In defense of the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs programme, the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, explained that foodstuffs were available but sometimes locked up in the hinterland. He further stated that transportation and seasonality affected accessibility of food.
At the time when we are hoping to get over the lean season sooner than later, a news item appeared in the Daily Graphic of August 26, 2022 with the headline: “Food is available… But not always affordable, accessible – ISSER reports.”
But for the second part on the affordability and accessibility of food, readers would have expressed misgivings about the report from the reputable Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER).
The ISSER report was correct if read in its entirety. Indeed, the opening sentence of the news item captured the essence of the investigation: “A research project into food safety and the drivers of food choices in selected cities in the country has established that food is available throughout the year; however, affordability, quality and accessibility are the challenges.”
Complaints about food by the Ghanaian populace over the years showing that availability of food alone does not constitute food security.
In fact, food security requires much more complex concepts involving availability, accessibility, affordability, utilisation and stability over time.
Food availability entails production systems, production volumes and yields. Yields, of course, are central indicators for farmers as higher yields usually lead to higher incomes.
Post-harvest losses and crops produced for animal feed do not contribute to food availability.
Efficiency of production also play an important role. In Ghana, authorities ensure access to fertilisers and other inputs, pest and disease control and extension services that support farmers to produce more.
Physical accessibility refers to food commodities being found at locations where they are most needed. In this context, feeder roads, means of transport and fuel prices enable accessibility at marketing centres.
Trading, including local and international commerce, also facilitates movement of foodstuffs.
Affordability in the food security equation is basically economic accessibility. It is the purchasing power of consumers and it is a balancing act among prices, income levels and preferences.
Food is supposed to be nutritious, safe and consumed in sufficient quantities for an active, healthy life. Herein lies the relevance of quantities of food nutrients — proteins, fats and oils, micronutrients and calories. Apart from starchy staples and cereals, we must be interested in how much fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, oils and legumes that we produce.
The resilience of our food system depends on what we produce and what we can process and store. Cereals and legumes lend themselves to drying and storage.
This is why the ‘One-District, One-Warehouse’ initiative is important.
Roots, tubes, plantain and other perishables need to be processed for future use. The National Buffer Stock should be the overall measure of food stability in the country.
The diverse nature of the concept of food security elicits definitions from different organizations over time. MoFA defines food security as: “Good quality nutritious food, hygienically packaged and attractively presented, available in sufficient quantities all year round and located at the appropriate places at affordable prices.” (MoFA, 2009: Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy FASDEP II).
The MoFA definition contains food availability, accessibility, affordability and utilisation in the form of good quality nutrition.
It goes further to address hygienic packaging and attractive presentation. Stability or time frame is ‘all year round’.
The question, however, remains as to whether Ghana is food secure.
Admittedly, there are hurdles on the path of any country wishing to attain a 100 per cent food security. What is good about Ghana is that we cannot remember the last time we had food riots in the country.