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World Food Day should locate the rural poor farmer

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Asi Nye, an Ada tomato farmer, stands dog-tired in the hot afternoon sun on her farm with her coveted hoe and cutlass. At 16, her educational career came to an end and so she begun tilling her own farm to supplement the food needs of her family.

Ada is a town in the south-eastern part of Ghana, lying on the Atlantic Ocean coast east of Accra, on the estuary of the River Volta.

Clad in her usual grey long-sleeved shirt and faded-over-sized jeans trousers, Asi Nye, now 56 and a widow, says she is well cut-out and has the energy to work the whole day.

Asi Nye has heard of Farmers Day (a national day to reward farmers in Ghana), but has never heard of a World Food Day celebration. She says if there is a day devoted in the world to celebrate food, then she and other rural farmers in Ada are yet to join in the celebration.

Like many other tomato farmers, Asi Nye is worried about the price her produce would attract this season after harvest. “We don’t determine the price for our tomatoes – it’s the market women. This is our worry”.

For 25 years, she says, Farmers Day has come and gone, but little has been the impact of the celebration on rural farmers like her. “If you say World Food Day is coming in October, then we the rural poor farmers will wait to see what it will bring to us,” she says in an expectation of seeing the impact of this year’s celebration.

Having spent a greater part of her life farming, Asi Nye has come to accept that she will never ever be recognised for her work. She says the “true” farmers don’t attract government’s attention and support.

In spite of her popularity and hard work, Asi Nye is yet to receive any recognition in farming. But she takes consolation in the many verbal accolades from people in her community and the market women, even though she thinks the market women are cheats because they offer tomato growers low prices.

“No matter how hard some of us try, we can’t win awards on the Farmers Day. But at least, our efforts should be recognised, no matter how insignificant they may be, they add to the overall national output.”

She adds: “…the celebration of World Food Day should do something more for the small rural farmers.” Asi Nye is an example of the pivotal role women can play in feeding the nation’s rural poor. If she and others in Ada were given the right information, technology and adequate resources, they would be capable of  transforming the food security situation at Ada and many other places in the country.

From just a couple of acres, she expanded the family’s single crop farm in addition to her own to a spread planted with maize, garden egg, orange and other fruits.

Nii Amasah Namoale, an agriculturist, is a Deputy Minister in Charge of Fisheries in Ghana. Perhaps, Asi Nye and others are the ones that Nii Namoale had in mind when he called for a re-look at the significance and impact of World Food Day celebration in Ghana.

“The celebration of World Food Day should put a broad ‘smile’ at least on the face of the ordinary local poor farmer.” To achieve this, he says, activities to mark World Food Day should not be concentrated in Accra and other major cities – “It must reach the rural poor farmer”. This is the charge the Deputy Minister slaps on the 2010 National Planning Committee members of the World Food Day, when he chairs their meeting late July this year.

Members countries of the FAO since 1979 began the celebration of the Day, which falls on October 16 every year. Since then the Day has been observed every year in more than 150 countries, highlighting awareness of the issues behind hunger and poverty.

A major objective of the Day is to enhance the participation of rural people, particularly women like Asi Nye, in decisions and events impacting their living conditions. Unfortunately, Asi Nye and many other rural poor farmers have never been part of the celebration of the Day in Ghana.

“What actually happens on that day? Are awards given to farmers like the National Farmers’ Day Celebration? Which people celebrate the day,” Ohui, another tomato farmer, and a friend of Asi Nye, poses these questions in response to whether she knows about the celebration of WFD.

Indeed, if Asi Nye and her friend represent hundreds and thousands of rural poor farmers in Ghana, then the World Food Day’s objective of enhancing rural women participation and the under-privilege, is yet to reach them at Ada. The Deputy Minister says Ghana’s preparation towards the Day should introduce activities that will have major impacts on the lives of poor farmers like Asi Nye and the hungry in rural Ghana.

“It is important that we in Ghana make the celebration of World Food Day an event that will better support the poor farmer and the hungry person in society. So that each year we can count on our achievements and improve on them,” he says.

Having celebrated the Day for many years in Ghana, the National Planning Committee says it accepts the challenge to make WFD an event for all, especially poor farmers whose sweat puts food on the table of every Ghanaian.

A major event for the WFD celebration is Tele-food. It is an initiative to raise awareness on food security by mobilizing resources to support the poor farmer in FAO member countries. Tele-food events, Nii Namoale notes, should be taken seriously in Ghana to ensure that WFD does not become a one off event.

Unfortunately in Ghana, the celebration of WFD over the years has not incorporated much of Tele-food activities due to the lack of adequate planning. This notwithstanding, Ghana is said to have benefited from the Tele Food Fund over the years to support some local farmers even with all the difficulties in accessing the facility. Tele-Food Fund sits in Rome, Italy, for G|FAO member countries to access.

Experts have indicated that Government of Ghana’s social interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and Micro Finance and Small Loan Centre (MASLOC) are not enough to support poor farmers like Asi Nye to go into large farming. Tele-food, therefore, is not just useful but very much needed by the local rural farmer, especially when it is objective.

“Uniting Against Hunger” is the 2010 theme for World Food Day. The day will be climaxed worldwide with a flag raising ceremony in addition to other major events, including Tele-food events.

Godfrey Baidoo-Tsibu, FAO Representative on the Planning Committee, describes the theme as appropriate and timely. He says a united front is needed at the national level to fight hunger and ensure food sufficiency to people.

“…the population of hungry people worldwide keeps increasing, with over one billion people going to bed hungry.” Indeed, smallholders like Asi Nye must all join to hold the unity cord to fight a common enemy – hunger.

In Ghana the National Planning Committee headed by Mr Yaw Effah-Baifi, Deputy Minister of MOFA in charge of Crops, will mark the day with activities such as “walk for food”, radio and television discussions, quiz competition, tree planting exercises and field trips.

Unfortunately, most of the activities planned this year, once again, will be concentrated in Accra, the capital city. The field trips and tree planting exercise, however, will take place outside the Greater Accra Region. This is to make the celebration a bit more sensitive to the needs of the rural poor farmer. But the Committee can do more than that.

On paper, the Planning Committee has accepted in principle this year, to make the celebration a nationwide event. The Day is expected to be observed simultaneously in all the ten regions in the near future.

Besides, the Committee is also considering making this year’s celebration unique by initiating some Tele-food projects to support poor farmers with financial resources.

The 2010 Planning Committee comprises representatives from MOFA, FAO, World Food Programme, the media, Food and Drugs Board, Ghana Farmers Wives Association, Ghana Education Service, Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen, Amen Amen Institute, and the National Farmers and the Fishers Winners Association, as well as other bodies.

Credit: Lawrence Quartey

Source: GNA

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