Food Security and Land in West Africa: three crucial questions and how we responded to them?
The Netherlands Alumni Association of Ghana (NAAG) members and other alumni from the West African sub-region attended a three-day Alumni Event on Food Security and Land from 11th to 13th December 2017, organized by the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) from Erasmus University Rotterdam and as local partner the Department of Geography and Resource Development from the University of Ghana.
What was startling and revealing can best be understood by the responses provided to the following questions – what’s the level of women participation in agriculture and access to land? How is climate change impacting on urban and peri-urban agriculture and finally, what do we do when there is food crises?
Though the function of women in food production in Ghana and West Africa cannot be over emphasised, it is a challenge for them to own or have easy access to land in a somewhat male-dominated enterprise. It came to light that women are usually engaged to do menial jobs on commercial farms. More so where in our traditional system, it is not the norm for them to even own land which they can cultivate on a large scale to ensure food security at the household level. I became convinced therefore that food security is assured if we mainstream gender in agriculture by focusing a lot more on women.
Also, for me it was revealing to learn about the hustle urban and peri-urban farmers go through as they go about their farming practices in and around the city of Accra. Since these urban farmers do not own lands, they tend to wander like nomadic herdsmen in search of land when infrastructural development catches on them as a result of urbanisation. The truth is that the available green spaces in the city are either family and/or stool or government (state institutions) lands and that makes it problematic for their occupation. These challenges notwithstanding, farmers in and around the city still face climate change predicaments particularly in terms of water supply for crops. To solve such problems in the short term, participants advised farmers to go into contractual agreements with land owners to guarantee the tenure of land to avoid unannounced evictions. It was imperative that farmers resort to digging of wells to irrigate their farm crops. In my opinion, a long term solution is advisable – the re-zoning of the city’s open green spaces by authorities to ensure sustainable development.
Have you ever thought of developing a coping strategy to manage any critical condition as a person or institution? The coping strategy index is an indicator of household food security that is relatively simple and quick to use, straightforward to understand and correlates well with more complex measures of food security. For instance, it helps you to prioritise such strategies as rationing or managing food shortfall, dietary change, and short-term measures to decrease numbers of people to feed and so on. Frankly, I think this is a strategy we employ as households on regular basis but for the name, you will think of it as a new buzzword. We can all apply it to our daily family and corporate life.
The soft aspect of the event was that, the Netherlands Alumni Association of Ghana (NAAG) which is the umbrella body of all Dutch tertiary and professional institutions in Ghana has increased its membership as it was able to attract a number of new alumni who happened to be alumni of the two (2) organizing universities. A networking event was also organized and it was hosted at the residence of the Dutch ambassador to Ghana H.E. Ronald Strikker. As president of the alumni association and as beneficiary of the course, it was a privilege and a rich learning experience for me. Together with the local co-coordinator Prof. Joseph A. Jaro from the University of Ghana, we were able to demonstrate the warm Ghanaian hospitality to our guest lecturers and course coordinators from the Netherlands, Monserrat Budding-Polo (IHS), Oane Visser (ISS), Julien-François Gerber (ISS) and Sara Pelham (ISS), as well as to our fellow international participants from Benin and Burkina Faso.
About the author:
Mr. Daniel Asafra Tibu is the President of the Netherlands Alumni Association of Ghana (NAAG).