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Recent studies in the poverty situation in Ghana reveals that the Upper East Region made up of Six districts including Builsa is the most deprived in the Country.  Statistics from these studies indicate that for the Country as a whole, whilst overall poverty decreased between 1991/92 and 1998/99 from 51.7% to 39.5% and extreme poverty also declined from 36.5% to 26.8% over the same period, Upper East Region, including Builsa experienced increases in poverty and extreme poverty in the 1990s.  (GSS, 2000: Poverty trends in the 1990s also quoted in the GPRS, Feb 2002 PP 10-11). 

Comparative analysis between rural and urban areas in the Upper East Region reveals that in general, people in the rural areas experience more abject poverty than their urban folks and this tend to suggest that Builsa being a purely rural district seems to have more serious poverty incidence than most other districts in the Region.  In Builsa, the Poverty Trends Analysis reports that 9 out of every 10 people are classified as poor with average 1999 Standard of living of ¢562,700.00.  In terms of economic activity, poverty is by far highest among food crop farmers who constitute not less than 90% of those in gainful employment in the district.

Household Expenditure
In Builsa, like in other parts of the Upper East Region, it is estimated that the average household expenditure and mean annual per capita expenditure are respectively ¢1,793,000.00 and ¢399,000.00 as compared to national averages of ¢4,244,000.00 and ¢487,000.00 in that order.  The studies indicate that these mean annual household and per capita expenditures are about the lowest among all regions of the country. (GSS-GLSS4, PP.84-85, October 2000) (Exch. Rate March 1999 US$1 =¢2,394.00).  There are striking disparities in household and per capita expenditure levels among urban and rural dwellers in the district, indicating that poverty situations are more entrenched among the rural folks than their urban counterparts.

Components Of Household Expenditure
Out of the mean annual household expenditure of ¢1.79m, it is estimated that 55% represents expenditure on food (45% in cash and 10% for consumption of own produced food); exactly 2% is accounted for by housing costs.  The remaining 42% of total expenditure represents other non-food expenditure (36% in cash and 6% for the imputed value of non-food items used by households). Expenditure on medical care and health constitutes only about 4.6% of the mean annual household spending of ¢1.79m.

The implication of this is that people in the district spend not less than 95.4% of their total annual income on such needs as food, clothing, housing and utilities, transport and communications, education, recreation, other household goods, and some miscellaneous goods and services. It is in fact estimated that some 60,000 people representing 79.6% of the district’s population live in extreme poverty with average welfare of ¢562,700.00 p.a. at 1999 income levels. This implies that these peoples standard of living is insufficient to meet their basic nutritional requirements even if they devoted their entire consumption budget to food (calculations from data presented in the “Poverty Trends in Ghana in the 1990s”, GSS, October 2000).  Hence in the face of rising economic hardships and deepening poverty especially among the rural population, the tendency is for people to switch larger proportions of household income to meet other needs to the detriment of basic health services.  

The health of the people then suffers and in a situation where people have to make out-of –pocket payments for essential health care delivered by a Health Institution as pertains under the present Cash & Carry System, then it must be noted that a lot more people in the district are crowded out of basic health care under the National Health System.  The Scenario looks even gloomier when one considers the current rising trends in the prices of drugs and medical supplies.  For instance the WHO estimates that between 40% and 60% of the over 18million people of Ghana have no access to safe drugs mostly because of cost factors.

Disparities By Gender
Poverty in the Builsa District, like in other parts of Ghana has important gender dimensions and requires focused attention. .  The incidence of poverty is even more striking among the women who constitute about 52% of the district population.

The women have heavier time burdens, lower rates of utilization of productive resources and lower literacy rates. Disparities with respect to access to, and control of a range of assets such as land, credit, education levels, legal rights and protection are all skewed against women and children in the District. Gender disparities exist with respect to access to and control of a range of assets including direct productive assets such as land and credit, human and Social Capital assets such as participation at various levels of decision making, legal rights and protection.

Socio- cultural factors and practices such as early betrothals, widowhood rights and funeral arrangements, inheritance system, etc continue to perpetuate the gender inequities in access to and use of services and tend to entrench poverty incidence among women.  Also inequitable allocation of food within the household, leads to malnutrition among women and children.  Again gender-based violence has important health, economic and political implications.

Statistics indicate that HIV prevalence rate is higher among women than men in the age group 15-24years.  Thus the risk factors and vulnerability are greater in women than in men and this give serious implications for care, treatment and for addressing the needs of AIDS orphans, which falls disproportionately on women.

Gender differences also exist with regards to Women and Men’s legal status and also in their rights and protection under the law.  In particular, women’s decision-making choices at the community and household levels in the rural areas are constrained by cultural taboos and resistance from men and this tend to further entrench their poverty situation.

Social Dimensions Of Poverty
The high incidence of poverty in the district manifests itself in a number of social development indicators. For instance whereas in the whole country infant and under five mortality rates decreased from 66/1000 and 119/1000 to 56/1000 and 108/1000 respectively from 1993 to 1998, statistics available at the District Health Management Team (DHMT), Sandema indicates that they are about twice and three times as high respectively in the Builsa District.

The main reason is that about 30%-35% of children in the District are not fully immunized before their first birthday anniversary.  There is also a high prevalence of Diarrhoea, in the district, about 33% prevalence rate compared to the national figure of 18%, a situation that is due mostly to poor sanitation arising from indiscriminate defecation in residential areas and around water sources.

Malnutrition measured by underweight and stunting among children under five years is similarly higher than normal in the Builsa District, measuring 35-38% and 37-42% respectively compared to 25-27% and 26% nationally. Use of health facilities (as indicated by the number of individuals seeking modern medical care following an illness or injury) is also low and on the decline following the introduction of comprehensive cost recovery in the health delivery system in the 1990s.

A similar situation is revealed in respect of education.  In particular completion rates remain quite low at about 74% for boys and 67% for girls at primary school and 80% for boys and 65% for girls at Junior Secondary School.  The quality of education as indicated by pupil’s performance at the BECE and SSS examination is alarmingly low, further impinging on enrolment and retention in schools.

Participatory assessments further reveal the seriousness of social problems, especially the phenomenon of child fosterage, forced marriages, child labour and other harmful traditional practices like FGM.  Further, the threat of HIV/AIDS had intensified with high prevalence and infective rates among commercial sex workers and long-distance truck drivers operating in the District.  It is reported that in Ghana as a whole, 200 people are infected with the virus each day.

Statistics available at the DHMT, in Sandema indicate that there were 142 reported HIV/AIDS cases in the Health Institutions of the District in the 3-year period 2000-2002, giving an Institutional Prevalence Rate of 142/75,375*100=0.2%, which translates to about 2 HIV/AIDS persons in every 1000 population or 20 HIV/AIDS cases in 10,000 population. Factors acting against poverty reduction include high levels of economic instability, particularly the high rates of inflation, limited growth in agriculture and agro-processing, low, regressive and unsustainable social spending, and serious gabs in the planning and management of poverty reduction programmes in the district.

People’s Perception Of Poverty
Attitudes To Poverty
A participatory Poverty Analysis (PPA) study conducted in 36 sample communities from 14 Districts and 6 Regions of the country (GPRS page.13) revealed that on the whole, communities have an innate understanding of the symptoms and causes of poverty. 

According to the Study, with the exception of few people who think poverty is conditioned by destiny or fate and that it is an incurable disease, large majority of respondents believed that with help or support, communities and individuals had the ability to intervene in the pattern of life, to improve their social and economic environment and to enhance choice.

At the district level, people are often optimistic that policy measures, programmes and projects when properly planned and effectively delivered were a means of first reducing and then eliminating poverty. This awareness is particularly important to the role of the District Assembly as:
  • Change agent for the transformation of Society and the local-economy
  • Mobilizer of human and physical resources
  • Protector of vulnerable groups and 
  • Provider of information to occupational and social groups.
To most communities the study further revealed that poverty is represented by a lack of basic necessities and facilities, an inability to provide education and medical care for the family, etc. There is marked gender differentiation in relation to poverty.  Whereas men give priority to the need for support to agriculture, non-farming activities and other alternative employment, women stress on the importance of being able to support the family in meeting the educational and health needs of family members, particularly children.  Lack of access by women to land and other assets is also critical.

Manifestations Of Poverty
The Participatory Poverty Analysis study revealed that most people think poverty manifests itself in the loss of dignity and respect for a person.  In the Builsa District, like in most other Districts in the northern sector of Ghana.  It is of the concerted view of most people that the high rate of out-migration especially of the youth (15-45years) to the middle and southern belts especially, Ashanti, Greater Accra, Brong-Ahafo and Western Regions, as reported by the 2000 Populations Census, is the direct result of poverty.  Besides, hunger, malnutrition, ill health, high mortality rates, low life expectancy, increase in school dropouts, low levels of education, increase in crime wave, personal conflicts, loss of integrity, streetism and commercial sex work are all some of the consequences of poverty.

Household Coping Strategies
Methods for dealing with conditions of poverty are varied and include seeking alternative employment, working harder, mortgaging property, selling assets, reducing diet, taking children out of schools to put to work, borrowing, begging, prostitution, and stealing.  On the whole, those in poverty tend to obscures their level of hardship and suffering by making light of their condition.

It is noted however that people in poverty and extreme poverty represent an under-class in society that remains under-privileged, un-represented and a prey to exploitation. Community consultations have shown that poverty, especially in the rural areas requires action that is more directly focused on the fundamental causes of poverty, and the inequitable distribution of the benefits of society.

Priority Interventions
To reduce the level of poverty in the District, the specific priority action areas recommended in line with the GPRS are:
  1. Small-scale irrigation schemes in water-deficient districts like Builsa.
  2. Provision of potable water in all communities
  3. Generation of non-farming employment
  4. Improved access to education and health facilities
  5. Free basic education including provision of school clothing, and meals for children in the district.
  6. Measures to ensure equal rights to women.
  7. Provision of safety nets and measures to rehabilitate those trapped within demeaning and anti social circumstances.
  8. Reform of the traditional land administration system to give farmers and those in the informal industrial sector access to land as a monetary asset.
  9. Increased provision of useable vocational training schemes.
It is worth noting that strategies in the District Medium Term Development. Plan 2002-2004 are poverty focused and planned targets and activities in the various Thematic areas are designed to address the poverty situation in the District as analyzed above in an integrated whole.

Type Of Activity
The potential workforce of the District derives from its adult population that is available to work. This is defined as the population aged 15 years and older. Of the potential workforce it is known that some may be pursuing legitimate concerns such as schooling that are not economic at the material time and therefore are properly excluded from those the District can count on for the production of goods and services. Others are retired or disabled. This category is referred to as economically non-active.

The economically active population is made up of those who actually worked people who do not work during the reference period (i.e. 7 days to the census night) but who are regarded as economically active because they are available and able to work. These people include those with jobs but on temporary leave and those without jobs but actively seeking employment, by writing applications or visiting agencies and institutions in search of job.

In terms of gender, 3/4ths of all females in the economically active age group worked whilst a slightly smaller proportion of the males (69.73%) worked.

About 11.56% of the economically active population had job but did not work, whilst 16.03% were unemployed. Again in terms of gender 13.72% of the males in this group had job but did not work as against 9.20% of their female counterparts. Also 16.55% of the economically active males aged 15years and above were employed as against 15.46% of their female counterparts. It is further observed from Table 2.3 that for all categories of persons who worked, the males slightly exceeded the females. (i.e. 50.36% males as against 49.64% females).

There were also males who had job but did not work (62.05%) than females (37.95%) just as there were slightly more unemployed males (54.0%) than females (46.0%).  The proportion of those who worked 6 or 7 days is reflective of the agrarian nature of the economic activity of the population. Farmers generally work 6 days in the week and have a days rest but even on the rest day some take produce directly to the market or undertake maintenance work on their farming tools such as donkey-carts, ploughs, hoes, besides other related works as cleaning of animal stalls and pens.  There are no substantial differences between males and females for the specific number of days. 

The Main Occupations in the Builsa District in order of magnitude are agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry and related activities (67.4%). Production and transport equipment work (13.5%), Sales work (8.6%), and Services work (4.5%) and Professional, technical and related work (3.8%) (Table 2.5).  The five together make up 97.8% of all occupations in the District. The Occupational Structure of the District is thus not very diverse. The substantial lack of formal sector, office based bureaucratic activities in the District is reflected in the fact that only 1.4% of the economically active are engaged in administrative, managerial, clerical and related work.  The Table 2.5 shows in particular that about two out of every three people in active employment is in agriculture (67.4%). The ratio is about equal for both males and females. However, the proportion of females in sales work is about twice that of males.

Industry of the Economically Active
In terms of industrial classification Table 2.6 indicates that, the major economic activities are agriculture including hunting, forestry and fishing (77%); Manufacturing including small scale processing activities (6.9%) and Wholesale & Retail Trade (80%).  Social Service including Public Administration, Education, Health, Community Service and Private household services constitute 5% of gainful work.  Besides Mining & Quarrying, Construction and Real Estate development constitute 1.3% of gainful work.  Other activities like provision of utilities (electricity, gas, water) Transport, Storage and Communication, Financial Intermediation and Hotels & Restaurant Services are not well developed in the district and make up about 1.6% of all gainful work.

It is important to note that the three major industrial activities of the District, namely Agriculture, Whole sale and Retail Trade and Manufacturing are constituting the largest activities at both the Regional and National Levels.

It is observed from the Table above that the Private Sector, made up of the Private Formal (18%), Private Informal (77.6%), NGO/International Organizations (0.1%) and others (0.2%) provides employment to 95.9% of the working population in the Builsa District. Only 3.9% are in the Public Sector and 0.2% employed by the Semi Public/Parastatal Sector (Table 1g). The large size of the Private Informal Sector adversely affects the tax revenue of the District since direct tax deductions becomes a problem.  If the Private Sector is to be the engine of growth then the private informal sector with 77.6% of the District’s Workforce, should be harnessed to play a leading role in the growth of the District economy.

The Table above shows the percentage distribution of the population of the district by employment status. About 83.4% of the economically active are Self-employed without employees. Unpaid family workers are the next highest category with 7.7%. Employees constitute only 5.8% and the Self-employed with employees make up 2.0%. Domestic Employed or House helps constitute 0.4% whilst Apprentices and other make up 0.8%.  Employed and Self-employed with employees who can be taxed at source together make up 7.8%.

Structure Of The Local Economy
Labour Participation Economically Active And Non-Active Population: The potential workforce of the district derives from its adult population that is available and able to work.  In the Builsa District, like in most societies, however, there is room for those outside of the legally defined age group (15-64years) to engage in lawful activities for themselves or their families.  Again there is enough evidence in the district like in most parts of the country that children as young as 7 years do engage in family enterprises, while retired persons also engage in active economic pursuits. The population of interest therefore covers those aged at least 7 years at the time of the census.  Table 2.3.1 compares the situation of the economically active and non-active population of the District with that of the Upper East Region as reported by the 2000 National Population and Housing Census.

This figure represented 78% of the District population.  Of this category of people the census reports that 35,194 were economically active.  Again of this group, 23,446 people actually worked between 1-7days for pay a week before the census.  A smaller number, 4,365 people, had job but did not work one week before the census, possibly because they were on leave or sick, etc.  Of much significance is the 7,383 people in the economically active group who were unemployed, meaning though these people were fit to work, they had no jobs and were actively looking for work at the time of the census.  The unemployed represents 21% of the economically active labour force of the District.

Of this Group, 6,490 were people who engaged in household duties without pay (i.e. Homemakers).  Another 9,485 or about 40% were students.  These students at the time of the census were pursuing educational career or schooling, which are not economic at the material time and are therefore properly excluded from those the district can count on for production of goods and services.  They are properly referred to as economically non-active. It is observed from the table that the District has about 3,229-aged population and 551 retired persons. The physically disabled people who do not work because of their condition are about 510 or 2.15% of the economically non-active population.  All other categories of the economically non-active population in the district are about 4218.

Table 1.3.2 shows that the five main kinds of work people do in the district are agriculture and related work (67.4%), Production/Processing and transport equipment work (13.5%), sales work (8.6%), services (4.5%) and Professional and technical work (3.8%)

Employment Status
It is observed from table 1.3.4 that nearly 3/4th (72.5%) of the economically active population in the district are self-employed workers with no employees, with an additional 18.4% as unpaid family workers, apprentices and househelps in the private informal sector (both agriculture and non-agric). Large-scale businesses are few in the district hence the self-employed with employees constitute a very small proportion of those in active work (2.5%).  Employees mostly of the public services and the few relatively large businesses constitute 5.7% of the economically active population.

It is important to note that of all those in gainful employment in the district only 8.2% (Employees + self employed with employees) could be taxed at source.  Such an employment structure poses a challenge for the effective mobilization of tax revenue and the implications for any policy on taxation would need to be carefully considered.

Employment Sector
As indicated in table 1.3.5, the private sector (private formal + Informal) provides employment to 90.5% of the working population in Builsa.

It is therefore appropriate to harness this sector to play a key role in the development of the district’s economy.  The fact that 87% of such work force is in the informal sector probably means that is the remaining 13.5% that can more meaningfully be the engine of growth. The private informal sector remains the largest concentration of the working population, irrespective of sex, and much of this is in agriculture and related activities.  The formal sector (public+ private formal) is much more important as sources of tax revenue to the district and the state.

  • High incidence of poverty
  • Poorly developed business sector (including Real Estate, Transport, Communication, Hotel, Restaurant and Manufacturing)
  • Low tax Base and poor revenue mobilization
  • Large, but poorly developed private sector that serve as the engine of growth of the district economy.
Strategies For Addressing Issues
  1. Support promotion of the informal industrial sector with provision of skills training.
  2. Support appropriate technology generation and transfer.
  3. Support development of Farmer based organizations (FBO) to facilitate access to inputs, credit and markets.
  4. Reduce dependence on traditional farming techniques, which is time consuming and result in low productivity.
  5. Support agro-processing, promoting the development of techniques and equipment, which reduces time burden of women.
  6. Develop small-scale irrigation schemes.
  7. Empower women through the promotion of income-generation activities supported by the introduction of improved technologies, credit and guaranteed markets.
  8. Support the improvement of storage facilities to minimize post harvest losses.
  9. Improve road network to streamline distribution and expose rural people to market incentives.
Refer to table 2.2 in pdf file below.

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Relevant District Data

 Also in this district
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