Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty


 Photo credit: UNDP in Ghana

Ghana is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet the MDG 1 target of halving extreme poverty by 2015. However, poverty is quite endemic in the three northern regions to the extent that it would be a difficult hurdle for these regions to reduce extreme poverty by a range between 11.7 percentage points in the Northern Region and 41.8 percentage points in the Upper West Region to reach the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

On MDG 1 target 3 – halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger – available data and trend analysis of the various child malnutrition indicators show that, Ghana is on track to achieving two out of three child malnutrition indicators ahead of 2015.The indicator of reducing by half the proportion of children who are underweight has already been achieved ahead of 2015, while the target on reducing by half the prevalence of wasting is on course and may be met ahead of 2015 if current trend continues. On the indicator of reducing the prevalence of stunting, extra effort is required in order to achieve the target by 2015.

What contributed to the progress?
Poverty reduction in the country has been driven by high GDP growth rate supported by increased government development expenditure, debt relief and increased foreign investment outlays. The government continued with the implementation of poverty related expenditures, and has also introduced special social intervention programmes aimed at increasing public expenditure on initiatives targeted at the poor and the vulnerable. Public expenditure financed by Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) and foreign source as a percentage of total expenditure increased from 15 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent in 2009 but dropped to 18 per cent in 2010. Specific interventions in the three Northern Regions have helped in addressing the poverty situations there. These include (1) adoption of positive and productive security measures to address the long standing civil conflicts to attract private investment; (2) Increased resource commitment to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), (3) Targeted social intervention programmes particularly the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), Ghana School Feeding Programme and Capitation Grant as well (4) Improved infrastructure development particularly road networks in areas that are not well accessible.

Key Challenges
In spite of the improvement in the poverty situation in most parts of the country, the depth of poverty remains a challenge and poverty is still endemic in the three northern savannah regions and among food crop farmers. The depth of poverty is estimated to be high particularly in the urban areas, and 6 of the 10 regions indicating that the poor in these areas are quite distant away from the poverty line.

Below are some of the key challenges that require urgent attention:
•    Macroeconomic bottlenecks: Although Ghana’s growth has been fairly robust, the source of growth has always been biased in favour of extractive and capital intensive services sector which do not have direct poverty reducing effect;
•    Infrastructural constraint: poverty endemic areas are often constrained by basic infrastructure such as feeder roads that links their economic activity, mostly farming, to urban market centres;
•    Low productivity especially in agriculture: the agriculture sector particularly the food crop sub-sector continues to rely on rain-fed agriculture and the adoption of limited modern agricultural technique. In addition, the problem of marketing and price instability regarding farm produce on account of absence of guaranteed price continue to constrain the growth and development of the sub-sector where poverty is relatively high;
•    Limited support for food crop farmers: food crop farmers often face the problem of marketing and price instability regarding their farm produce. Absence of guaranteed price creates instability in the incomes of farmers making them vulnerable to adverse external shocks; and
•    Investment climate remains weak: despite the recent improvement in the ease of doing business in Ghana, the investment climate remains weak and continues to hold back productive investment particularly in the area of manufacturing. The business community is often constrained by limited and unreliable supply of energy and affordable finance especially for SMEs to enable them expand production, create jobs and improve incomes of workers.

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