Urban livelihoods and food and nutrition security in Greater Accra, Ghana

Urban livelihoods and food and nutrition security in Greater Accra, Ghana

Policymakers must recognise that urban poverty exists and that it is increasing

Substantial abstract of a report studying the impact of urban life on the livelihoods, food security, and nutritional status of the poor in Accra. Examines food consumption and employment and income, as well as hygiene practices, sanitation conditions, and practices related to the care and feeding of children to determine their contributions to malnutrition. The report provides an overall framework for analysing the linkages between livelihood security, nutritional security, and factors such as income, women’s labor, and child care practices.

Findings include the following:

  • Employment and income: Structural adjustment and the redeployment of government and parastatal workers have put thousands out of work. High inflation, lack of access to credit, and increases in the number of people seeking jobs in the city are all constraints to self-employment, which is the only remaining option for many people. Men and women earn income very differently in Accra. Most men engage in skilled or unskilled labor, while women are more likely to be self-employed in petty trade or street food vending.
  • Nutrition: In terms of current caloric intake, roughly 40 percent of households in Accra could be classified as food insecure. Since 1993, the nutritional status of children in Accra has been deteriorating
  • Child care: Urban living presents particular problems in caring for children because women, usually the primary caregivers, must generate income however the study does not show adverse effects on children when mothers work. Higher incomes lead to greater food availability, higher-quality diets, and better health for the child but not to significantly improved care practices, the only factor that is found to bring about important improvements in care is mother’s education.

Policy interventions must address the realities of urban life — reliance on cash, dependence on purchased foods, and the need for marketable skills to earn a living. Key interventions linking urban and rural economic growth include:

  • every effort should be made to increase the level of women’s education
  • messages on improved childcare and hygiene practices, such as proper breast feeding and weaning, should be directed to the health sector in general as well as to individual mothers
  • to slow the increase in imports, processed foods derived from domestically produced crops such as maize, yams, and plantains should be developed to meet the needs of the urban population

City level interventions should include:

  • Compensating indigenous peoples for lost land and preventing further distruction of land in peri-urban areas
  • taking steps to deal with the problems of the petty traders and street vendors
  • reforming the regulatory sphere of local governments to reduce harassment of the self-employed
  • setting aside certain areas of the central business district for pedestrians and petty traders only
  • strengthening the capacity of traders’ associations to work directly with city authorities
  • encourage street food vendors to form associations to self-inspect and regulate hygiene to prevent contamination, emphasizing participation and collaboration rather than control

The fulltext of this report is at Report(1.2 MB PDF)

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