The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with other partners, has initiated a one-million dollar pilot project aimed at reducing rural poverty and strengthening livelihoods using cassava value-chain in selected areas in the northern regions of Ghana.
It also aims at enhancing synergies, partnership and complementarities as well as identification of lessons learned and best practices in the bid to replicate the economic gains in other regions.
Speaking at the launch of the project initiative in Accra, Mr Clememt Kofi Humado, Minister of Food and Agriculture, in a speech read on his behalf, described the proposal as a welcoming-news as cassava was a key staple in the country selected for food security.
“Currently Ghana produces about 14 million metric tonnes of cassava and only about 40-60 per cent of this is eaten whiles the rest is processed into various recipes by the hospitality and other products by agro-industries,” he said.
Mr Humado expressed conviction that the project, which is expected to be rolled out later during the year, would achieve positive results.
Dr LamouridIa Thiombiano, Deputy Regional Representative of the FAO, identified lower agricultural productivity, lack of rural infrastructure and financial services, poorly functioning markets, limited capacity of rural producer organisations and other rural institutions as contributing factors to high poverty levels in the three northern regions.
He said social protection presented a strategic opportunity to link economic growth and poverty reduction.
Dr Thiombiano said it could be achieved through the targeting of the poorest groups that guaranteed minimum level of household consumption and empowering them to transit into economic activities.
He expressed the hope that FAO would have, at the end of the project, provided greater assistance to the Government for policy options to reduce poverty based on agricultural developmental programmes designed for the rural poor while enhancing institutional capacity.
Cassava is said to be the key staple in the Ghanaian diet. It is cultivated by more than 90 per cent of Ghana’s farming population.
Whiles cassava has the potential to enhance food security, the processing of its products allows for the identification of new market opportunities as well as providing an important additional source of income to smallholders.
The FAO project, therefore, aims at supporting diversification of rural income opportunities through the strengthening of market linkages, development of rural infrastructure and services, promotion of decent employment creation, strengthening producers’ organisations and improving social protection mechanisms.
It is expected to build on existing and previous projects including the Global Cassava Development Strategy, the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme and the Presidential Special Initiative on Cassava.
Others are the Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan which had been developed to implement the Second Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy II, Northern Rural Growers Programme, the Savannah Accelerated Development Programme and the National Youth Employment Programme.