?The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said here on Friday it was partnering the government of Ghana to use food production to reduce poverty in the three Northern Regions of the country.

The initiative will focus on the value chain of cassava, a popular Ghanaian staple food, as an integrated approach to assist the government of Ghana for policy options to reduce poverty.

FAO Representative in Ghana Lamourdia Thiombiano told reporters on the side of a stakeholders? meeting here on Friday that the initiative was a new way to seek partnerships to reduce poverty.

?It will enable the rural peasant farmers to produce more and increase production along the value chain of agriculture from the farm level, through manufacturing, packaging and marketing to increase income generation along the chain,? he explained.

He said the program would also assist in improving basic infrastructure, especially feeder roads in rural communities in the northern part of Ghana.

Thiombiano said the program was also meant to serve as a source of social protection for agricultural workers who would receive some minimum start-up capital.

?The FAO is committed to supporting the work of government and its strategic development partners in improving the livelihoods of rural communities.

?Lower agriculture productivity, lack of rural infrastructure and financial services, poorly functioning markets and limited access to basic social services and social protection contribute to the high poverty levels in the three northern regions,? Thiombiano told stakeholders at the meeting.

The initiative therefore aims at reducing rural poverty, strengthening rural livelihoods, and using cassava value chain as an entry point for diversification, employment and income generation.

 

The minister for Food and Agriculture, Clement Kofi Humado, in a message, acknowledged the difficulty in sustaining food production in the three beneficiary regions due to the challenges of nature.

 

He said the FAO program fed into the government?s own program of Root and Tuber production for rural farmers.

 

Humado therefore pledged government?s preparedness to collaborate with the FAO to ensure the success of the program.

 

The Programs Coordinator of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, Victorial Adongo, told Xinhua the program was a laudable one, looking at the many different dishes that were obtained from cassava.

 

?These days that cassava has also become an industrial raw material for the production of starch and beer, we need to improve upon the entire value-chain so that rural folks can make reasonable incomes from the product,? she urged.

 

Ghana has made significant progress in achieving key Millennium Development Goals (MDG) -targets, especially those on poverty and the reduction of extreme forms of hunger.

 

However, poverty remains a major challenge, especially in the rural areas of the three northern regions,.

 

Official figures indicate that poverty rates stand at 52 percent in the Northern Region; 70 percent in Upper West Region; and 88 percent in Upper East Region against a national poverty rate of 28.5 percent.

 

The FAO project therefore seeks to build upon previous assessments such as Global Cassava Development Strategy (2000), the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Program (RTIMP) and Ghana?s own Presidential Initiative on Cassava.

 

The MDG-1 enjoins developing countries to?eradicate?extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

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