The celebration of World Food Day each year provides an opportunity for the International Community and all stakeholders to reflect upon the global food situation with the view to adopting pragmatic policies and programmes to ensure global food security and to combat hunger and malnutrition.
Each year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, adopts a theme that provides food for thought and serves as a guide and a policy framework for the International Community to promote the goals and objectives Organisation, the World Food Programme and other allied institutions.
The celebration of this year’s World Food Day marks the 35th edition of the event and the 70th Anniversary of the FAO.
The theme for the 35th edition; “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty” is meant to draw global attention to the important role of Social Protection and Agriculture as intervention tools in eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition and providing sustainable income for the vulnerable in the society.
Observance of World Food Day was first instituted in 1979 and has since become one of the major features on the calendar of the International Community and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. As the day, is being marked, one question that begs for an answer is; how far has the world promoted food security for the billions of people on this planet? Is the dream towards eradicating poverty and hunger in sight? According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, it is possible to eradicate poverty and hunger only if governments will commit themselves to the task of investing in Agriculture, social protection programmes and other such interventions.
In recognition of this goal, world leaders in September, 2000 signed their commitment to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The first of these goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Since then, there have been significant achievements in this regard.
For instance, 40 countries including Ghana have already achieved the first target that is, to half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. Again according to the FAO reports, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been reduced considerably.
As a result, close to 17 thousand children are saved each day from the pangs of death. It is estimated that about 800 million people face serious starvation and hunger in the world, a situation which is certainly not good. It is therefore heartwarming to note that the FAO and the World Food Programme are jointly committed to the complete eradication of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 as one of their major priorities. This challenge though daunting is feasible, only if all in the agriculture industry commit themselves to the task.
This would indeed put smiles on the faces of the millions of people, especially the vulnerable and the marginalised.
A lot of social intervention progammes have been introduced by government over the last two years, to raise the standard of living of Ghanaians. These include the National Health Insurance Scheme, Capitation Grant, School Feeding Programme, Cash for Work and the National Fertilizer subsidy programme by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection.
It is worth noting that FAO has listed 72 countries out of a total of 129 which have made significant strides in the attainment of Millennium Development Goals. This has resulted in the drastic reduction of people living in extreme poverty especially in developing countries from 43 per cent in 1990 to 17 per cent in 2015.
As the world marks yet another Food Day, it is also important to take note of the many challenges that confront the Agriculture Sector. Perhaps, the most disturbing one is land and environmental pollution and degradation. Again, for most small holder farmers, affordability and accessibility to loan is a far-fetched dream. The fact is; most financial entities prefer engaging other sectors of the economy especially Real Estate Development and the Oil Industry when it comes to loan facilities.
It is gratifying to note that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has over the years initiated policies and programmes to give the sector a major boost.
The launch of the Ghana Agriculture Sector Investment Project (GASIP) is one such example.
On this occasion, let us reflect soberly on the theme “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty” and see how collectively, we can make the vision of breaking the cycle of rural poverty a reality.
BY: NELSON KOFI AKATEY, PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER, MINISTRY OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE.