Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has underscored the importance of eradicating poverty and hunger adding that “the President himself must be pre-occupied with the issue so as to quicken and enliven the citizenry to aspire for good life.”
He stressed that he (the President) needed to put in place policies that would ensure that the socio-economic developments the Government envisioned were realized.
He was speaking at a forum organized by the Regional Office for Food and Agriculture Organisation for Africa, to relate the successful case studies in the fight against hunger and food insecurity in Ghana and Brazil.
Mr Kufuor recounted some of the policy interventions he rolled out during his two-term tenure which included “vigorous infrastructural expansion and development”, modernized and commercial agriculture, good and responsive governance.
Mr Kufuor said the contributions his Government made in the agriculture sector especially at the fisheries and cocoa sectors, together with gains made in other sectors of the economy made Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product to grow by more than 400 per cent.
Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve the United Nation Millennium Development Goal One- on halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
The country reached and surpassed the 1996 World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the number of undernourished people by 2015.
Ghana achieved a reduction in its poverty rate from 51.7 per cent in 1991 to 26.5 per cent in 2008, whiles hunger reduced from 34 per cent in 1990 to nine per cent in 2004.
Former President Kufuor’s administration saw the widespread adoption of high yield crop varieties designed to boost production.
Consequently Ghana’s cocoa production doubled between 2002 and 2005, inching up to a record high of one million metric tonnes in 2011.
In the agricultural sector, the Kufuor administrations also improved the terms of trade for cocoa farmers who experienced an increase in the minimum export price to 70 per cent in 2004.
Improved irrigation, access to mechanization and post harvest facilities were others.
Under the Ghana School Feeding Programme, Government provided one nutritious locally produced meal a day for school children in primary to the Junior High School. This social intervention was said to have dramatically reduced the level of chronic hunger and malnutrition while improving school attendance.
Former Brazilian President Lula Da Silva on his part, said he demonstrated leadership and high level political commitment for rapid declines in rates of extreme poverty and hunger without huge injections of public spending.
He said under his visionary leadership that spanned eight years, Brazil experienced dramatic reductions in hunger, extreme poverty and social exclusion.
Mr Silva said he spearheaded a successful food and nutritional security programme known as the Zero Hunger Programme which had a policy implementation based on a cross sectoral approach led by an inter-ministerial body with strong linkages to an active civil society.
He said the project had a Food Purchase Programme which linked local production directly with expanding food consumption and contributed to rural development by acquiring food directly from small holder farmers.
Mr Silva said he established food distribution programmes that linked communities and banks in alliance with the private sector to ensure local food markets for farmers.
He said under the Bolsa Family Programme (BFP), a conditional cash transfer project which he said received heavy criticism from the middle and upper class Brazilians, cash aids were given to poor families to reduce poverty.
By the end of 2009, more than 12 million beneficiary families were said to have a guaranteed minimum income and access to basic goods and services, under the BFP
Mr Silva said his Government rolled out a national school programme similar to that of Ghana’s which had a far-reaching impact on reducing child malnutrition and providing 47 million free school meals daily to children in all grades of the country’s public schools.
He said Brazil witnessed record declines in child malnutrition from 61.9 per cent between 2003 and 2009 as a result of the programme.
Mr Silva called for good and efficient registration system for effective monitoring and evaluation for the social intervention projects to ensure that the aids went to the targeted beneficiaries.
He expressed the hope that institutions of higher learning of both countries would run exchange programmes to build their capacities.
Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, stressed that Government’s social intervention programmes needed to be integrated into the economy to ensure their sustainability.
“Social protection programmes should be sustainable. We can use some of the oil revenues to make it sustainable”, he said.
Prof Aryeetey called for active private sector participation in the programmes and stressed that the focus needed to be on skills-enhancing measures for the beneficiaries to improve productivity.
Professor Edward Ayensu, a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, called on Governments to draw the distinction between national agenda and political party manifesto.
He expressed disquiet that some political administration entirely stopped projects initiated by their political predecessors because they were from their opponents.
Prof Ayensu described the act as detrimental to development and called for political will to complete project initiated by political opponents.
The high level discourse which was attended by representatives of UN agencies, diplomatic corps, government officials, civil society, farmers’ groups, cooperatives, NGOs, academics, Students of the University of Ghana and the private sector, was to serve as an advocacy event to show how the political will at the highest level can really contribute at improving people’s life.
It also sought to analyse how successful alliances could be built between government, civil society and the private sector.