The Togolese republic, a strip of land east of Ghana and west of Benin, has a population of 7.3 million. People there are of 37 different tribes. Most speak Ewe or Mina, though a history of French colonialism makes French the official language and the language of commence.
Since declaring independence from France in 1960, Togo has gradually transitioned to democracy. Historically powerful political parties have proved a great challenge — they are reluctant to let go. Human rights abuses (especially within prisons,) capital punishment and a corrupt police force are widely reported.
Still, under the leadership of President Faure Gnassingbe, arbitrary arrest and political persecution have subsided. His own election (2007) and reelection (2010) were considered credible by international observers.
The Togolese economy relies heavily on commercial agriculture. Cocoa, coffee and cotton make up about 40 percent of revenue on exported goods and employ much of the population. Nearly 65 percent of the labor force works in agriculture. Subsistence farming is relied upon by many Togolese, 58.7 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
Despite the dominance of agriculture in Togo many still suffer severe hunger. In 2006, almost half the population was underfed. In 2010, 16.5 percent of children under the age of 5 were underweight. Trading Economics reports that undernourished people in Togo have a deficit of nearly 280 kilocalories daily. Why?
The success of a harvest depends on much. In 2007, northern floods destroyed crops and livestock. Malnutrition in the region, among Togo’s poorest, increased significantly. The south was hit the next year with rain that inundated fields and washed away roads. Good weather in Togo is as vital as it is unreliable.
Then there’s the fact that crops need to be planted, and seeds are in short supply. As a whole, Togo has struggled to support a rapidly growing population with increased food production. It has become difficult for rural farmers to access both fertilizers and grains in time for planting.
Fortunately, there has been some, if not extraordinary, international aid in Togo. The World Bank, the United Nations and the World Food Programme all maintain a presence there. Most remarkable, though, is the attitude of the Togolese government. In 2012, President Gnassingbe announced a 1 billion dollar food security investment plan. Ideally, agricultural imports will be reduced while agricultural techniques and conservations expedite production.
The goal is ambitious, but Togo has the capacity for self-sufficiency and a government that cares enough to try for it.
– Olivia Kostreva