‘Threat To Food Security’

A farmer-based organization has called for the suspension of the cultivation of bio-fuel crops in the country to help address the growing threat they pose to food production and food security. The call is in response to findings in a study which indicate that the growing popularity of the cultivation of bio-fuel crops is displacing many food crop farmers and robbing them of their farmlands. “Bio fuel companies’ projects are displacing farmers from their productive farmlands for Jatropha and other agro-fuel plantations. Consequently, this will affect food availability and accessibility among poor farmers,” the study, conducted by the ActionAid Ghana, in collaboration with Food SPAN, revealed. The study was conducted in 12 communities in the Brong Ahafo, Central, Greater Accra, Ashanti and Volta regions. Some of the communities the study focused on are Bredi Camp in the Nkoranza District of the Brong Ahafo Region, Afrisre in the Asante Akyem North District of the Ashanti Region, Agomeda in the Dangme West District of the Greater Accra Region, Lolito in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region and Gomoa Adenten in the Gomoa-Efutu District of the Central Region. Responding to the threat posed by bio-fuels to food production and food security, the General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and the Vice-Chairperson of FoodSPAN, Mr Ofei Nkansah, called for urgent measures to save farmers whose contribution to the growth of the economy was enormous and vital. “It is very irresponsible to allow phenomenal land grabbing in the name of Jatropha cultivation in the interest of corporate organizations whose agenda is determined by interests outside Ghana,” he said. “We need importance on agriculture and food production. How can we say we are a predominantly agricultural country when we are a net importer of food?” Mr Nkansah quizzed. He bemoaned the fact that there was no policy in the country that offered clear guidelines and linkages among land, agriculture, energy, industry and environment, especially with regard to the cultivation of plants for bio-fuels. He stated that the country needed a comprehensive national policy on bio-fuel production that reflected the interests of the people, as well as guaranteed sustainable development and national sovereignty. He said there was the urgent need for the government and all other stakeholders to discuss objectively the issue of land acquisition for bio fuel production in the country to address the threat to food insecurity, the destruction of biodiversity and the violation of the human rights of farmers. He suggested that such a policy should be included under a broader food security strategy and agenda for the country. “Such a policy should provide for small-scale farmers’ participation in and production of bio fuel for rural and urban needs,” he added, and said, for instance, that under the policy, a farmer could cultivate three acres of food crops and an acre of Jatropha. He explained that contrary to the perception that agro-fuels helped to address global warming, their production rather increased the occurrence of global warming. Mr Ofei-Nkansah indicated that there was also the potential of heightened conflict over land, adding that in some of the communities with agro-fuel plantations, there were emerging conflicts over land. The field trip conducted as part of the study showed that there was a dire employment crisis in the farming communities visited as a result of the cultivation of Jatropha, with farmers facing threats of displacement from their settlements, with imminent adverse consequences on livelihoods, food security and poverty levels. The study also noted that, “bio fuel production was characterized by extensive use of weedicides such as Sunphosphate, with possible pollution of water bodies”. It added that large-scale production of Jatropha and other agro-fuel plants also involved the use of heavy machinery, resulting in wanton destruction of the forest, the vegetative cover, biodiversity and economic trees. It said in all the places visited, the minimum land size cultivated with Jatropha was about 75 acres. The study noted, for instance, that at the Bredi Camp, about 1,500 acres had been cultivated, while at Afrisre and Dukusen in the Asante Akyem North District about 500,000 hectares of fertile land had been earmarked for cultivation, with about 500 acres planted and another 500 acres under preparation.