A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
At the beginning of this month Ghana celebrated National Farmers Day. The success of the Oil4Food campaign, which recently persuaded the Ghanaian government to invest more of its oil revenues in smallholder farming, meant there was a lot to celebrate.
Over a quarter of Ghanaians are poor with rates of poverty particularly high amongst smallholder food farmers – particularly women.
Lack of investment in small-scale agriculture is a real problem. While Ghana does invest in agriculture – it is one of the few countries in Africa to have met their African Union commitments to spend at least 10 percent of their budget on agriculture – the money is not getting to the farmers who need it most.
Despite representing 60 percent of the country’s economically active population, the voices of small-scale farmers are often marginalized in policy and budget processes. As a result, many smallholder farmers simply do not have access to improved seed varieties, fertilizer, irrigation, financial services, credit or the expert support and advice they need to improve production. For example, there is just one extension worker per 3,000 farmers in Ghana.
The idea: Use oil and gas revenues to support small-scale agriculture
To help tackle this problem Oxfam, working in collaboration with partner organizations, launched an Oil4Food campaign to make support for small-scale agriculture one of the Government's top priorities for the investment of oil and gas revenues. The campaign called for spending on agriculture to increase from 8.5 percent to 14.1 percent of GDP and for spending to be focused in areas which would have most benefit for small scale producers.
The campaign mobilized huge levels of public support in villages, towns and cities right across the country. A simple Oil4Food mobile phone petition was promoted in newspapers, TV, radio, at public events such as student forums and farmer rallies, through partners’ networks and by celebrities on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Farming organizations gathered over 20,000 signatures from over 200 communities across 30 districts – visiting communities to explain the campaign and ask for support, and making a paper ‘thumbprint’ petition available to those who may not be able to read or write.
The Ministry of Finance and parliamentary committees and MPs were lobbied and the campaign inputted into the National Budget Preparation Process – highlighting the potential benefits which this investment could bring for economic growth, food security and poverty alleviation.Campaigners lobby Ghana's Parliament for agricultural investment. Photo: Oxfam
After months of campaigning, the 2014 Budget presented to Parliament on 19 November 2013:
- Maintained agriculture as one of the four priority sectors to invest oil revenue in the next 3 years.
- Allocated 15 percent of government expected oil revenue in 2014 to agriculture under the Annual Budget Funding Allocation. This in addition to the mainstream budget allocation to the agricultural sector represents a 23 percent increase in agricultural budget allocation from 2013, with the vast majority of this money (94.5 percent) allocated on ‘poverty focused agriculture’.
- Proposed to scale up the commercial agricultural insurance system established in 2011 on a pilot basis to cover multiple crops, weather and more regions.
This budget will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of farmers across Ghana. It will help protect farmers against adverse climatic conditions, improve farmers’ access to finance and credit facilities and promote investment in their farms which will improve food security, increase farming incomes and reduce poverty.
It also proves that if we act together we can change things for the better.
Two great reasons to celebrate.
The Oil4Food campaign was run by:
OxfamPeasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG)Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP)SEND-GhanaFriends of the Nation (FoN)General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU)Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF)Food Security Policy Advocacy Network (FOODSPAN)Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC)