A Continuing Model of Impact & Partnership, the Hunger Alliance of Ghana Continues to Make Its Mark

April 21, 2016

Nathan Magrath, Manager of Communications and Outreach, Alliance to End Hunger

It was already a hot and muggy morning at the British Council in Accra when the conference started.  The Hunger Alliance of Ghana (HAG), through the support of the Alliance to End Hunger, was hosting a conference on non-state actor engagement in Ghanaian food security policy.  The topic of the day was engagement in the process surrounding the Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP). METASIP is Ghana’s primary mechanism for agricultural development under their national approach to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP).  As with many national development plans, there is sometimes a disconnect between forming genuine national plans owned by the country as a whole, versus primarily the government.  Conferences such as this bring together non-state actors to discuss how policy processes can be approached by a wide variety of stakeholders seeking input into development plans. This is just one way in which the Hunger Alliance of Ghana bolsters civil society’s voice in food security, nutrition, and agricultural development nationally.

A Call to Mobilize

The Hunger Alliance of Ghana was formed out of a global movement called the Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM).  This movement, housed at the time at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, called for the formation of ‘national alliances’ of civil society actors to form in order to tackle hunger and malnutrition in their own national contexts.

Nana Ayim, National Coordinator for the Ghanaian Alliance, heard the call and formed the coalition in Ghana.  Upon learning of the global movement, he instantly saw the potential benefit.  “Our National Alliance would help us drive our own commitment to end hunger,” he recalled during an interview. “It would help civil society to lead. Progress would be achieved by all—not just the government—by working together.”

Originally focused on school feeding, the Ghanaian Alliance quickly expanded its membership, and the organization evolved into an influential civil society voice tackling many issues related to food insecurity in Ghana.  Mr. Ayim, an experienced ex-government employee from the executive’s office, is not embarrassed to admit that he is personally well-connected. Through his leadership, the Ghanaian Alliance was able to help establish a parliamentary caucus committed to issues of hunger in the country. This caucus continues to be an instrumental ally to the Ghanaian Alliance to this day.

A Committed Partnership Across an Ocean

As the Ghanaian Alliance adopted a leadership role in voicing civil society’s advice and concerns, they also sought support to sustain their movement.  In 2011, a relationship was formalized between the Hunger Alliance of Ghana and the Alliance to End Hunger in the United States through the National Alliance Partnership Program (NAPP).  The NAPP initiative partners the U.S. Alliance with National Alliances around the world to help them develop capacities to build and sustain their coalitions, as well as bolster their voices in food security, nutrition, and agricultural development policy processes.

“Our relationship with the U.S. Alliance has helped us a great deal for years, even from our infant stage before the financial help,” recalls Nana Ayim. “But with the help of NAPP, we were able to bring together representatives from many organizations. This coming-together is essential, and would have been difficult without support.”

NAPP initially supported the Ghanaian Alliance through a small grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  This grant allowed the coalition to convene multiple meetings of stakeholders around the country to discuss cooperative strategies to work in CAADP, Feed the Future, and other international and national food security mechanisms.

Now, thanks to a grant from the US Agency for International Development through the Feed the Future Initiative, the NAPP initiative can continue to work with the Ghanaian Alliance in its further development.  A $75,000 sub-grant to the Ghanaian Alliance is helping to supplement basic office-related expenses and salaries, as well as assisting in building an advocacy strategy, bolstering network strength, and supporting conferences such as the recent Non-State Actors conference on METASIP.

Clear Value Added for Members

Member organizations of the Ghanaian Alliance are continually expressing admiration and support for the work of the coalition.

Isaac Ampomah works for Concerned Health Education Ghana.  His organization works with community groups and helps address policy related to health education around the country.  “Ultimately I believe health—especially nutrition—and agriculture need to be [approached] together,” stated Ampomah in an interview, “and the Alliance has been able to connect us to key players in the food and nutrition sector.”

The Hunger Alliance of Ghana has also provided valuable support to community projects around the country.  Hajj Abdullah Tetteh is the Accra Regional Chairman for the Ghana Muslim Mission, which supports a network of schools throughout the country. “We asked the Hunger Alliance of Ghana to come to one of our secondary schools and assist in sourcing funding to set up a farming demonstration on unused land.” Mr. Tetteh explained. “Through this, other schools and perspective farmers can see and learn from it. This farm will also produce vegetables as a commercial venture.”  A partner of Mr. Tetteh and consultant to the Ghanaian Alliance, Dr. Noah Owusu-takyi, explained that the Alliance is helping in similar ways elsewhere: “There are many schools in the country that have undeveloped land, but not the technical skills to cultivate that land. The Hunger Alliance has given us the support needed to help these schools develop the land and feed themselves.”

But it is clear that what members find exceptionally useful is the coalition’s ability to network—with other members, with government, and with other experts working with the organization. Audrey Baffour of member organization The Wellbeing Foundation, and also a board member of the Ghanaian Alliance, put it succinctly:  “If you are stuck and don’t know where to go, you can call the Hunger Alliance, and if they themselves don’t have an answer, one of their members will provide you with the information you need.”

Looking to the Future

As with any strong organization, the Hunger Alliance of Ghana carries aspirations for the future as well as pride in past accomplishments.  When asked, Mr. Amopomah of Concerned Health Education Ghana envisioned a network that is not only diverse, but also strong at the district level.  “We must continue to sustain the coalition’s programs. This means identifying players in various districts and help build the district capacity as well as the national capacity.”  He went on to explain that increased district engagement would lead to stronger evidence-based advocacy.

Nana Ayim agrees, and foresees that a Ghanaian Alliance that remains strong can continue to be a model for other developing countries striving to pull together their own coalitions.  And the continuing relationship with the U.S. Alliance bolsters his hope.  “Relationships forged through our work with the U.S. Alliance reminds us that we are not working alone. There is a global team we are working with.”  Mr. Ayim went on to explain that beyond these national partnerships, there is a continuing need to support an international network that can reinforce the work of coalitions around the world.

And the importance of these alliances themselves? “I’ll tell you one thing,” says Audrey Baffour, “this should be replicated in every country. This is a success story… to help this number of people under one umbrella… you can’t have it any better than that. We are fighting for the same thing and speaking the same language.”