To create an enabling environment for the Yendi Municipal Assembly to plan and budget for food, nutrition security and post-harvest losses, the Northern Development Society (NORDESO) a local NGO based in the Northern Region has organized a policy review workshop in collaboration with SNV the Netherland Development Organization in Yendi to deliberate on nutrition and post-harvest loss statuses in the Municipality among stakeholders.  

The purpose of the workshop was to review the generic situation of food, nutrition and post-harvest loss status in Ghana with particular reference to the Yendi Municipality so that the evidence generated could be used to advocate for policy formulation and implementation.

Mr. Jacob Mansu the Director of Programmes of NORDESO in his welcome address said Yendi Municipality was noted for high malnutrition among children above the Regional level. He said Yendi was also leading in crop post-harvest losses especially yam in the country.

The Director of Programmes observed that in Ghana it was not lack of development policies but rather lack of policy implementation. “So when the stakeholders deliberated and were able to come out with issues confronting nutrition and post-harvest loses in Ghana, these issues could serve as bases to canvas for policy planning and budgeting at the MMDAs levels to support the issue of Food and Nutrition Security”, he recommended.

Mr. Jalil Zakaria SNV advisor on Nutrition noted in his presentation that three (3) out of ten (10) women, and eight (8) out of ten (10) children under five years suffer from some form of malnutrition such as stunting (short for age), wasting (low weight for height), anaemia and differences in iron, iodine and vitamin A.

Commenting on nutrition situation for the vulnerable group such as women and children, he said four (4) out of ten (10) between 14% – 15% of women, and 8% of children in Ghana were also anaemic. He added that 19% of children in Ghana were stunted of which 5% were severely stunted while 11% were underweight of which 2% were severely underweight.

Mr. Jalil Zakaria blamed the causes of the nutrition problems to cultural and religious beliefs, insufficient coordination of efforts across different sectors, insufficient investment by government on nutrition and lack of institutional framework.

He observed that donor driven nutrition interventions failed to survive after donor support dries up and blame inadequate human resources for implementation of interventions difficult especially, in remote rural parts of the country and the lack of broad stakeholders’ participation including weak linkages between health and Agric sectors and food processing.

Mr. Jalil reiterated that the nation could save many innocent lives especially, women and children if sustainable nutrition polices were implemented.  He called for national agenda of nutrition policies, proper collaboration of departments to support an enabling environment for nutrition, and increased in budget allocation as well as more accountability from state actors.

At the local level, Mr. Jalil opted for advocacy and the need for voice to be created for community groups to lobby for better services in nutrition. He noted that Ghana could derive benefits from investing in nutrition such as early school enrolment, save 30,000 children from underweight and save more than 4,500 mothers’ lives from maternal anaemic.

Mr. Ishahaku Zakaria SNV advisor on Post-Harvest Loss said in Ghana food insecure population remains unacceptably high because more quantities of food were lost due to spoilage and infestation on journey to consumers. He noted that post-harvest losses in Ghana was estimated between 14-18% for maize and other cereals and occurred along the commodity chain from farm to markets resulting in higher prices, lost in revenue, and food insecurity issues.

Mr. Ishahaku called for action in order to improve food and nutrition security and incomes for small holder farmers, especially women. Among measures he recommended include appropriate infrastructure for ready access to market, appropriate technologies and innovations to promote and finance greater research and technological innovations at public and private levels to reduce post-harvest losses.

Other measures he cited include the need for consistent access to cold storage facilities across the regions to preserve fruits and vegetables, drying facilities for storage of grains and access to credit to finance expenses related to infrastructure and appropriate technologies as well as greater access to adequate technical assistance and dissemination of good agricultural practices for farmers in the area of harvesting, packaging, transport and storage of products.

Mr. Atoobey Mark, the Nutrition Officer for Yendi who represented the Municipal Health Director, Hajia Haruna Hajara at the occasion disclosed that the Directorate has strategies to curb the problem of nutrition in the Municipality. Among them were 24 hours clinical care services, health education and behavior change promotion activities in communities with stakeholder. He said that the municipal health directorate has adopted preventive health interventions such as integrated Community case management, Community management of Acute Mal-nutrition, Supplementary Feeding (ENVAC), micro –nutrition supplementation and school health programmes.

The Health Directorate urged the authorities especially the Municipal Assembly to focus on some priority areas such as support to mothers to mother groups in the area of re-bagging and sale of iodized salt, milling and fortification of cereals flour, refurbishment of the Impatient Care (IPC) unit in the hospital, capacity building for all staff and CBAs on Infant and Young child Feeding (IYCF). Others include provision of CHIPS compounds for effective services delivery, intensification of social Behavioral Change and health promotion on health and appropriate feeding practices at all times.

The programme is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed in Ghana by SNV, the Netherland Development Organization in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPFI) and implemented by NORDESO under ‘the Voice for Change’ project on food and nutrition security in the Yendi Municipality. The programme is implemented in six countries including Ghana and the components of the programme include Water and Sanitation, Renewable Energy, Food and Nutrition Security.

Participants were drawn from heads of departments, Assembly members, Traditional authorities, political parties’ representatives, women groups and youth groups as well as representatives from People living with disability.

Ahmed Hussein