A collaborative journey to food and nutrition security
The food security situation in Northern Ghana remains precarious largely because poor households have seen very meagre replenishment of their food stocks from the harvest. As a result, they continue to rely on the market and on unstable income sources for their food needs. Even with what is harvested, high post-harvest loss affects the food available throughout the year.
Nanumba North district is one of the local government areas that is a large producer of rice and yam with the capacity to feed its people. Ironically though, the district has a high prevalence of malnutrition. This is partly due to a lack of coordination among multi-sector actors which has resulted in duplication of activities and poor implementation of the policies targeted at reducing post-harvest loss and increasing nutrition.
In Ghana, there are several policies and programmes aimed at promoting good nutrition. In particular the National Nutrition Policy, which aims to ensure optimal nutrition and health for the entire population to enhance capacity for sustainable economic growth and development. It further proposes a multi-sectoral approach to reduce malnutrition. Despite this commitment to nutritional improvement, there is need for an enabling environment that facilitates functional coordination across sectors for the successful implementation of programmes to address malnutrition. It is also necessary to empower the structures for nutrition service delivery at district level by addressing budgetary constraints, as well as creating a voice for community groups to lobby for better services. Proper coordination will avoid duplication of activities and poor implementation of the policy.
Since 2016, as part of SNV’s Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme, we have been developing the capacity of Grameen Ghana, a CSO dedicated to reducing poverty and injustice through working in partnership with other organisations and local communities. As Eric Banye, V4CP Programme Manager Ghana comments, "I think Grameen sees us as an enabler. We specifically focused on context knowledge, evidence-based advocacy approaches, leadership and organisational sustainability. And now they have engaged with citizens and assembly authorities by holding district level stakeholder consultations."
Until the launch of the V4CP programme, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) carried out nutrition programmes in different communities without proper consultation as to what farmers should produce to meet the nutrition needs of their communities. On the one hand, the DoA was busy promoting the production of rice and yam as their objective was to get farmers to see agriculture as a business by producing more cash crops. On the other hand, the GHS was promoting the consumption of soya beans, groundnuts and vegetables as good sources of protein lacking in the diets of people in the district. Large amounts were spent with very marginal results and in many cases, community efforts were duplicated.
Over the past months, however, the related departments and agencies in the Nanumba North district agreed to jointly plan and share activities to ensure coordinated efforts in addressing nutrition and post-harvest loss issues. The District Directors of GHS, Dadia Stephens, and of Agriculture, Saaka S. Alhassan both agreed that "The problem of nutrition and food safety must be prioritized and can best be achieved through coordinated efforts at district level with adequate resource allocation and backed by appropriate policy changes at national level."
The Assistant Director of the Nanumba North District Assembly, Dawuada Abdul-Fatawu, re-iterated the readiness of the Assembly to play a coordinating role in ensuring that district stakeholders collectively plan and implement activities to address post-harvest loss and nutrition issues. "The Assembly will collaborate with Grameen Ghana, SNV and other appropriate stakeholders to review and implement the necessary government policies and programmes in ways that benefit the poor." "In my experience, this initiative is the first of its kind in the district" says Eric. "Through the V4CP programme we will continue to gather compelling evidence to support such policy implementation."
In 2017 and beyond, the V4CP programme continues to strengthen the capacities of Grameen Ghana and other CSOs in Ghana to engage assemblies to prioritize food and nutrition security issues, plan and allocate budget in the Medium Term Development Plans and show increased commitment to the implementation of these plans.