By Inusah Akansoke Al-Hassan (YES 2009-2010, Ghana, placed by PAX in Austin, MN)
Food security has been a dominant concern for over five million people living in northern Ghana for years. This is largely due to limited rainfall, which occurs almost exclusively during a short rainy season. During the rest of the year, rainfall is too infrequent to dependably grow crops. Seasonal food supply shortages occur yearly in northern Ghana. The primary crops grown here are grains and tubers. Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, only last a few days after their harvest, and can only be harvested in the rainy season. Local diets are nutritionally deficient, resulting in malnutrition. This especially affects children and is a leading cause of death for children below the age of seven.
To help my community of Kanvilli, Tamale address food insecurity and nutritional deficits, I applied for and was awarded a YES Alumni Grant. From May to September 2021, I organized the Organic Vegetable Garden project in collaboration with the school I founded, AKGS Computer School. The project trained 54 primary school students and 13 local women on how to grow nutrient-rich vegetables to complement the diets of their own families as well as people living in neighboring communities through the sale of produce at reduced prices. Participants learned to cultivate vegetables, including lettuce, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and okra, and to harvest produce year-round.
Participants were also trained to save clean, non-soapy water used for household activities to water their home gardens instead of throwing it away. Participants who can afford it may also use a small amount of water from their taps to contribute to dripline channels.
Not only did this project train participants on improving the nutritional value of the diets of their families and minimize food insecurity, but it also gave them an avenue to make a small income from the sale of the vegetables they grow at home. This will contribute to the economic wellbeing of participants and their families. This project will contribute to a higher standard of living and better nutrition for the participants and the wider community.
This project added to my personal growth and experience, giving me the opportunity to learn interpersonal skills when dealing with participants. The opportunity given to me by my host family, the Bergstroms, who opened their doors and hearts to me in Austin, Minnesota, has not been in vain. I am so grateful to them and Tracy Smith, my Local Coordinator. The YES program offered me an enlightening education and the ability to identify community challenges and develop strategic approaches to solving them.
I am forever grateful to the many wonderful host families, who volunteer to welcome YES students into their homes. I am also grateful to my placement organization, Program for Academic Exchange (PAX), U.S. lawmakers for continuously supporting the YES program, and the American people, whose taxes sponsor the YES program. Finally, I’d like to thank the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring the YES program. Thank you!