, a major source of drinking water for the people of Greater Accra, farming activities by communities along the dam have also affected the quality of the water as fertiliser and other chemicals are washed into the water.
With the world facing challenges such as increasing population, growing cities and climate change, the theme wants to make everyone aware of the need to use water wisely.
This special day shows us how water, food and the goal to end hunger are all connected.
Figures available show that despite producing enough food globally, one in nine people suffers from chronic hunger, while approximately 60 per cent of the world’s hungry individuals are women.
These figures re-enforce the need for all to work together to tackle tough challenges such as food shortage and not having enough clean water around the world.
Women play a vital role in the agricultural sector, and if properly involved along the entire value chain, there is a lot to gain from that.
Since 2017, the government has put in place a number of interventions to ensure food security and food sufficiency, and one of such interventions that comes immediately to mind is the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative.
In August 2023, after assessing and reviewing the programme, the phase two, dubbed PFJ 2.0, was launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
It is a new five-year agricultural investment programme, which builds on the first phase of the PFJ implemented over the last six years.
The major aspect of it is the shift from input subsidy to an input credit scheme, which will adopt an entire value chain development approach, with opportunity for existing businesses to scale up and to attract new investors and value chain actors to participate.
With this new look, the expectation is that a lot of individuals and institutions will take advantage of it to scale up food production and ensure that Ghana is food sufficient such that it is made available for the ordinary Ghanaian to be able to buy.
The target must be to ensure that no one goes to bed hungry.