In order to dig deep at the root of poverty, we must examine each sphere of community need and craft effective and relevant solutions. It’s important for kids to be educated, but also healthy and fed. We use a cross-disciplined approach to combat poverty in the communities we work in.
Every day in Ghana millions of people go to bed hungry. In a country that is no stranger to agribusiness it’s crucial we develop sustainable agricultural based strategies to ensure poverty reduction and food security. Unfortunately in Ghana today household, community and commercial farmers face a number of obstacles as they try to produce and market their yields. We aim to provide everyone with the tools and resources they need to provide food for self-consumption or commercial use. Without access to reliable water sources, education, land or capitol, food production becomes unproductive and even dangerous.
Most farmers operate on rain fed agriculture which has limited reliability during dyer seasons. This can lead to farmers using wastewater which results in food contamination or unpredictable seasonal farming. Recent figures speculate that only about 4% of farmable land in Ghana is irrigated. While we cannot ensure government sponsorship of adequate irrigation systems, we will work with the private sector, other NGO’s and local leaders to negotiate development of efficient and cost-effective water production methods for larger scale farmers.
Urban farming is a relatively new concept in Ghana and not many people are participating. With an increasing number of people living in squalor conditions without consistent access to food, we are trying to alleviate hunger using natural resources and recycled goods. We will help families in the slums construct indoor and outdoor gardens where they can grow their own food and ensure food security. The planter boxes will be made out of used tires which are plentiful trash items strewn about the city. We will use techniques to collect rain and condensation to water the plants.
Agriculture education is vital to help farmers adopt new cultivating technologies. Using untested or banned chemicals to treat produce is detrimental not only to the health of the crop, but to the environment and the farmer himself. These chemicals can also end up polluting nearby sources of water which will pose a health risk for the community. In addition, uneducated farmers may not be aware that their seed is compromised or their tilling techniques outdated which yields not profitable results. Since we understand the importance of crop productivity we are imploring all farmers to seek safer and more equitable avenues for cultivation. We will have several educational programs to help the local farmers, whether household or commercial, to become more self-sustainable and thus successful.
In Ghana, approximately 80% of farmers do not cultivate on private property thus running the risk of eviction or theft. Often times public land, parks, or undesignated property is commandeered by people seeking farmland. In some instances, landowners come forward and set up local systems of payment by way of profit share for use of their land. With farm gate prices so low already, these agreements are usually more beneficial to the landowner than the labor drained farmer. To prevent the aforementioned risks from occurring, we will contribute to the sponsorship of land for eligible commercial farmers and their families, set-up a public garden for community consumption as well as be the voice and reason with local authorities to ensure legal use of already farmed public land.
Starting off as a farmer isn’t always easy. As mentioned above, procuring land is difficult and maintaining all other aspects of successful crop production can be quite costly, especially when the average farmer loses 50% of his wages by the time the crop hits the market. For the amount of labor farmers put out, the income is measly. To increase the income potential for these farmers we will provide opportunity for them to diversify and sell their produce at competitive prices, find cost-efficient transportation and distribution methods, and secure reliable land.
WATER & ENERGY
Water is crucial to survival. All living things need it, yet, finding clean and accessible water in Ghana is time-consuming, physically demanding and often totally unobtainable. In Ghana, nine million people do not have access to safe drinking water and women trek miles each way to a local unsanitary water source. Everyday people unknowingly drink contaminated water which puts them at high risk for acquiring water borne diseases. Farmers also are affected by lack of water resources which makes consistent and safe food production difficult. Currently, there is very poor infrastructure in place to ensure all the population receives treated and abundant water. Through rain harvesting techniques, groundwater collection, and purification methods, we can ensure that clean water is more accessible and prevalence of water related diseases are decreased.
Since access to water is already limited in the Eastern region, using it as an energy source is not a viable option. Nearly seven million people are not hooked into the national electric grid which means when the sun goes down; business, studying, and socializing activities cease. Ghana’s geographical location on the equator is prime for utilizing the sun as a renewable energy resource. We will use this natural resource and solar technology to improve living conditions in otherwise dark communities.
There are two seasons in Ghana, rainy and dry. During the rainy seasons the Eastern region will see upwards of 80 inches of rain. Farmers rely heavily on this time of year for their crop production and we think communities should also reap the benefits of the steady rainfall. Rain water harvesting is a simple and cost-effective method of providing sanitary and accessible water to communities. We have designed a way for average homeowners to use their property and dwellings to harvest rain water for private use. This means for drinking water; water for bathing and cooking; and even water for private farming. We are also installing a public water treatment center that will harbor larger, community sized water reservoirs for collecting and storing extra water for use during the dryer seasons.
Groundwater collection is a desirable way of maintaining access to treatable water in Ghana. In the Eastern region groundwater samples indicate that about nearly 100% of groundwater is considered usable. This means that instead of walking miles to carry home heavy dirty water, women can fetch it from their own village which saves time and is less taxing on their bodies. Most groundwater in this region is approximately 95-150 feet underground. Naturally, drilling such a deep borehole can be a frustrating and difficult task without proper equipment. We have located recycled materials to build drill bits that will serve as the primary tool to create boreholes. Once these holes are completed, the community will have free access to treatable water sources.
Water that is obtained from local rivers, streams or ponds will most likely be contaminated. It’s important to educate the local population about the detrimental effects of drinking from these untreated water sources. In the Eastern region, typical water sources contain bacteria that cause infectious diseases like Hepatitis A and E, typhoid fever and chronic diarrhea – the latter of which results in the death of 25% of children under five. These diseases are easily preventable if the resources and knowledge are present. As such, we will create a water treatment center where we will educate communities on why it’s important and how to filter particles, decontaminate and then safely store their water. This will give individuals a sense of empowerment as they contribute to the overall health of their community.
Education is arguably the most important variable to a healthy and sustainable community. Increasing the number of school-aged children that attend school is a challenge when mandatory school fees are too steep and access to facilities are limited. Furthermore, the importance of obtaining an education is often overlooked by families when fighting for daily survival is in the forefront of their minds. Children not enrolled in school will often take care of chores, take on a street selling job, or watch over younger siblings. We believe that every child deserves the right to an education. Receiving an education is a tool to break the cycle of poverty.
Through our partnership with Ghanaian based Sovereign Global Mission (SGM) we will help street children from the Accra slums find the means to an education. We will also provide as needed tutoring or mentor services for students enrolled in school and not enrolled in school. With SGM we will help them continue their woman outreach programs which enable young women to get off the streets and become seamstress apprentices. Our Ghanaian director has also developed educational travel programs for rural and city students to experience education outside the classroom – a rare occasion for students in Ghana.
Ghana’s healthcare system remains inadequate against the demands and needs of the people. In a country of 24 million and counting there are only 172 hospitals, some of which are government run and others private or community driven. The leading cause of death in Ghana is malaria with 33% of all hospital patients admitted as a result of its contraction. Malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and water borne diseases such as Hepatitis A also attribute to widespread fatalities. Due to poor prenatal health and unsanitary and unsafe birthing procedures, approximately 1 in 66 women die during childbirth and infant mortality rate is nearly 10%. We will use public health education and implement practical preventive programs such as distributing condoms, and malaria nets to heavily reduce the presence of disease, suffering and death. We also plan to open a small-scale clinic that can serve the local population for free. This clinic will function as an information and first aid center addressing wounds that if left untreated could cause life-threatening medical issues like gangrene.
It’s no surprise that environmental factors are degrading Ghana’s land and harming people’s health. In a country where trash isn’t properly disposed of, water is highly polluted with waste, deforestation is prevalent and farmers consistently use unhealthy chemicals in compost and fertilization – there is much room for safe and relevant intervention. We are initiating environmental programs that will get the community involved in reducing their impact on the fragile environment. These programs will include seed planting initiatives, farmer education on eco-friendly fertilizer and compost, and fun community clean –ups that will bring pride to community members while eliminating unsustainable living conditions.
Physical infrastructure interventions are mostly in the hands of the ruling government. For example, building roads, irrigation systems, improving communications, etc. but unfortunately these fixtures are not being funded or decision making officials lack motivation to construct. Luckily, there are still small infrastructure projects that village members and volunteers can participate in to make a difference in the community. These projects include one: making sure local pertinent facilities exist i.e. clinics, schools, and two: ensuring that these are maintained for safe and functional use. We are also developing latrines that can be used for composting purposes. We will assign volunteers to lead construction and maintenance teams to determined sites as per request of the community.