You are here: HomeNews2010 08 29Article 189284

Opinions of Sunday, 29 August 2010

Columnist: GNA

ContrySTAT Ghana - The Contemporary Hub of Statistical Information


Accra, August 28, GNA- Hunger is hurting. Those who undergo the ordeals of starvation could testify in dramatic terms how famine could aggressively weaken the body, break its immune system to the point of death. Hunger could make people rebellious as in Shakespeare's Coriolanus where citizens of Antium raised staves, clubs and cudgels against Caius Martius to kill him and have corn at their own price. Burdened by emotion the First Citizen declared "For the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge."

The devastations of hunger are deadly and an attempt to avoid hunger is a passion for government, communities and ordinary individuals. The avoidance of hunger among the people of Ga led to the institutionalization of the Homowo festival to hoot and jeer at hunger in August each year. This annual ritual started at a time of intense hunger as a result of the lack of seasonal rains the crops needed.

When the rains recommenced the festival was institutionalized to remind them of those difficult days of famine and efforts to guard against it. Several communities in Ghana including the Ho Asogli state in the Volta Region, celebrate yam festival to hoot at hunger and to thank heaven for releasing the rains in appropriate quantities and earth for fertility of the soil.

Such festivals are packed with abundant activities: a report from Nigeria has it that women dig up the yams and carry them home. Everyone is proud of the harvest and wants to be the family with the largest crop. This is a healthy competition among the peasant farmers to produce more and avert the catastrophes of food shortage for their families and the community. Villagers come together as the women and young girls prepare the feast, with the yams as prized food.

Today the institution that, arguably, jeers at hunger the loudest is CountrySTAT Ghana. It is now the sentinel, a modern way of not only hooting at hunger but also providing whistle blowing statistical information to crash hunger by all purposes and intent.

Launched in Ghana in 2003, CountrySTAT provide statistical framework and apply information system for analysis and policy-making designed in order to organize, integrate and disseminate statistical data and metadata on food and agriculture. It is expected that with the activities of CountrySTAT Ghana food situation will substantially improve in terms of quality, accessibility, relevance and reliability.

As a brain child of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), CountrySTAT Ghana will harmonize national data for analysis and policy making. It also involves the use of meta-data (data about the data). It describes and documents the statistical data. It facilitates sharing, querying, understanding and use of the data over its lifetime. It indicates the quality of data and helps transform data into usable information.

Metadata is ever-present in the processes of producing and interpreting statistics. Thus, the CountrySTAT system requires the preparation and publication of good metadata. The databases in the CountrySTAT Ghana are organized under two major groups: CountrySTAT Core and CountrySTAT Sub-national. The core data consists of national data shared with FAOSTAT database. These arrangements of CountrySTAT Core and Subnational data provide end-users with the possibility of navigating through the databases from either geographic or thematic paths.

The product of countrySTAT is not only relevant to the policy makers but also to the peasant farmer in its minutest details. This will help farmers regulate their farming activities and plan ahead. They need to apply themselves well to the rubrics of agrochemicals application - insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers the over use of which could degrade the soil and create health threats. How could a farmer access information to increase produce? Cell phone revolution will be incredibly helpful.

Currently in Ghana, most towns and villages make use of cell phone including the peasant farmers who used to sell their produce by calling to compare prices at different locations. With the help of the mobile phone, farmers are able to link up with their extension officers for instructions. Though a great number of the farmers might not have formal education a little introduction to the web-pages of CountrySTAT using the mobile phone will help them a great deal since they are used to it.

Eavesdropping could be a vengeful crime but all phone users provide a good platform for people to snoop and get them accused of espionage. "My brother, the road from Kparekpare to Dambai is very bad; cars are getting stuck in the mud, it will be best finding a different root," said a farmer to his colleagues on phone. The statement fully strayed into my ears. I grieved in my lungs. Bad road is a jinx that plunges the farmer's efforts into the ditch. The truck in question was loaded with tubers of yam but got buried in the mires preventing the yam from reaching the Dambai market for that matter Agbogbloshie market in Accra. This phenomenon which confronts the farmer yearly marked the genesis and the cradle of his poverty making it difficult for him to get successors in his trade. Cell phone revolution could open the bowels of CountrySTAt to the farmer to dissect. However, without serious improvement in the road network to cruise produce to where they are most needed, CountrySTAT will just sound as an earsplitting cymbal that will signify nothing.

The handsome fertilizer policy which puts fertilizer currently at a cost of GHC26 for 50kg bag of NPK 15-15-15 with government absorbing the GHC26 will rather be the Achilles' Heel to the farmer's intent of commensurable returns on his abundance produce that could accrue from the subsidized manure.

CountrySTAT beckons government and individuals to its metadata gates to access transformational information that could alter the agricultural sector of Ghana. Just clicks away, navigate to the website of the Ghana Statistical Service or google CountrySTAT and land on a shoal of agricultural data that will quench your thirst for credible information.