[Photo courtesy of www.christianaid.org.uk]
I often wonder about the farming sector in Ghana [especially small scale farmers] during this never ending recession. I wonder only because in England -where ‘government subsidized’ farmers are suffering –they at least get some help.....but what of Ghanaian farmers? Is there help for them concerning debt, loan sharks and market access? I stumbled across the following alarming piece by Erika Fredrickson -and it’s got me thinking........
Title: Farmer Suicides Rise in India and Ghana
By: Erika Fredrickson Date: Friday, 13 February 2009
The number of farms in India is decreasing while the number of farmer suicides increases. Between 1997 and 2007 it's reported that 182,936 Indian farmers killed themselves over debt-related issues. The actual number is probably higher because women aren't considered farmers in this kind of data-collection (they rarely get land in their name) yet they often are primary farmers. So any women suicides are deemed “suicide” but not “farmer suicide.”
This is the largest sustained wave of suicides in historical record. The way the stats break down is that ever since 2001, a farmer has committed suicide every 30 minutes on average in India. Peasant farming debt has doubled since the first decade of neo-liberalism “economic reforms.”
The suicides are highest among cash crop farmers, especially those who grow vanilla, groundnut, sugarcane, coffee, pepper and cotton. Giant seed companies have displaced cheap hybrid seeds and traditional seeds. When these farmers switch to GM crops, the crops often get attacked by pests and also need double the water. Farmers have to invest in pesticides: something they were told would not be needed. Their crops often fail, and they find themselves in huge debt. Hunger among farmers is skyrocketing. Healthcare costs make it worse. Many farmers have to work on other people's farms to make a living. And as government subsidies keep Western farmers strong on the international market, the Indian farmers can't compete. Many of them kill themselves by drinking the pesticides they thought they wouldn't need.
In Ghana, there's also been a suicide wave, but here it's among small-scale tomato growers. The importation of tomato paste on the international market makes these farmers tomatoes difficult to sell because people are buying the paste instead of local tomatoes. Lack of refrigeration options leaves tomatoes to rot. And the farmers find themselves harassed by creditors at which point they see suicide as their final option. [Credit: www.envirovore.com]