The Oil4Food Campaign is a collaborative and innovative mission to mobilize support and make small-scale agriculture one of Ghana’s top priorities for the investment of oil and gas revenues.

It all began in 2013, when Oxfam began working with local Ghanaian organizations to mobilize communities and lobby the government to invest in small-scale agriculture.

Ghana is a nation of small-scale farmers, who represent 60 percent of the country’s economically active population. Many of these farmers are impoverished and many are women, who labor on very small plots of land with little to no say in agricultural policy and decision-making. Small-scale farmers thus do not have access to improved fertilizers and seeds, processing and storage facilities, and proper irrigation.

This lack of investment in small-scale agriculture is a very real problem.

Oxfam noted this, as well as the fact that Ghana’s oil exports are expected to generate an average of $1 billion per year over the next twenty years. Why not channel this revenue into something poverty-reducing and sustainable?

Thus came the Oil4Food Campaign, which called upon the Ghanaian government to increase agricultural spending from 8.5 percent to 14.1 percent of the total GDP, as well as focus this spending on impoverished small-scale farmers.

Word of the Oil4Food Campaign spread rapidly and gained a huge level of public support among villages across the country. A mobile phone petition proved highly successful, and was promoted in newspapers, TV, radio and public events. Urban youth in Ghana became an active constituency on the issue, spreading the message through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Oxfam also engaged the public by visiting over 200 rural communities, explaining the campaign and urging farmers to speak up. Paper ‘thumbprint’ petitions were even available to be signed by those not able to read or write.

Using these traditional and media platforms, the petition ended up collecting more than 20,000 signatures. One hundred farmers marched to Parliament to present it to the government.

The months spent campaigning paid off well for small-scale farmers when the 2014 Budget was presented on November 19, 2013. The following conditions were included:

  • Maintained agriculture as one of the four priority sectors to invest oil revenue in the next 3 years.
  • Allocated 15 percent of government-expected oil revenue in 2014 to agriculture under the Annual Budget Funding Allocation. This in addition to the mainstream budget allocation to the agricultural sector represents a 23 percent increase in agricultural budget allocation from 2013, with the vast majority of this money (94.5 percent) allocated on ‘poverty focused agriculture.’
  • Proposed to scale up the commercial agricultural insurance system established in 2011 on a pilot basis to cover multiple crops, weather and more regions.

The success of the campaign was celebrated across the nation on National Farmers Day in December.

The work of Oxfam and its Ghanaian partners, as well as the work of the Ghanaian people in mobilizing their fellow community members, shows how the collaboration of many in fighting for their rights can be a real cause to celebrate.

— Mollie O’Brien

Sources: OXFAM, OXFAM(2), Joy Online