Farmer organizations and others concerned about access to farmland, especially for women, held a joint press conference with Oxfam in Ghana’s capital Accra today to call attention to land grabs and other issues affecting food security in the West African country.
“By early 2009, about 452,000 hectares of land had been allocated in Ghana, including a single allocation of 400 hectares for the cultivation of jatropha and related plants for bio-fuels” said Kingsley Offei-Nkansah, the secretary of Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and Chairman of Food Security Policy Advocacy Network (FOODSPAN), the lead speaker at the press conference. “Even though the country is yearning for foreign investments, this new wave of land deals is not the new investment in agriculture that millions of Ghanaians have been waiting for.”
At 2.47 acres per hectare, this puts more than a million acres of land under cultivation of biofuel crops instead of food in Ghana, where experts are concerned that more than a million people in the country of nearly 25 million are facing shortages of food.
Continued Offei-Nkansah; “the government must put in place effective national regulations and enforcements to ensure that land owners provide secure access to land for small scale farmers, especially women.” He went on to say that women constitute the largest part of the agricultural labor force in Ghana accounting for more than 50 percent of farmers and producing more than 70 percent of the total food consumed.
Oxfam’s country director in Ghana, Sebastian Tiah, noted that the only way out of the dire food insecurity threatening more than 1.2 million people in the country is support to rural women farmers. “Supporting women is equal to reducing poverty and underdevelopment,” he said.
The press conference was part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign to urge policy makers to do more to support small-scale farmers and improve the access to food for the poorest people in the world.