THE EAST AFRICAN, WEDNESDAY MARCH 4 2020
A global shutdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is finally here, exposing the continent’s low capacity to produce enough food for its people, and heralding an opportunity to discuss how best Africa can stand on its own with respect to food security.
In 1972, under the then Colonel Ignatius Acheampong and the National Redemption Council, Ghana implemented a well-intentioned programme, Operation Feed Yourself. The aim was to increase farming food crops for domestic consumption and ultimately build self-sufficiency.
Citizens were rallied to the farms through media programmes. Loans, subsidised farm inputs, and duty-free importation of agricultural machinery were provided. Collection, transportation, storing and trading of food crops was coordinated.
Ghanaians from all walks of life received the programme enthusiastically and embraced farming, reared livestock, planted and harvested crops.
No space was spared. Even those living in crowded urban areas cultivated kitchen gardens or backyard farms. Everybody in Ghana was proud to have a farm, no matter how small.
Operation Feed Yourself led to the declaration, in 1974, of Ghana as self-sufficient in rice production, sadly, this is no longer the case as the world food crisis and problems in collecting and marketing the crops eventually reduced its impact.
Over the years, attempts at food sufficiency have been pursued in many African countries with varying degrees of success. Uganda produces cereals and legumes for both the domestic and export market.
Nigeria has reached self-sufficiency in rice, the staple food of the country with thousands of bags of ‘rice pyramids’ unveiled in several states such as Kebbi, Taraba and Kano. Through concessionary funding of agriculture, populous Nigeria has become Africa’s largest producer of rice.