Extreme hunger and malnutrition continues to be an obstacle to sustainable development, trapping people in a cycle they cannot easily escape.
Hunger and malnutrition result in less productive individuals, more susceptible to disease and often unable to earn more and improve their livelihoods.
Since 2015, there has been an alarming rise in the global issue of hunger and food insecurity.
The trend has been exacerbated by a combination of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, climate change, non- adherence to smart agriculture and sustainable agronomic practices.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2022, approximately 735 million people or 9.2 per cent of the world's population were found in a state of chronic hunger - a staggering rise compared to 2019.
This data underscores the severity of the situation, revealing a growing crisis, particularly for developing countries such as Ghana, which has over the years relied fairly on food importation to feed the growing population.
The ongoing rise in hunger and food insecurity, caused by a complex interplay of factors, demands prompt attention, and concerted worldwide action to address the critical humanitarian crisis.
Of course, farmers and fishers cannot be overlooked in the drive to remedy the current situation.
"We all want our families to have enough food to eat what is safe and nutritious. A world with zero hunger can positively impact our economies, health, education, equality, and social development," says Dr. Bryan Acheampong, Ghana's Minister of Food and Agriculture.
It is heartening that the country, which has designated December 1 as a day of recognition for farmers and fishers, is working hard to combat food insecurity through various policies and programmes.
This year (2023), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is holding the 39th National Farmers' Day Celebration on the theme: "Delivering Smart Solutions for Sustainable Food Security and Resilience".
The event espouses the government's unwavering commitment to invest in the agricultural sector, which is critical for reducing hunger and poverty, improving food security, creating employment, and building resilience to disasters and shocks.
"It is critical to identify and deliver smart solutions that can enhance the food system's resilience and ensure sustainable food security," DrAcheampong told the media, in a briefing, ahead of the commemoration of the Day.
He noted that the country This year's Farmers' Day Celebration is intended to portray the country's ambition of achieving food security and resilience as it ushers in phase two of the Planting for Food and Agriculture (PfJ) initiative
The initiative is a transformative policy that aims to consolidate and build on earlier efforts under the initial PfJ.
It seeks to address peculiar challenges within the sector identified after an extensive review process.
The Minister mentioned that the PFJ One was hampered by limited access and high credit costs to agriculture value chain actors, barriers to entry into agribusinesses, particularly for young prospective farmers, poor access to high-quality inputs, unsustainable subsidies, and unstructured agricultural produce markets.
"The overall goal of the PFJ phase two is to transform and modernise agriculture in Ghana through the development of initially, eleven selected agricultural value chains with active private-sector participation."
A key component of this phase is the 'Youth in Agriculture Programme, which aims to empower and support young individuals to engage in commercial crop farming.
It has been designed to address the challenges young farmers face in securing land and resources for farming.
This legacy initiative focuses on promoting commercial farming, igniting passion among youth, and creating sustainable employment opportunities.
The project is expected to make significant contributions to food and nutrition security, inflation reduction, Gross Domestic Product.
(GDP) growth, and the creation of sustainable employment opportunities for youth in agriculture.
Under the programme, beneficiary youth farmers will receive training on modern farm management practices, 10 acres each of land already developed for farming under the guidance of experienced aggregators assigned.
by the project. The beneficiaries will also receive input credit such as seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals and services like extension, and mechanisation support-ploughing, harrowing, planting, spraying, among others.
A monthly stipend covering the first production cycle of the respective agricultural value chain will also be provided to ensure their success.
In terms of marketing, Dr. Bryan indicated that harvested produce would be sold to off-takers, and profits shared between the project and beneficiaries to ensure sustainability and to boost the income of beneficiaries.
Additionally, the project intends to construct low-cost affordable single-room farm housing facilities, storage houses, adequate water, and other support infrastructure within the enclaves to support production.
The project aims to reach 200,000 young farmers as beneficiaries, who will together cultivate and manage over one million acres over the five-year program.
The MoFA says each beneficiary will be engaged for six months, during which they will receive training and support.
It is expected that, by the end of this period, they should have accumulated enough capital and adequate experience to independently manage their fields and cover associated costs for the next production cycle.
"A comparative analysis of crop budgets suggests that beneficiaries, under the project, will realise over 400 per cent profit margin compared with conventional farmers cultivating the same acreage elsewhere.
"This is certainly a game-changer for farming in Ghana," he noted.
The year's FarmersDay Celebration was preceded by a five-day National Agricultural Festival, 'Agrifest Ghana 2023', which ran from Monday, November 27 to Friday, December 1.
A total of 15 award categories will be recognised at the climax of the event, including Overall National Best Farmer, First Runner-Up National Best Farmer, Second Runner-Up National Best Farmer, National Best Livestock Farmer, National Best Female Farmer, and National Best Physically Challenged Farmer.
The others are Overall National Best Fisher, National Best Marine Fisher, National Best Inland Fisher, National Best Fisher Farmer, National Best Fish Processor, National Best Cocoa Farmer, National Best Most Promising Young Cocoa Farmer, National Best Most Enterprising Cocoa Female Farmer, and National Best Shea Nut Picker.
The National Farmers' Day was instituted by the Government in 1985 in recognition of the vital role farmers and fishers play in the Ghanaian economy.
This was done to highlight the remarkable output of farmers and fishers in 1984 (around 30% growth registered), following the difficult agricultural years of 1982 and 1983.
The annual celebration is the biggest statutory obligation that provides the platform to celebrate Ghanaian farmers and fishers for their contribution to the economy.
It is not just about awards, but a celebration of the entire agriculture and fishing community from innovative farming techniques to sustainable practices in fishing.
The overwhelming consensus around the celebrations attests to the nation's profound appreciation of the role and contribution of farmers to national development.
Indeed, we must constantly remind ourselves that farmers and fishers are critical to the nation's economic fortunes.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that Agriculture contributes to about 54 per cent of Ghana's GDP and accounts for over 40 per cent of export earnings, while at the same time providing over 90 per cent of the food needs of the country.
The agricultural sector also absorbs a lot of labour force and provides raw materials for industrial growth and development.
In 2019, the share of agriculture in the country's GDP was 17.31 percent, industry contributed approximately 31.99 percent and the services sector contributed about 44.14 percent.
It is difficult to envision the country's fate without farmers and fishers, especially given that Ghana's economy is built on agriculture.