The ugly trend of poverty is forcing some families in Ghana to cut the amount and quality of food they eat each day.
Meat, a source of protein, is no more an option in the menu of many families. People now opt for less nutritional meals just to put something in the stomach, which has bad effects on their health.
World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, which aims to tackle poverty across the globe, has revealed that the levels of poverty in Ghana are still very high, with 30 percent living on less than $1 (GH¢3.50) day and 54 percent living on less than $2 (GH¢7) a day.
Thirty (30) percent of Ghanaians living on less than $1 a day means that 7.5 million out of the 25 million Ghanaians live on less than GH¢3.50 a day with a whopping number of 13.5 million people (54%) living on less than GH¢7 a day, leaving just four million Ghanaians (16%) of the total population to live on above seven cedis a day.
The minimum wage as at January 2015 was GH¢7, signifying that the average Ghanaian should be living on at least GH¢7 a day. However, this is far from the reality on the ground as 7.5 million Ghanaians live on less than GH¢3.50 daily.
Government figures always indicate a reduction in poverty but in absolute terms, poverty is invading the country like a swarm of locust. Ghana, a middle-income country and a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, have up to this years to halve extreme poverty. However, conditions are worst in the rural areas where a sizable number of Ghanaian still live on less than one dollar a day.
The situation is driving a growing number of children onto the streets of Accra with many young girls resorting to prostitution as a way to escape from poverty and cater for their families. In some extreme cases, parents themselves force their children especially girls out of school so that they can look for jobs to support the family. This trend, according to stakeholders, spells doom for Ghana’s economy which is already struggling.
Who are Ghana’s poor people?
Majority of Ghana’s poor are in the rural areas where close to 70 per cent of the population resides. In places such as Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta, and Central, livelihoods are more precarious, and people living in those areas are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.
The ugly trend is most severe among children, disabled, old people and food crop farmers, who are mainly traditional small-scale producers. About six in ten small-scale farmers are poor, and many are women. In addition to their domestic chores, these women are responsible for about 60 per cent of agricultural production.
During a visit to Mandari in the Bole District, where President John Mahama hails from, dozens of children could be seen playing in the dust. But these children have no biological parents to care for them. Looking after them is their grandmother, Chamunu Mari, a 66-year-old widow, who lost her son and his wife through sickness, leaving behind seven orphans under her care.
She lives in one of the most dilapidated single rooms in the community with her seven grandchildren. The building could best be described as a death trap. Mari is unemployed and finds it very difficult to eat.
“My grandchildren and I have to eat once a day,” she said with tears streaming down her cheeks.
She cannot even afford to buy soap. She was therefore using sand and water to wash her cooking utensils when Business Day visited her house.
Mari is not the only person in this state. During our recent visit to the Volta Region, Business Day met with a 50-year old Ms. Ahiable Sodahoe, who is a member of Adagbledu community, a suburb of Dzodze.
The major occupation of the people in the area is farming. She lives in a household of 12 members occupying two dilapidated single rooms. In the same household, is the husband of Sodohoe aged 75 years.
Apart from the dilapidated rooms, other places in the house such as kitchen and bathroom look nauseating. Members of the household get their source of drinking water from a well which is not hygienic for human consumption. Sodahoe has to credit food before the entire household could eat.
“We sometimes prepare food without meat or fish,” she added.
Why are Ghana’s rural people poor?
According to government’s poverty reduction strategy paper (GPRS II), low productivity and poorly functioning markets for agricultural outputs are among the main causes of poverty especially in the rural areas. The document said small-scale farmers lacked technologies and inputs such as fertilizer and improved seed, which would increase yields.
Report says only a small proportion of farmers in rural areas of the country have access to irrigation. Land ownership and land security are regulated by complex systems that vary widely. Many farmers lacked rural infrastructure and equipment for storing, processing and marketing their products.
Rural infrastructure in Ghana had been neglected, while investments in health, education and water supply had largely been focused on urban areas.
“The government could play an important role in making farming a profitable business through access to financial services, farm inputs and linkages to agro processors and traders,” Philip Abayori, President of National Farmers and Fishermen Award Winners Association of Ghana, has stated.
What is government doing to help the poor?
From 2008 till date, the government introduced the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) programme as a social intervention to provide financial assistance to some orphaned and vulnerable children, persons with severe disabilities without productive capacity, and extremely poor persons above 65 years.