Ghana — Traditional authorities have been urged to willingly release lands for the Youth in Agriculture programme in their various communities.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr. Ignatius Baffour-Awuah made the appeal at the joint celebration of the Region’s 22nd Farmers Day, World AIDS day and Regional Anti-Bush Fire Campaign held at Kenyasi in the Asutifi District.
According to the Minister, some Traditional Rulers in the Region have released lands at Branam and Ayirede in the Wenchi and Nkoranza Districts respectively for the production of high yielding maize and cashew.
He anticipated that the production and processing of and value addition to these crops would eventually lead to the establishment of local industries and provide employment for the teaming youth.
Since the day was commemorated as World AIDS Day, Mr. Baffour-Awuah stressed the need to protect farmers from HIV and AIDS.
He stated that most of farmers were women and with the prevalence rate showing that about 63% of the infected were women, there was the need to protect that group in order to avoid decline in agricultural production in the national economy.
The Minister entreated all to make a contribution either through a promise to support the Ghana AIDS Commission and its work or by promoting the campaign with the involvement of friends and colleagues.
The Brong Ahafo Regional Director of Health Services, Alhaji Dr. Mohammed Bin Ibrahim disclosed that the HIV prevalence rate for the Region decreased from 4.5% in 2004 to 3.3% in 2005, but noted however that the Region was rated second after Eastern Region in terms of the prevalence rate.
He said Ghana could achieve a middle-income status by 2015 if its human capital was improved by addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Bin Ibrahim revealed that 1,799 HIV cases were reported in the Region from January to September 2006, which brings the cumulative HIV/AIDS cases reported from 1986 to September 30, 2006 to 14,522.
He said to battle this, the Regional Health Directorate has embarked on activities such as public education and behaviour change communication on the disease, scaled up voluntary counseling and testing and prevention of mother to child transmission.
The Regional Director of MOH added that condom distribution, ensuring safe blood transfusion and provision of Antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV/AIDS was part of the measures to reverse the spread of HIV.
Again he disclosed that 216 people living with HIV/AIDS were currently receiving Antiretroviral drugs at the Regional Hospital in Sunyani.
He urged all to consider the theme for this year’s World AIDS day celebration, “Stop AIDS: Keep the promise; the time is now” and pause, focus and reflect on the devastating effect of thedisease.
Dr. Bin Ibrahim advised the gathering to be cautious about the factors that fuel the spread of the disease, which included the desire especially among the youth to earn a lot of money and become rich in the shortest possible time, the seductive way of dressing by young girls and the use of cell phones for dating.
He noted that the approach in addressing the challenge of HIV should be teamwork. In all, 21 farmers were awards whilst a 37-year-old Peter Gyan from the Jaman South District emerged the overall best farmer in the Region.
He received a corn mill, spraying machine, pair of Wellington boots, cutlasses, wax print, bars of key soap, certificate and a badge.