|Prof. Amin Alhassan|
“The people of the Savannah Regions are not poor because they are lazy or unintelligent enough to compete in life; they are poor because of geographic and historical circumstance. ….However, when you mobilize a peoples’ aspirations to be developed, their yearning to escape poverty, and institutionalize the answer to these aspirations into an organization called SADA, stakeholders of SADA’s mandate are bound to expect so much from it. And realistically, most of the expectations from SADA will be exaggerated. I mean we may be asking SADA to deliver what it cannot. But that is also because the yearning to escape poverty is overwhelming.”
The aforementioned were the opening statements of Professor Amin Alhassan, Dean of the Faculty of Agribusiness and Communication Sciences of the University for Development Studies [UDS], Nyankpala campus when he was invited by CLIP to address a two-day conference on the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority [SADA] recently held in Tamale.
According to Prof. Amin, SADA might have to develop a thick skin to take in pressures from the very people on whose behalf it was created, adding that, at the end of the day, SADAs’ record would be evaluated by the people and not government.
He maintained that, engaging with Civil Society Organizations [CSOs] was therefore not a matter of choice for SADA, but a strategically necessary practice. “We should be able to critique the work of SADA when necessary, praise the work of SADA when due or even mobilize to ask for a review of SADA’s mandate. In any of these options, CSOs are key” he pointed out.
He also argued that, it would be wrong for anyone to conclude that the North was poor because of its weakened vegetative cover, stressing that, increase in agricultural produce in a globalized economy such as Ghana’s does not translate to increase income for farmers and agricultural workers. “We know in Agribusiness that a bumper harvest can actually result in impoverishment of farmers. So let us widen the discussion beyond just agricultural productivity to general conditions that can facilitate an economic takeoff of the North”, he advised.
Prof. Amin also opined that, as an ecologically defined area, Northern Ghana could celebrate its achievements in transport and communication, and probably reserved the best of the celebrations for the next few years when the promise of a Eastern corridor highway from the South to the North, and the reconstruction of the Tamale airport into an international airport would have been delivered.
He observed that, the road network linking the three most important cities of the North namely; Tamale, Bolgatanga and Wa were currently being reconstructed. “Clearly anyone who has recently done the triangular trip of Tamale-Wa-Bolgatanga-Tamale cannot fail to notice what the near future holds for the North. It is what the North is set to become and not what it is today that is most heartwarming when we look at Transport and Communication. An improved transportation infrastructure is a fundamental requirement of an economic-take”, he posited.
Making comparative analyses of the educational sector as well as poverty levels between the North and South of the country, Prof. Amin revealed the following statistics: Average household size in the three regions of the North was about 5.8 persons per household whereas the national average was 4.4 persons; percentage of population living in rural areas in Upper West was 84%, Upper East 79% and 70% for Northern Region whereas the national average was 49%; and the national average of people with no access to toilet facility was 19% but in the North it was 72% or above.
Turning his attention to education, he said the literacy rate among people 15 years and above was national 72%; Upper West 40%; Upper East 41%; and Northern 33%. Junior High School and Senior High School education completion rate: national JHS 31% and SHS 22% whereas three regions of the North JHS 22% and SHS 9%.
Further quoting statistics from IBIS, Prof. Amin said 48% of children of school going age in Northern Ghana were out of school whereas only 10% of primary school kids in Northern Ghana could read.
He observed that, a very important indicator of quality education was the caliber of teachers the North had, citing that, in Northern Ghana, the ratio of trained teacher-student was 1:130 whereas in the South it was 1:36. “Clearly, these gross disparities are not going to be solved by a process of business as usual. Given our approach to the North-South disparities, I am comfortable at describing the task and mandate given to SADA as mission impossible if it does not engage with CSOs, governmental organizations, and traditional authorities, beyond treating them as mere clientele.”
Prof. Amin also urged SADA to play a policy advocacy role on behalf of the Savannah Regions and described that ideology as policy fight. According to him, it was perfectly possible for SADA to look at central government policy in agriculture, health, education among others and see how the interest of the Savannah Regions was served, and where it saw some serious problems, it could lobby and advocate for policy adjustments.
He said for instance, in 1990, Ghanaian chicken farmers controlled 80% of the domestic market. And then by 2005, it dropped to 34%. But currently, he observed that, the industry was now decimated with local farmers controlling about 10% of the domestic trade saying “When our domestic poultry production accounted for 80% of the Ghanaian market, the small-scale farmer could also count on the value of his few birds to keep him out of poverty in the lean season”, Prof. Amin reckoned.
According to him, it was against this backdrop that several CSOs with ISODEC being a key actor, lobbied government to include a 40% tariffs on imported chicken in the 2003 budget. “The budget was passed but the government refused to implement the new import duties on poultry products because the IMF and World Bank would not allow. The Civil Society initiative failed partly because there was no one at the governmental level to also do what I call the policy fight within government”, he recalled.
Under the theme: “Towards the Successful implementation of SADA –The Role of CSOs” the conference was intended to bring together various Civil Society Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, Farmer Based Organisations, government departments and agencies among others, to perhaps brainstorm and come out with strategies that would help the management of SADA to effectively implement their programmes.
The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority [SADA] was established by an Act of Parliament [Act 805, 2010] as an independent and autonomous statutory corporate body to: provide a framework for the comprehensive and long-term development of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone and to provide for related matters.
SADA covers the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions, and areas contiguous to these regions as may be determined by the Authority. The contiguous areas are the Northern parts of Volta and Brong-Ahafo Regions.
Since its inception in 2010, there had been concerns raised by various sections of the public in the operational area of SADA with respect to its activities and the rate at which implementation was progressing. The general perception among CSOs was that the rate of implementation of SADA programmes was slow. This is hardly surprising, considering the huge expectations beneficiaries had of SADA and the fact that many perceived SADA and its programmes as a panacea to the development challenges of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone.