Professor Akosua Darkwah, Lecturer at the Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ghana, says Ghana needs to produce basic foodstuffs instead of relying on other nations for them.
She said the extent to which the country relied on other nations for basic foodstuffs must be reduced as the country had enough in-country, and could produce enough to be able to live healthier.
Prof Darkwah made these remarks during a presentation on the findings of a year’s research and advocacy project on the impact of COVID-19 responses on the political economy of African food systems on Tuesday in Accra.
The stakeholders’ dialogue was organised by the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) in partnership with the Institute of African Studies.
It was on the theme: “Protecting food systems during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of the state and non-state actors.”
The dialogue was to allow key stakeholders to discuss sustainable policy innovations to inform a gendered policy transformation to protect Ghana’s food systems.
She said in October 2020, NETRIGHT and IAS undertook the one year research and advocacy project, which was part of a broader project led by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) of the University of Western Cape, South Africa.
Prof. Darkwah said the project was implemented in three countries; South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana and supported by the International Development Research Centre.
She said the Ghana study focused on municipalities and their environs in three regions that exhibited distinct and diverse food system dynamics, namely Greater Accra, Upper West and Bono East Regions.
She said the team spoke to 56 stakeholders, including producers, distributors, retailers, processors and consumers for six months.
The research found that about 86 per cent of Ghanaians lost income and could not access or buy food and had to reduce food quantities and variety.
She said the report found that one of the clear impacts of the pandemic was the extent to which actors in the food system were indebted, saying “the ability to keep the credit system going had been truncated by the pandemic and we must find a way to address it.”
Mr Munkaila Faisal, a Representative from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said the effect of COVID-19 on Ghana’s food system, included food availability, access, price instability, and agri-businesses.
He said some short term interventions by the Ministry in response to these challenges, including intensified support for food production through flagship programmes, improved extension delivery, enhanced access to finance for producers and processors and production of high-value vegetables under greenhouse conditions.
Mr Faisal said, “the medium to long term interventions include expanding national storage capacity, and rice production, improving access to agric-financing, promoting regional trade and support for processing and marketing and to livestock development.”
These interventions, he said, were to sustain the gains made in the agricultural sector before COVID-19, to increase the resilience of the Ghanaian food system by reducing reliance on importation of staple food commodities, to spur private sector investors into the sector and to revitalize and transform the economy in the medium to long term.
Madam Patricia Blackson Akakpo, the Programmes Manager NETRIGHT, said COVID-19 shocked the world and have had dire consequences on economies as well as laid bare the underlying risks, fragilities, and inequities in global food systems, and pushed them close to breaking point.
“As the country continues to grapple with the fallouts of the pandemic on its food systems and the vulnerability of people’s access to essential goods and services, there were no institutionalized measures to protect actors in the supply chain,” she said.
She said COVID-19 was a clarion call for Ghana to protect its food systems to withstand future pandemics, to find new and more resilient strategies through active citizens’ engagement to address the disparities, inequalities, and systemic weaknesses to protect its food systems.
It is also to guide the country to put in place measures that support a food system transformation that builds resilience at all levels.