Chiefs and farmers in the Sissala area of the Upper West Region are demanding a fair share of the €35 million (670.10km) European Union (EU) funded farm access roads project recently launched in the Upper West Region.
Data from the Regional Department of Agriculture showed clearly that the Sissala East, Wa East and the Sissala West Districts were the three leading producers of maize and other staple foods in the Upper West Region and Ghana at large as it collectively produced a total of 103,474.42 metric tons of maize in the 2019 farming season alone.
Therefore, the exclusion of the three Districts from the project, which aimed at improving inter-connectivity between areas of production and market centres according to the Chiefs was not only an aberration but a grave social injustice perpetuated against the people inhabiting in those areas.
Addressing a news conference in Tumu in the Sissala East Municipality on behalf of the dissatisfied Chiefs on Monday, farmers, agribusiness actors and the youth, Kuoro Abu Diaka Sukabe Ninia V, the Paramount Chief of the Buwa Traditional Area, noted that the people have over the years lamented to successive governments and development partners about the total neglect of the deplorable and almost non-existent farm access roads in the farming communities of the Sissala Districts.
He pointed out that the criteria for selecting the beneficiary districts clearly was not borne out of adequate evaluation of proper data that looked at production levels and severity of the need for feeder roads.
“It is obvious that if you traverse Upper West Region for the first time, it is easily noticeable that the aforementioned districts stand out as the most deprived and perhaps neglected districts on issues of feeder roads or farm access roads compared to the current beneficiary districts of the EU funded farm access road projects in the region”.
According to him, the 2010 Ghana Living Standard Survey puts the Sissala West as the poorest District in the region, adding that the position of the Sissala East, Lambussie and Wa East were equally not enviable, though ironically they labour as much to feed the region and by extension the whole of the country on grains and cereals for the past two decades.
“The survey clearly reveals a consistent intent to neglect the four Sissala Districts over the years with current inequity on the road contracts being one of them”, he said.
“These consistent neglects makes us wonder whether the objective of the breakaway from the then Upper Region, which was to ensure fair and equitable distribution of state projects and programmes to form the Upper West Region in 1983 was worth the sweat and toil put in by their forbearers – and of course a zeal in the need for further split of the region in the near distant future”, Kuoro Ninia added.
The Paramount Chief said the biased selection committee that resulted in the exclusion of Wa East, Sissala West and Sissala East Districts, which were the leading producers of food crops in the region was unfair and insensitive to the plight of the farming communities.
He therefore demanded that the Ministry of Roads and Highways should publish the selection criteria that formed the basis for inclusion or exclusion of beneficiary districts under the EU funded 670km farm access roads project on principle of transparency and accountability.
Kuoro Ninia also demanded a reprioritization and selection of the farm access roads to be done based in production levels and severity of need in the spirit of fairness, social justice and non-discrimination.
Alternatively, he demanded that the Ministry of Roads and Highways should immediately find additional resources to create, rehabilitate, and maintain the abandoned farm access roads in the four excluded farming districts under the EU funded project.
“We wish to state emphatically that this petition is not against any district benefiting from the EU funded farm access projects. We are demanding for fairness, equity, social justice and non-discrimination in the selection, allocation and distribution of development projects particularly roads”, said the Paramount Chief.
“It is our hope that in the shortest possible time, our grievances will be attended to for an amicable solution to be reached to calm aggrieved youth and focus groups likely to advise themselves”, Kuoro Ninia said.