The new Global Food Security Index 2012 has found that the quality of protein in food consumption in Ghana is low.
This means Ghanaians food intake does not match the body’s requirement—having all the required food content (balanced diet), resulting in malnutrition. Recent analyses based on state-of-the-art epidemiological evidence by the Ghana Health Service show that in Ghana, 40% of all deaths that occur before the age of five are due directly and indirectly to under nutrition, making it the single most important cause of child mortality.
Ghana scored 20.5 out of a possible 100, placing the developing country among one of the lowest performances in the sub Saharan Africa. Senegal scored 20.7, Mali 26.3 and Nigeria 12.8 on the same protein quality in the index. Manfred Ewool, a plant breeder at the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR)-Crop Research Institute says some people consume kenkey, which is a carbohydrate, without fish, or any source of protein due to low income levels to buy fish, or meat. However, “plant breeders in Ghana from 1990 to 2010 have developed 12 different varieties of maize which is high in protein, so a consumer of the maize is assured of adding enough protein to the food’’, he said in an interview. Ewool says many people in Ghana are not even aware that some types of maize, commonly called ‘Yellow Maize’ released by the Crop Research Institute of Council of Scientific Industrial Research have high level of protein contents. Statistics from the World Bank indicates that the Malnutrition prevalence; height for age (% of children under 5) in Ghana was reported at 28.60% in 2008. Prevalence of child malnutrition is the percentage of children under age 5 whose height for age (stunting) is more than two standard deviations below the median for the international reference population ages 0-59 months. For children up to two years old height is measured by recumbent length. For older children height is measured by stature while standing. The data are based on the WHO’s new child growth standards released in 2006.
“CSIR does some promotion on the maize but it is not enough to get to a wider audience to know the qualities of the maize. So it is up to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Extension officers, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to sensitise the general public about the product and its benefits’’, he stated. He noted that the Ministry of Health and the CSIR have collaborated in similar areas so it is up to them to take it up to draw the attention the maize is highly nutritious and more importantly contains high level of protein which prevents malnutrition.
“Therefore there is the need to involve NGOs, private sector and other ministries such Ministry of Health to draw strategies to create sustainable awareness of the product’’ he added.
To contain malnutrition, he suggested the Ministry of Education and other partners working on the Ghana School Feeding Programme need to adopt the yellow maize in the preparation of food for school children to solve malnutrition. In contrast, Israel had the highest mark, scoring 100, followed by Greece 92.4 and the United States of America in third, scoring 88.6. The Global Food Security Index considers the core issues of affordability, availability, quality and safety across a set of 105 countries. The index is a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model, constructed from 25 unique indicators, that measures these drivers of food security across both developing and developed countries.
Lawrence Aboagye, the Director of Plant of Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute at CSIR, said plant breeders need to improve the protein content of crops produced by screening of the germplasm of crops under conversation and selecting the ones with high protein content for further improvement. He suggested government needs to adequately support research in crops by putting in place sustainable financial support to boost crops production in the country. Mr Wayne Powell, an agricultural scientist from the University of Aberystwyth, UK says the most important thing is that the poor are those who are mostly affected by protein quality-“this segment of the population do not have sufficient money to buy protein foods such as meat, legumes’’. He said on the average about 30% of Ghanaians spend their income on food, therefore the implication is having sufficient food to ensure people are not worried about food.
He suggested that one important thing for Ghana is to have more investment in research in agriculture to boost food production, invest more plant breeding skills, infrastructure and education.