Northern regions still lagging behind in dev’ment – Global Food Policy Report

The 2017 Global Food Policy Report by USA based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has expressed concern about the continuous lack of infrastructural development in the northern part of Ghana.

This, the report notes is hampering efforts to ensure food security in that part of the country.

In its latest report analysing major food and agricultural policy developments across more than 150 countries, IFPRI notes: “The more isolated north (of Ghana) still lags behind, largely as a result of poor infra­structure and social services, low education and agribusiness skills development, and lack of access to technology.”

“These factors hamper value chain development and keep rural-urban linkages weak in northern Ghana,” the report adds.

The report, however, says in other more developed parts of the country, growing demand for higher value-added food which is pro­cessed through integrated global value chains, is fueling Ghana’s process of accelerated urbanization and structural transformation. It cites the cocoa industry as one of areas where such increased transformation is being seen.

“Expansion of cocoa production, processing, and trade from the traditional areas in the eastern region to the western parts of Ghana increased revenue. The expanding cocoa business also stimulated urban economic activity, especially through increased trade and business services and greater demand for consumer goods and services,” the report said.

The report mentions Ghana as one of the several developing countries that is poised to lift itself out of these challenges, thanks to new political leadership.

“…several countries in Africa south of the Sahara will transition to new political leader­ship. A new administration in Ghana will transition into power and is expected to address the coun­try’s slowing economic growth,” the report said.

The report also discusses how urbanization is changing diets and the landscape of poverty and health; and the importance of improving linkages between rural and urban areas. 

“Urbanization is driving huge changes in how small farmers connect with markets to sell their goods, the choices people make about their diets, and the way that food systems are governed,” Director-General of IFPRI, Shenggen Fan, who is one of the authors of the report, noted.

“Helping policy makers, researchers, and development practitioners understand this changing environment, and how to respond to it, is absolutely necessary to achieve the sustainable development agenda,” he added.  

The report finds the informal economy plays a crucial role in providing food and income to urban residents in Africa, but heavy-handed and erratic government oversight often leads to conflict that reduces access to affordable food.

“In fact, many African countries still retain colonial-era legislation on street vending that penalizes both sellers and buyers. Unpredictable “decongestion” exercises by governments often involve arresting and fining informal vendors, confiscating their mer­chandise, and demolishing market stalls.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in Ghana even established a Fast Track Court in the mid-2000s for trials of street hawkers who had been arrested,” the report said.

Senior researcher at IFPRI Danielle Resnick advises that: “given how important the informal sector is for feeding urban populations, governments across the continent must engage with informal workers and find compromise solutions that ensure food safety without limiting access.”