Ghana joined the world on Wednesday October 16 to celebrate World Food Day at a time when she has been adjudged the fifth most food secure nation in Africa.
The 2013 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) scored Ghana a five percentage point year-on-year growth in food availability, bringing it to 56%, from 51% in July 2012.
This means that the country has the potential for growth, and can even increase food security tremendously, if the appropriate technologies are adopted to address most of the challenges in the agriculture sector.
The first most food secured nation is South Africa, followed by Botswana, Tunisia, and Egypt in that order. But the index indicates that there are still fewer people who are able to afford food on the continent, registering a negative trend on affordability from 37.1 per cent to 34.2 per cent in 2012.
As nations observe World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is reminding states of the need to introduce sustainable food systems to ensure food security and nutrition.
Today, although agriculture remains the mainstay of most economies in Africa, African governments are still demonstrating less commitment towards investment in the sector. Policies and interventions on food systems are rarely designed with nutrition as their primary objective.
Even when they are, the FAO says the impacts are difficult to attribute, and researchers sometimes conclude that food system interventions are ineffective in reducing malnutrition. It is disheartening to know that one out of every four children in the world, under the age of five, is stunted. This means 165 million children who are so malnourished will never reach their full physical and cognitive potential.
Churning out these statistics as nations mark World Food Day, the FAO is bringing the world's attention on food problems, and what must be done to address them. It notes that about two billion people globally lack vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. In addition, of the 1.4 billion people who are overweight, about a third are obese and at risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, or other health problems.
These staggering figures informed the choice of this year's World Food Day theme: "Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition."
In Ghana, besides the usual symbolic flag-raising ceremony to mark the day, the government, in collaboration with the FAO and the World Food Programme, with support from the Amen Amen Institute, a religious organisation, will fete more than 2,000 people, mostly school children.
The National Planning Committee of the celebration, under the chairmanship of Dr. Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Crops, has outlined a number of activities - quiz competition for senior high schools, and radio and television discussions to highlight the importance of food systems, and the need to step up efforts to improve food safety and security.
A food system is made up of the environment, people, institutions, and processes by which agriculture products are produced, processed, and brought to consumers.
The question experts are asking is whether Ghana can focus on its areas of strength identified by the Global Food Security Index. Ghana's areas of strength on the index - meaning a score of above 75 percent - are volatility of agricultural production; urban absorption capacity, and food safety.
The country scored moderately on agricultural import tariffs; nutritional standards; sufficiency of supply; micronutrient availability; presence of food safety net programmes; political stability risk; corruption; proportion of population under global poverty line; food consumption as a share of household expenditure; agricultural infrastructure; and access to financing for farmers.
With scores of less than 25%, Ghana performed badly on gross domestic product per capita; public expenditure on agricultural R&D; protein quality; and diet diversification.
"The progress made by Ghana is commendable, but there is still room for improvement," Africa Harvest's Communications Director, Daniel Kamanga, said, and indicated that the challenges to food security were many.
As part of its efforts to consolidate the gains and ensure sustainable food systems, Ghana's Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is currently implementing the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme to enhance production, processing and marketing. "Under the programme, farmers now have ready markets and enjoying higher incomes now," Mr. George Kpor, a Deputy Director of the MoFA and member of the Planning Committee said.
The Ministry, he said, was also encouraging nucleus lead farmers, and or companies, to offer to their out-growers timely harvesting facilities, and storage space in silos and warehouses. "Again, [the] government is establishing a commodity exchange system to ensure price stabilisation and efficiency in agricultural commodities," Mr. Kpor noted.
Almost 870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished, and unsustainable models of development are degrading the natural environment, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity that will be needed for our future food supply.
Calls for profound changes in our agriculture and food systems are becoming more frequent, and more insistent. The FAO report on "Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources" indicates another staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually.
"... wastage is not only causing major economic losses, but also wreaking the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself." The report is the first to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.