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The Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP), has, since its inception in December 2011, transferred GH?16.25 million to over 92, 448  poor people in 49 districts.

Mr Robert E. Austin,  National Co-ordinator of the Project, disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview at the opening of a six-week training workshop for staff of construction firms on labour intensive construction techniques, at the Ghana Highway Training School in Koforidua on Thursday.

He explained that the GSOP was a comprehensive National Social Protection Strategy that sought to ensure an all-inclusive and socially empowered society through the provision of sustainable mechanism, for the protection of persons living in situations of extreme poverty and related vulnerability.

According to him, the project was targeted at social protection spending, increase access to employment, cash earning opportunities for the rural poor, as well as improve economic and social infrastructure.

Mr Austin explained that the five-year project, with funding from the World Bank and the government of Ghana at the cost of $89.1 million, has five components which include Rationalization of National Social Protection Spending, Labour Intensive Public Works, Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty, Capacity Building and Management and Co-ordination.

He said the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was the implementing agency, while the 49 beneficiary districts were spread across all the 10 regions, with  majority of the beneficiary districts in the three northern regions.

The national co-ordinator said the decision to rope in more districts from the north was as a result of their deprived and vulnerable nature when it comes to poverty and disaster.

Mr Austin said since the project took off, more than 275 sub-projects, including 39 social infrastructure, such as school buildings and clinics, have been completed.

He mentioned that about 78 feeder roads covering 345 kilometers, 54 dams and dug-out have also been completed.

Mr Austin said, so far his outfit has trained 95 companies on how to use labour intensive methods to construct road and dams.

He said in addition, they have trained staff of the Ghana Irrigation Authority, Feeder Roads and staff of all the 49 beneficiary districts, on how to supervise the projects.

According to him, the successful execution of the GSOP was expected to put more money into the pockets of people, especially the rural poor.

He said under the Labour Intensive Public Works component, which had the largest budgetary allocation of 56 million dollars, a lot of people were expected to be employed in the areas of agriculture and construction.

He said work in the agricultural sector would mostly be done in the dry season when poverty among the people becomes very high.

Giving a background to the project, Mr Desmond Daa Metu, National Capacity Specialist, said Ghana was expected to become the first Sub-Saharan African country to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger before the target year of 2015.

He said poverty reduction had been particularly impressive in rural areas, where the overall poverty rate fell from 63 per cent in 1991, to 39 per cent in 2006, largely due to strong agricultural growth.

He, however, noted that the poor state of infrastructure remained a major obstacle to economic development in rural areas, especially in the three northern regions.

Mr Metu said as a link to the sector national development policy,  government  in 2008 prepared a National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS), which among other things, identified social protection programme gaps within the Social Protection sector.

According to him, the strategy required  government to institute two key social protection interventions which were then missing on the social protection landscape, namely, a cash transfer program, and a public works program.

Mr Metu said  government began the implementation of a pilot Cash Transfer program; the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) and later introduced the Labour Intensive Public Works.

He urged participants to take the workshop seriously, in order to execute their projects efficiently.

Source: GNA

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