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Regional News of Friday, 10 July 2009

Source: GNA

Upper West Region, land of opportunities and misfortunes - Minister

Wa, July 10, GNA - Mr. Mahmud Khalid, Upper West Regional Minister, has said despite the rich natural resources, vast arable land, mineral deposits and the presence of wild economic trees such as the shea, the region still houses a majority of Ghana's poor. He said it was regrettable for the region to remain trapped in the poverty cycle, despite its huge potentials and attributed the economic woes of the people to their state of mind where they raise their hands in despair in the midst of opportunities.

Mr. Khalid said this at a two-day Shea multi-stakeholders forum in Wa on Thursday.

SNV-Netherlands and OXFAM -Great Britain both international non-governmental organisation operating in the north jointly organized the forum for more than 50 representatives of producers, buyers, service providers and civil society organisations in the shea sector. Mr. Khalid blamed the high poverty level in the region partly to subsistence farming system engaged by the people and the absence or non-commitment to a well coordinated development strategy for the north. He said the development challenges of the north were well known to everybody and called for affirmative development plan for the north to reduce poverty.

"Deeply imbedded in a problem is its solution, which only requires hard thinking", Mr. Khalid said, pointing out that the shea industry would help reduce poverty drastically if properly supported. He said government was committed to reducing poverty among the people by supporting all initiatives geared towards empowering stakeholders to attain self-reliance, as well as consolidating the gains made so far.

"Government has put in place plans towards moving the shea tree from a wild savannah species to a domesticated export crop and this would be in addition to providing protective clothing and means of transport for the picking of the shea fruits", Mr. Khalid assured. Mr. Chris Bakaweri, Portfolio Coordinator of SNV in Upper West Region, said while support for the entire sector was essential, the producers were the weakest of the actors and called for more attention towards them to make their operations effectively in the shea value chain activities.

He said the shea was an important cash crop for women in north as more than 600,000 women receive their livelihoods from its business. Mr. Bakaweri said, all these notwithstanding, the shea sector was loaded with challenges without which it would have performed better and called on all actors in the sector to play their roles appropriately to help address rural poverty in Northern Ghana.