It is that time of the year for farmers, the lean season; which is the period of planting and harvesting in parts of the country.
That has ushered some vulnerable households into hunger and starvation in parts of the North East Region where families face a tough time meeting their daily food needs.
Some are thus compelled to depend on shrubs to survive the period.
For about two decades in each planting season, a Philanthropist, Nanleeb Konlan Hills, brings residents of specific communities together to offer communal service by ploughing, planting and harvesting grains which he sends back to the people during the lean season.
The grains are stored until June -July, the ensuing year when most people are completely out of food stuff, as the farmlands are only lush green fields.
This year’s distribution has been done, where nearly 1,000 households including the aged and physically challenged persons in the Nakpanduri – Bunkpurugu District were provided with free grains.
During a distribution of the grains, the philanthropist cum businessman, who’s a native of the area, Nanleeb Konlan Hills, explained to Citi Business News what motivated him to do this.
“As Northerners, we all know that this is a time where there is no food in the north, you only see green. So there are some who sleep without food for a day, two days or even three days. This is real, I have been doing this programme all years and I have suffered because I have been in this situation when my father passed away at a point in my life, so I know how it hurts, that’s why I decided to do my own farming and feed our people. They’re the people of God and also they’re the people of the world”.
Many people in this region cannot meet their daily basic food needs around this time of the year. A report by the Global Report on Food Crisis revealed surging levels of acute hunger where some 123 million people in 47 countries were affected by acute food insecurity in 2019.
The report further revealed that in West Africa, which has 9% of the global number of people in food crisis, 15 countries were found to be worse in food situation affecting up to 12.3 million people, with Northern Nigeria having the highest figures.
Although Ghana’s situation has not been captured in the report, inhabitants of the North East Region say the lean season has hit them hard. Kwaatin David and Konlanbik Simon gave a vivid account of their situation.
“This time it’s not easy to get food at all. Even if you are to get food unless on Market day. One bowl of maize is selling for GHS5.50 pesewas and how to get money to buy is not easy”.
“The condition is not favouring us at all because of hunger. In a day you normally eat once a day. We’re suffering a lot”.
Mr. Nanleeb Konlan, the Philanthropist, does not disagree with the assertions by these two friends.
“What they are telling you is a fact. You these crops here, there’s nothing that is ready as at now. So from now till the next month to two months before food will be ready. Most people don’t have food”.
The food crisis report defines acute food insecurity as hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to lives and livelihoods. The residents are facing widespread hunger at the moment as even those who planted early crops are yet to harvest.
It was not surprising to find that some families are scavenging for wild plants including ‘false yam’, a shrub that grows at the backyard of many communities which they store up for use during the lean season.
Gaani Yakubu at Dukluatuk, a housewife, who had stored up the nuts of ‘false yam’ as a backup for the lean season, spoke to Citi Business News.
“We go and pick the nuts from the wild, then we bring them and dry them. After they are dried, we crack and remove the good nuts. From there, we soak the nuts for 7 days to get the poison out of it. Every day, you have to change the water three times up to the 7th day when you are sure that the poison is out completely. Then you dry them again and store them. You can add it to other cereals like beans and maize to grind them for your food. It helps us,” she said.
“When you take a bite and it tastes bitter, you know that it is still not safe to eat, so you keep soaking it until the 7 days then you bite again and see that it is not bitter anymore before you can use them,” she added.
This is why the Philanthropist has targeted such food insecure households with the annual distribution of grains in the area, which is helping under-privileged persons like Daboo Sambian and Azumah Kombat, both visually impaired natives who depend only on the gestures of people around them.
“I have suffered for long. My wife used to be working to take care of me, but she is no more. The last time in this same season, he brought us maize. I just got home with the maize and my son’s wife was due for labour but there was no food. They sent it to grind it and I continue to thank God for it. This year again I am receiving it,” Daboo Sambian said.
“The maize I have received will help me a lot. I will let them grind it so I can use it to prepare any food I want. I have been suffering so much because of food,” Azumah Kombat also said.
Whilst praising the philanthropist for his constant support to the poor in the area, the Chief of Nakpanduri, David Kansuk, admits widespread poverty in the area has plagued families for far too long and attributes that to the absence of mechanized agriculture.
“The way we farm, we use the crude methods, so if the government can give us inputs like fertilizers, tractor services and other services it will help us a lot. I know the community is filled with a lot of people who are willing to go into farming, but their ability to farm has been restricted by their level of poverty”.
Government subsidies in agriculture are insufficient to reach everybody in the area according to the residents, reason why the philanthropist is providing support for the communities to lessen the impact of poverty.
This is done through the free provision of pigs, cashew seedlings and fertilizer to needy people in the Bimobaland.