Climate change impacting food supply in Ghana

Accra, June 9 (IANS) Nearly 700,000 people in Ghana are staring at hunger as climate change has started taking a toll on food security in this West African nation of 25 million people, a survey shows. The phenomenon, according to an agrcultural expert, will further aggravate the frequency of droughts and storms which will affect food production.

"Severe warming, floods and drought may reduce crop yields. Livestock may be at risk, both directly from heat stress and indirectly from reduced quality of their food supply, while fisheries would be affected by changes in water temperature," Hans Adu-Dapaah, director of the Crop Research Institute (CRI), told IANS.

He said evidence of climate change in Ghana was that the mean annual temperature had increased by one degree Celsius since 1960, on an average rate of 0.21 degree Celsius per decade.

Adu-Dapaah said total annual rainfall in Ghana has shown a decreasing trend between 1960 and 2006, with an average of 2.3 mm per month per decade, adding that the long term trends were difficult to identify because annual rainfall in Ghana was highly variable on inter-annual and inter-decadal timescales.

Adu-Dapaah said the impact of climate change was increasingly becoming severe and that long-term projections indicated crop yields could fall by up to 50 percent by 2020 and net revenues from crops could drop by as much as 90 percent by 2100.

The official suggested the development and promotion of more disease- and pest- tolerant crop varieties, development of Phosphorous efficient and Nitrogen fixing crop varieties (cowpea, soybean), participatory varietal selection, improved farming systems, crop residue management and mulching.

A Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) survey conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) in the country's three regions in the north showed that more than 680,000 people, representing 16 percent of all households, are either severely or moderately food insecure.

In addition, the survey conducted last May in the North, Upper West and Upper East Regions showed about 140,000 people were severely food insecure, with the Upper East being the worst affected.

The WFP said 8,399 households were randomly sampled in 38 districts and it was found that 28 percent of the households in the Upper East were food insecure compared to 10 percent in the Northern and 16 percent in the Upper West regions.

It attributed the food insecurity to poverty, which limited the purchasing power of the people and added: "Climatic events, food prices, the death of a household member and lower education were also responsible for food insecurity."

Based on its findings, the WFP recommended that weather-related shocks should be controlled to stabilize food prices and production to ensure that the maximum households had access to food.

In addition, it also recommended seasonal cash transfers, promotion of food security and nutrition by the government.

"It is vital that a Food and Nutrition Security Commission should be established at the national and regional levels to coordinate activities within this sector," the survey said.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@hotmail.com )

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