COVID-19: Monitoring citizens’ awareness and compliance with safety and preventive protocols and impact on economic activities in Kpandai district
- On May 5, 2020
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By: Joshua Gumah, Agriculture and Advocacy Project officer, 4R NSP, SEND GHANA (April 18, 2020)
Reports from Kpandai, Mbonwura and Nchapuni communities as of 31st March 2020 reveal the following:
AWARENESS: Generally, residents are aware that coronavirus is real. They also indicate a fair understanding of the disease, its mode of transmission and prevention protocols. This awareness has been created through traditional media like community FM radio stations and Television stations as well as through social media platforms for a few farmers with smart phones. Also, education on the pandemic is through announcements by Public Health Department and through interaction between staff of Department of Agriculture and farmers.
SOCIAL DISTANCING: Ban on funerals and social gatherings is being observed even though there was initial resistance requiring some enforcement measures by the District Security Council (DISEC). Residents are therefore avoiding handshakes and contacts with other objects and surfaces, not attending social and religious activities like funerals, weddings and congregational prayers. With regards to practicing regular hand washing with soap under running water, farmers complain that hand sanitizers are found in the district capital but not in their communities for those who have the money to purchase them.
FEAR OF RETURNEES AND POTENTIAL STIGMA: There was a rumor of a suspected case but the District Health Directorate assured that there is no local reported case in the district as at now. The major concern is regarding returnees from “Konkomba market” and “Agbogblosie” in Accra. These are those who left Accra before the partial lock down and started arriving in Kpandai on 30th Although the President of Ghana Nana Addo-Dankwa Akuffo Addo announced a partial lock down of Greater Accra, Tema and Kasoa as well as Kumasi on the 28th March 2020 this did not take immediate effect until 30th March 2020. This time lag afforded migrant workers from these cities to travel back to the North in their attempt to escape the lockdown. Another concern raised is the lack of testing kits. Residents are worried that the only screening measure being used by health officials is taking the temperature of these returnees with gun thermometers and allowing them to go home. Residents are afraid of these returned migrants as they mix with other people. There are no quarantine facilities and people are allowed to go home with the potential of spreading the infection to their families.
IMPACT ON ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES: The economic impacts of covid-19 in the district is three-fold. Firstly, Kpandai is typically a yam producing district but with the covid -19 pandemic now, farmers report a difficulty in selling their yam. There is low demand locally and due to the lockdown of Accra and Kumasi following the President directive, buyers from these cities are now few. The few buyers who manage to come, capitalize on the situation to cheat farmers on the pricing of yam. Post-harvest losses are taking a heavy toll on farmers as yams are getting rotten both on the farms and at homes. This is affecting the current farming season’s activities as farmers lack money to carry out farming activities. Currently a critical input required by farmers is weedicides for the maintenance of their farms but they lack money to acquire these due to their inability to sell their yam. This is a worrying situation since the planted yams are now geminating, and soon it will be impossible to control weeds with weedicides without killing the young yam plants.
Manual weed control is possible only for farmers with few acres but not large farms. Therefore, this situation potentially will have a negative impact on food security for the next season. On coping mechanisms some farmers are leveraging their social capital to access Agro-inputs for their farms. Based on trust, some farmers are able to buy weedicides on credit pending the sale of their yams. According to Robert Gbanzaba a farmer at Nchapuni, “I needed 15 cartons of weedicides (12 bottles per carton) but I had no cash, so I had to use my social relations to obtain 10 cartons out of the 15 on credit from an input dealer.” This coping mechanism is however not available for most farmers who face dire consequences on how to manage their farms whilst their yams are unsold and rotting away.
Secondly, an effect of the covid-19 on farming activities is the issue of hired labour. Mostly, farmers in the district depend on migrant laborers from neighbouring Togo to work on their farms. However, following covid-19 and the closure of our national borders it is impossible for these migrant labourers to come to our communities. Finding local labour in the communities is difficult since almost everyone has his or her farm to attend to. According to farmers in the district, their usual practice of organizing communal labour is currently not an option because of social distancing requirements. This situation will negatively affect farm productivity and food security. According to Nana Anthony Awiagah a farmer leader in Nbonwura community “since Oti Region which shares border with Kpandai district has recorded covid-19 cases, I am getting worried that if there is a lockdown there, it will affect my movement and therefore my investment in a farm at Ahamasu in the Oti Region.”
Thirdly the covid-19 pandemic has led to increase in prices of cereals like maize in the markets in the district. Since most farmers concentrate on yam production, this increase in price of cereals has an effect on most farmers who need maize to feed their families. For instance, a bowl (‘Olonka’) of maize which was sold at GHS 4 in the Kpandai market has suddenly increased to GHS 5.
It is important that government, both central and local, should step up efforts to contain the pandemic as soon as practicable for normalcy to return. Otherwise if the current situation persists or worsen, including a lockdown of many other parts of the country there will be dire consequences regarding food production and food security in the Kpandai District and the country as a whole.
Source: Department of Agriculture, traditional authority and key informants.