Development watchers have expressed concerns about deepening bite of HIV/AIDS in the Nabdam District, warning it is a major roadblock to steps being taken by stakeholders to deal with low agricultural production and chronic food insecurity in that deprived part of the Upper East region.
The district recorded 52 cases of the disease in 2016 and at least 56 people in the area have tested positive for the infection in yet-to-end 2017. Whilst productive adults (including smallholder farmers) dominate the figures, six children also have been confirmed to have been infected through their mothers in the latest cases.
A public grief over the worsening scourge took centre stage at the celebration of the 33rd edition of the Farmers’ Day at Zanlerigu, a community in the district, where traditional authorities, government officials, aid agencies, heads of departments and natives gathered Friday to award some farmers for their contributions to food security in the area. The event coincided with this year’s commemoration of the World AIDS Day.
“The breakdown of the [HIV/AIDS] cases recorded by facilities is as follows: Kongo-Logre, 11 cases; Sakoti, 8 cases; Ndong, 6 cases; Zanlerigu, 4 cases; Gane-Asonge, 4 cases; Pitanga, 3 cases; Pelungu, 3 cases; Dagliga, 2 cases and Nangodi, 1 case,” disclosed the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Nabdam, Agnes Anamoo, at the gathering.
She added: “This is alarming for our rural setting and should be the concern of all. We have to fight against the spread of this menace and as well stand against discrimination and injustice faced by people living with the menace. In line with those alarming figures, I entreat you all to know your HIV status as a step to adopting healthy lifestyle. I am using this opportunity to highlight these issues because [these] are issues that impact negatively on our agricultural production and other sectors of our economy.”
A young district, Nabdam brims over with distinguished intellectuals across the globe and a promising young generation threatened at home by an ever-present wave of teenage pregnancies and an overwhelming desire to dump books for gold inside illegal mining pits. In September, this year, three basic-school children from the area— Joseph Adule Aberika, Elizabeth Nagroug and Elizabeth Bugre— drew applause from far and near for inventing a chemical capable of keeping fall armyworms away from crops.
Over 2,000 Bags of Fertiliser Stored for Dry Season
The district, according to the DCE, has taken delivery of 5,225 bags of “assorted chemical fertiliser” under the government’s “Planting for Food and Jobs” policy.
She told the anniversary crowd that 3,114 bags of fertiliser were distributed among 697 farmers in the district during the last farming season and that a leftover 2,111 bags had been stored up for use in the dry season.
“I wish to use this opportunity to entreat you all to take advantage of the availability of these inputs to go into dry-season gardening and to those of you who are already into it to upscale your farming. Our vision is to improve production and achieve food security,” she urged.
The DCE also announced plans to, under the government’s “One-District-One-Factory” initiative, establish an oil processing factory to industrialise the district and to help curb a persistent urge particularly among young people to relocate to the country’s cities in an adventurous search for jobs.
“Feasibility works are ongoing for the establishment of a three-line oil processing mills [for] shea-butter, groundnut and soya in the district. We will roll out these programmes to promote rapid industrialisation of our district and create job opportunities and wealth for all. This would help arrest the seasonal migration of our youth to the southern part of the country,” she said.
Only Three Agric Extension Officers have Reported— MOFA
Welcoming the audience to the function, the acting Nabdam District Director of Agriculture, Mahamudu Iddi, said stakeholders in agriculture had played their roles “frantically” this year to ensure that the district was able to “contribute to the national food basket”.
He, however, mentioned a number of shortcomings he said frustrated the district’s agenda to cultivate a targeted area of 3,452 hectares of land under the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme.
“Nearly one-third of [the targeted area] has been achieved. But for challenges such as the lack of mechanisation centres, inadequate number of extension agents and late arrival of some of the seeds, this target would have been achieved. Also, government, through the National Youth Employment Authority, posted six agricultural extension agents to the district during the second quarter of the year. Only three have reported.
“Our effort was nearly thwarted by the emergence of the notorious fall armyworm that gnawed and grazed down our crops, especially maize. Thanks to government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, about 581 litres and 18kg of chemicals were immediately supplied and we fought back heavily and recovered about 98% of our crops from the worms. The weather has not also been helpful this season as the rains stopped abruptly in the second week of October when crops needed water for seed filling. We are taking steps to use planning as a tool to overcome this challenge in the next season,” said Mr. Iddi.
Dennis Outoyen from Kongo grabbed the coveted District Best Farmer Award. His prize package includes a motorised tricycle, one radio set, half piece of wax print, a pair of wellington boots, a bar of key soap, three cutlasses, two single PIC sacks, a certificate, two bags of compound fertiliser and two Knap sack sprayers. The 2017 edition of the Farmers’ Day is themed: “Farming for Food and Jobs”.