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Opinions of Sunday, 23 March 2008

Columnist: Ajongba, Kaba Paschal

Globalization and Trade

Globalization and Trade; - Impact on Self Employed Rural Dwellers and Food Security in Ghana.

1. The Situation

Challenging the concept and reality of globalisation is not to wish it away or pretend it does not exist. It is simply to find ways to manage the change regulate and structure globalisation so that it is subject to the popular will, supports fundamental rights, and brings prosperity to the majority of the world’s population.

Ghana like all developing countries is challenged by the globalization processes to organise its populace to crumbling under globalization which has very little room for rural workers who lack information and skills to take advantage of globalise economies. Farmers are constantly getting poorer as they continue to work harder under unfavourable trade policies where producers of raw agricultural products get lost in the global market, as developing countries impose tariffs on export of agricultural produce and removing subsides on agricultural inputs while subsidizing those in the developed countries.

Ghana achieved her independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, after a protracted struggle. Her population today stands at about 21 million, being one of the largest states in West Africa. Following independence, political power has alternated between successions of civilian governments, punctuated by military coups. Each group was heralded as a drive against corruption in civilian government and the civil service. The country experienced rapid industrialization between the period 1957 and 1966 as a result of significant reserves handed over by colonial masters, which also financed an extensive infrastructure. However, the bulk of the population continues to live in rural areas and large proportions remain engaged in subsistence agriculture. Despite the good beginning in post independent Ghana, the country has since 1966 witnessed a gradual decline in the welfare her populace. Majority of her people still remain in rural areas and where they engage in agricultural activities. This majority in the agricultural sector are also the poorest. Their situation is compounded by the stifling world economic order.

The WTO claims to promote world economic growth by reducing trade barriers, to the benefit of all. What this means in practice is deregulating trade across the globe so the global corporations can walk all over less powerful producers. The current round of trade talks revisited the WTO Agreement on agriculture, which affects the world’s food supply. Although these talks seem far removed from everyday life, we all know that we need food to survive. And food doesn’t arrive on our plates by magic. It is grown by people whose livelihoods depend on it, and who are in growing competition with the global corporations that control world trade in agriculture. The rules of that agreement are set by the WTO agreement on Agriculture.

More than three-quarters of Ghana’s 21 million people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The sector directly generates over 39 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product but another 40 percent is estimated to come indirectly from agriculture. However public investment in agriculture does not reflect the importance of the sector for economic development.

Ghana thus has little to gain from a further liberalization of agriculture. It has historically been able to feed itself and could do so again if it were to implement appropriate polices and be protected from dumped food. A country dependent on commodities whose prices are constantly falling cannot rely on foreign exchange income to feed its people. The time has thus come for the Nation to define a way forward to getting out of this stagnation. Some of the recommendations as regards this issue are as fellows:

1. Greater mobilization of identifiable vibrant constituencies to take up stands against some of these issues. The need for mobilization is very critical by the realization (as in the poultry farmers situation) that even when the legally established institutions of state and governance validates and addresses the concerns of citizens, there is a more powerful remote and invisible hand that can override this thus jeopardizing the whole concept of national sovereignty.

2. There is also the need for a total and immediate cancellation of poor country debt and increased, unconditional international social assistance before any system of fair trade can be truly effective. At the same time, the power of TNCs must be confronted through more effective international union action, including more aggressive Transnational collective bargaining. This must be combined with broader social movements that build pressure to reign in the TNCs, restricting – rather than expanding –their rights.

3. Ghana’s dependence on food imports is rising and it has sought to generate the much-needed foreign exchange by developing markets for its export crops especially non-traditional exports. As such measures need to be considered such as exemption from liberalization for staple food crops and specific measures to improve supply and marketing of locally-grown food.

4. Ghana needs a comprehensive Agricultural Policy that will guide development Programmes irrespective of which political party comes to power. This policy should due seek to ensure food security in a manner that is consistent with the important role agriculture plays in industrial and economic development as a whole.

Kaba Paschal Ajongba Saviour
Community Initiatives of Africa (CIAF) Box MD 360, Madina-Accra Ghana – West Africa

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.