Sunday and Monday saw World Food Celebrations taking place across the globe while famine, hunger and food insecurity continues unabated.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations celebrated World Food Day 2011 on Sunday across the world under the theme Food Prices: From Crisis to Stability highlighting the challenges facing the world due to price hikes. The FAO states that currently there are over 1 billion hungry and food insecure people around the world, out of which 98% live in the developing countries where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed their growing populations.
In Rome global food price volatility was be the focus of World Food Day celebrations on Monday which also addressed the issue of massive farmland purchases land grabbing by rich countries in the developing world.
While Oxfam called for the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to fight price volatility by agreeing on scrapping subsidies for turning food into fuel, regulating commodity markets and increasing food reserves in poor countries, the campaign group Via Campesina said that Land grabbing is one of the most blatant and scandalous examples of how the dominant corporate food system is pushing a growing number of farmers and consumers into poverty.
Land grabbing is an issue that should be of serious concern in Ghana since claims by Friends of the Earth (FOE) emerged that as much as 37 percent of Ghana has been grabbed for questionable biofuel production. To date the Government of Ghana (GoG) has turned a blind eye to the issue and no investigations into the FOE allegations has been ordered.
Rising Food Prices
In the USA Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, reminded the world that rising food prices earlier this year added millions to the nearly one billion people worldwide who suffer from chronic hunger. She also reminded all that more than 13 million people are affected by a severe drought that has led to a food emergency and a refugee crisis across the Horn of Africa, compounded by terrorist group al-Shabaabs complete disregard for fellow Somali citizens by blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid.
She continued to say he United States will continue to provide food aid during these crisis situations, but long-term solutions to food security must be treated with the same sense of urgency. Through the Feed the Future Initiative, the United States government will continue to work with partner countries, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders to improve access and availability to nutritious food.
In Ghana poverty and high food prices has placed millions of Ghanaians at risk as reported by Gallup. The GoG of Ghana initially questioned the poll but eventually acknowledged that there is indeed worrisome food insecurity in Ghana. While the GoG is stubbornly following a long-term policy of food self-sufficiency, Ghanaians are waiting for the government to also look at shorter term aid measures such as the reduction of extremely high import duties on basic foodstuffs such as cooking oil and rice.
Food Price Fluctuations
The theme of this years World Food Day was Food prices from crisis to stability to shed some light on this trend and to ascertain what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.
FAO Director General Dr Jacques Diouf said: If we are to seriously address the issue of world hunger, more effort has to be made to address the problem of food price fluctuations, particularly for those who spend most of their incomes on food, to ensure that they can return from the market with enough for their families to eat nutritiously.
In Ghana the government believes that a policy of self-sufficiency will go a long way towards tackling this problem of price fluctuations, while many analysts believe that such a policy is wise in the long-term but that governments must also address shorter term instruments to aid the hungry.
Government Policies Under Attack
In a highly critical report released in the UK by War on Want, an anti-poverty campaign group, the group says the governments attempts to get farmers in the developing world to use more modern technology and to free up their trade networks has harmed both farmers and consumers. The report says: Hundreds of millions of people face starvation as a result of British government policy.
The Department for International Development rebutted the claims by the group and said that: These claims are ill-informed and lacking in credibility. The UK is recognised by experts and international bodies as leading the way in tackling world hunger and our approach is securing food for millions who otherwise may have gone hungry.
Government policies, actions and inactions by governments have for long been blamed as a major cause for the food crisis that has gripped the world for a number of years.
In Ghana policy is driven by the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) I (2002) and FASDEP II (2007). The problem is not so much the policy, but rather inability by government to implement policies. Further criticism is on a tunnel vision policy of self-sufficiency (a long-term strategy) while consumers are suffering right now due to high import duties on basic foodstuffs.
Investment in Agriculture
Large scale actions by governments are needed to invest in agriculture infrastructure, better marketing systems, fairer trade practices and creation of food reserves which would reduce the effects of country-wide price swings.
In Ghana huge investments have been made in cocoa production that has propelled the country to one of the biggest exporters in cocoa, while other sectors have been largely neglected. Recent attempts by government to invest more in agriculture has been met with disappointment due to implementation failures (late delivery of support such as fertilisers and mechanisation), abuse of support (selling of subsidised fertilisers in neighbouring companies), bad administration (inability to recover short-term credit extended to farmers) and under-investment in research.
Ghana and World Food Day 2011
Ghana marked the 2011 World Food Day Celebrations with a coconut planting exercise at Bronikrom in the Shama District of the Western Region.
This decision, according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), has been necesitated by the massive destruction of coconut plantations in the Central and Western Regions of Ghana by the Cape Saint Pauls Wilt Disease and thus The Ministry of Food and Agriculture wants to use this years celebration to draw the attention of the Government, donor partners and the general public of the need to restore the livelihood of coconut farmers who have lost their plantations through the Cape Saint Pauls Wilt Disease (CSPWD).
This initiative should surely be welcomed, but using it as central theme for World Food Day 2011 in Ghana must also be questioned in the light of the serious crisis being faced by millions of Ghanaians.
Saving the coconut industry in Ghana will not solve the food security issues of Ghana, and many questions remain unanswered.
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