Coconut – The Cynosure of Ghana’s 2011 World Food Day Celebrations


In just a period of three years, the price of fresh coconut has tripled rising from as low as 20 Ghana pesewas (20Gp) in 2007 to as high as 60 Ghana pesewas (60Gp) in 2011, especially in the capital city of Accra, Ghana.

Coconut sellers attribute the hike in the price to rising cost of transportation of the produce from the farm gates and more importantly the declining supply of the produce due to the devastating nature of a disease called, Cape Saint Paul Wilt.

Reviving commitment this year to help save the globally acclaimed: “The Tree of Life” (the coconut tree), the government of Ghana through its sector Ministry of Food and Agriculture, has instituted measures to help resuscitate the coconut sub sector.

Given the nutritional value and importance of coconut and the critical role that the coconut sector plays in improving food security in Ghana, Government has decided as part of the measures to give prominence to the sector for the celebration of this year’s World Food Day.

“Government wants to use this year’s World Food Day to raise awareness and the happenings in the coconut sub-sector. Our coconut industry is saddled with several challenges, prominent among which is Cape St. Paul’s Wilt disease that is seriously affecting the industry,” Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Crops, Yaw Effah-Baafi notes.

Most Ghanaians have good appetite for coconut and as such the Deputy Minister says ”it is important that all join in the effort to fight the disease as soon as possible.

Cape St Paul Wilt disease was named from an eastern coastal location in Ghana where reports of dying coconuts apparently date back to the 1930s (Leather 1959). Despite only being reported from one area for 40 years, the disease did spread to other parts of the country like the Western Region at Cape Three Points and later to neighboring Ivory Coast.

This year’s World Food Day is on the theme: “Food Prices: From Crisis to Stability”. The theme has been chosen to tell the world to look seriously at what causes swings in food prices (including coconut in Ghana) and do what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest members of the global society.

Government of Ghana’s move is therefore a step in the right direction because price swings, in particular up-springs represent a major threat to food security as the country had witnessed in the crop over the years.

But of more importance to the Government of Ghana is the debilitating nature of the Cape Paul Wilt disease which is fast depleting the coconut plantation along of coast of the country.

The initiative is also geared towards the Greening Ghana Initiative (GGI) which aims to revive and restore the natural environment to its green and lush state, containing abundance a rich and varied tropical hardwoods and exotic trees which will provide a source of valuable resources for future generations.

Local farmers, especially those in the coconut sector, had lauded government’s move to resuscitate the sector. Government has therefore chosen a sub-theme for the celebration of the 2011 World Food Day – ”Greening Ghana with Coconut”.

“As part of the measures, 1,600 disease resistant coconut seedlings will be planted in Obronikrom and the surrounding communities on World Food Day this year,” Food and Agriculture Minister, Kwesi Ahwoi announces.

For the first time in so many years, Ghana is taking the celebration of World Food Day to a village in order to place the local farmer at the centre of the activities.

The decision to take the celebration outside the capital is perhaps a response to a call made last year by Nii Amasah Namoale, an agriculturist and the Deputy Minister in Charge of Fisheries, when he charged the National Planning Committee of the World Food Day to re-look at the significance and impact of World Food Day celebration in Ghana by focusing on the ordinary local poor farmer.

This year’s event to be climaxed as always by a flag raising ceremony will take place at the Obronikrom village in the Shama District of the Western Region on October 17th. October 17th has been chosen because the annual celebration of the day which is October 16th falls on Sunday this year. Many countries worldwide have also chosen the 17th to mark the day.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s (MOFA) key partners for the World Food Day celebration. Other sponsors over the years have been Amen Amen Institute and the Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board.

Coconut – The Tree of Life

The Food and Agriculture Minister, Mr Ahwoi will lead dignitaries from the UN, FAO and WFP to plant coconut seedlings on the day with the assistance from local farmers in the district as well as school children.

Coconut will be the centre of attraction as guests will have the opportunity to taste varieties of the fruit at the venue as well as sample various dishes made from coconut.   Coconut scientific name is Cocos nucifera. Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means “nut-bearing.”

The coconut palm is the most important cash crop in the four coastal regions of Ghana (Greater Accra, Central, Volta and Western Region). Before 1920, coconut cultivation was confined to the Keta area. Its cultivation then spread to other areas of Ghana particularly along the coast (Wills 1962; Agble 1970).

Coconut production in Ghana is mainly in smallholdings (0.5-5.0 ha). Out of the annual national production of 224 million nuts, 179 million (80%) were produced by smallholders from an area of 36 000 hectares (Arkhurst 1991). Yields in smallholder farms were relatively low. Average yield per palm was estimated at 35 nuts per annum (5000 nuts/ha).

Income derived from farms depended on the state of coconut product marketed. In 1990, Raux indicated that about 6.1% of nuts were marketed fresh (green stage). These were sold at 20 cents per nut, yielding a gross income of about 100,000 cents/ha/year (about $8.00) for the small scale farmers.

Nutritional Value and Importance of Coconut

Coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. Nearly one third of the world’s population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy.

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content.

For instance, the coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness.

Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut’s amazing healing powers.

In traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.

Modern medical science is now confirming the use of coconut in treating many of the above conditions.

World Food Day Theme – “Food Price: From Crisis to Stability”

The global theme for the 2011 celebration of the World food day was chosen to shed light on the staple food prices which soared to their highest levels in 30 years between 2005 and 2008.

The aim is for countries to look for what can be done to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable because price hikes can hurt poor countries by making it much more expensive for them to import food for their people.

“In 2010, the world’s Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDC) spent a record $4 billion on food imports, representing a rise of 20 percent on the year before.

“At the level of individual, people living on less than UD.25 a day may need to skip a meal when food prices rise. Farmers are hurt too because they badly need to know the price their crops are going to fetch at harvest time, months away. If prices are likely they plant more. If low prices are forecast they plant less to cut costs” (FAO 2011 Concept Paper on World Food Day).

The Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations wing that initiated the celebration of the World Food Day in 1979, says more and better information is needed to allow greater transparency in trade on futures markets.

“This would help ensure that governments and traders make informed decisions and avoid panic or irrational reactions.” Futures market is a commodity exchange where contracts for the future delivery of grain, livestock, and precious metals are bought and sold.

Mr Effah-Baafi, who is the Chairman of the National Planning Committee for Ghana’s World Food Day celebration, says worldwide there is the need to create public awareness on the food problems. The world, he says needs to unite to fight hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

For us in Ghana, he states, the Day presents an opportunity for the country to reflect on efforts being made to improve the food situation in the country as well create avenues for local farmers to increase yields

By Lawrence Quartey

Source: GNA

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