Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Northern Women Petition Government over Block Farming Project

Women groups in the Northern Region of Ghana have asked the ruling government to acquire land banks through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and allocate at least 70% of these lands to women in order to boost farming and food security in the area.

According to the women, this would provide adequate security of tenure to women farmers to increase their participation in the Block Farming Project initiated by the government three years ago.

They observed that, the Block Farming Project as a strategy to increase women participation should expand the crops currently being produced to include more crops such as groundnuts and vegetables which many women farmers were cultivating.

About 80% of the entire population of the Northern Region is engaged in agriculture – mostly producing to feed their families while some are sold in the local market to cater for other needs at home. This is probably due to the fact that, a considerable amount of the total land area of the region estimated to be 70,383 square kilometers, is fertile for agricultural purposes. For instance, in 2010 the region produced 110,430 metric tons of maize, rice 62,930, millet 50,290, sorghum 59,370, cassava 83,910 and yam 117,810 (Ghana, MoFA Report).

Thus, as the world marked International Day of Rural Women and World Food Day celebrations in October 15th and 16th respectively, women in the Northern Region who represents the majority of the labour force engaged in agriculture called on MoFA (implementers of government agriculture programmes) to intensify educational campaigns on the Block Farming Project to adequately educate and inform smallholder farmers especially women on the opportunities offered by the project and how they could equitably benefit from it.

The concerns of the women which were contained in a communiqué issued after a brief ceremony to commemorate the two international events organized by ActionAid-Ghana, also entreated government to with immediate action; employ more Agric Extension Agents to enhance their availability to provide technical support to smallholder farmers, especially women.

The communiqué further called on the President of the Republic of Ghana through the Northern Regional Minister to see to the immediate action on their demands in order to secure their increase contribution to food security in Ghana.

The Block Farming Project began in 2009 afford individuals and groups the opportunity to cultivate several acres of crops such as rice, maize and soya beans as government provides them with assistance in the form of tractor services and fertilizer subsidies. After harvesting, the farmers are required to pay back the cost of tractor services and fertilizer either in cash or in kind (by giving out some number of bags of his farm produce).

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This new international day, established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Rural women play a critical role in the rural economies of both developed and developing countries. In most parts of the developing world, they participate in crop production and livestock care, provide food, water and fuel for their families, and engage in off-farm activities to diversify their families’ livelihoods. In addition, they carry out vital functions in caring for children, older persons and the sick.

The World Food Day on the other hand was proclaimed in 1979 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It marks the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. The aim of the Day is to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In 1980, the UN General Assembly endorsed observance of the Day in consideration of the fact that "food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity" (resolution 35/70 of 5 December 1980). It is observed on 16th October every year.

Indeed, price swings, upswings in particular, represent a major threat to food security in developing countries including Ghana. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs will push nearly 70 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty.

Thus, “Food Prices – From Crisis To Stability” has been chosen as this year’s World Food Day theme to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.

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