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Hon. Eric Opoku
Hon. Justice Samuel Adje

The issue of major concern is the rate of growth of the population of the region rather than the number of people. Though the inter-censal growth rate of 2.5 per cent is lower than the national rate of 2.7 per cent, it is still high in relation to the resources of the region.

A rapid growth rate of population disproportionate with the pace of social and economic development will intensify problems such as chronic underemployment and unemployment, especially in rural and urban informal sectors of economic activity. It will also exert greater pressure on social amenities such as education and health. Despite the Economic Recovery and Poverty Alleviation Programmes, the high population growth rate may offset any economic gains in real terms.

The environmental implication of the high population growth rate is the increase in the demand for fuel wood (used by 75.6% of households in the region) and agricultural land, which, in turn, results in an increased rate of deforestation. Deforestation may also lead to increased soil erosion and loss of reliable water supply, already a problem in a number of districts. The ultimate result will be a decrease in agricultural productivity and a lowered standard of living.

The region has a population characterized by a high proportion (43.1%) of persons under 15 years and a low percentage (4.2%) of persons at age 64 and older. Such a structure of the population implies a high proportion dependent population. In addition, the number of entrants into the work force is gradually increasing and may increase. to anappreciable number. These circumstances are likely to lead to unemployment (which presently stands at 8.2%) among younger workers.

The mean number of children ever born in all districts is around 5 children, which is very high. Asutifi and Asunafo have a TFR of 5 births per woman, which is higher than the regional average of 4.2 and even higher than the national average. These same districts have the highest dependency ratios in the region and are likely to have serious reproductive and child health problems if nothing is done about the population issues identified.

Education, health and access to safe water are variables often labelled “basic needs”, which can be used as complementary to consumption expenditure as indicators of poverty in a community.

Education constitutes one of the most important factors determining the demographic behaviour of people and the level of fertility. Education also constitutes an important determinant of the quality of manpower. As such, the educational level of the population reflects roughly the level of social and economic development of a country or community. The level of socio-economic development of the region can, therefore, be linked directly to the level of education of the population.

The proportion of those who have never been to school in the region (42.0%) is high; as a consequence, the illiteracy rate (48.5%) is also very high. Further examination reveals that, of those who have attended school, Primary school is the highest level attained by majority of females (41.7%), while middle/JSS is the highest for males (40.3%). This implies poor quality of manpower in the region, reflected in the occupational and industrial distribution of the workforce.

This picture should also alert policy makers and planners that public education and information transmitted in writing or through the print medium will not be effective. More males are enrolled in schools than females, with the discrepancy widening as one climbs the educational ladder.

The worst affected districts are Sene, Atebubu, and Kintampo. The low level of education in these three districts is further translated into the type of economic activity of the population. The proportion of the population under 15 years, who are economically active in these districts, is the highest in the region. In Sene, for instance, 21.7 per cent of the population aged 7-9 years, and as high as 44.7 per cent of the population aged 10-14 years, are economically active. The situation is not very different in Kintampo and Atebubu.

The high proportion of child labour in the region especially in the fishing industry along the Volta Lake has given rise to media attention in recent times. The District Assemblies in these districts, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs,has taken up the task to intensify efforts to reduce and eventually put a stop to this practice.

Majority of the economically active population are in the primary industry comprising Agriculture,Hunting and Forestry. The same can be observed of the occupational distribution. This is further translated into the type of economic sector and status, consisting mainly of the informal and self-employed without employees.

All the four rounds of the Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS) have revealed that people in this sector of the economy are mostly poor. With such a large informal sector, it may be difficult to mobilize revenue and improve upon the economic well-being of the population. The Government’s efforts, therefore, should be geared towards improvement in activities in the primary industry.

The proportion of homemakers, about a quarter (26.6%) of the not economically active population, of the region is high, with a proportion higher than the regional average in the Sene, Atebubu and Kintampo, Districts. Since homemakers may not be in a position to contribute much to household income, the burden of financial responsibility therefore falls on few household members, resulting in poverty.

Cheap and non-durable materials are used for building, most of which are in the rural areas. The Sene, Atebubu and Kintampo, Districts have the largest stock of such buildings. The very high cost of building materials eliminates a greater proportion of prospective builders from acquiring decent houses, and compels them to use cheaper building materials. These buildings pose a threat to human life because they are not durable. For example, buildings roofed with thatch catch fire easily and also harbour pests.

Room occupancy in the region shows crowding in relation to average household size of 5.3 persons. The rate of urbanisation has increased the need for housing beyond what urban areas can provide. This has led to the creation of shantytowns, slums and unwarranted extensions of existing buildings, resulting in overcrowding and unhealthy environmental conditions. The spread of communicable diseases is easy under such circumstances.

Majority of households do not have any toilet facility in the Sene, Atebubu, and Kintampo, Districts and as such, use the bush, field or drains. This can have serious implications on the environment. In these districts, rivers, streams, and dugouts constitute the main sources of water for households. Human waste, therefore, easily pollute these water sources. A large majority of households in the region do not have access to potable water (piped borne and borehole) creating the avenue for the infestation of water borne diseases .

Access to amenities and utilities is very poor in the region. The proportion of households connected to the national electricity grid is lower than 40.0 per cent. Small-scale enterprises that use electricity cannot operate in most rural areas. A documentary on the activities of the Renewable Energy Systems Project (RESPRO) revealed that areas where their services are being piloted have shown an increase in the working hours (especially at night) of the beneficiaries, leading to increased income.

Post and telecommunication facilities are also woefully inadequate, as shown by the distances from the localities to the nearest facility. The Sene, Atebubu and Kintampo, Districts are the worst affected, while the Sunyani, Techiman and Berekum, Districts are relatively well endowed with these facilities.

Districts with more households using electricity and postal and telephone services have the potential to develop faster than districts where these facilities are lacking. The availability of these facilities in certain areas will attract the population from the deficient areas, with the attendant problems.

The growing interest in improving the quality and efficiency of health services has led to an increasing demand from administrators for statistical data showing the types of services used by various segments of the population. With the severe shortfall in health personnel, especially doctors and nurses, more doctors are required to care for the rapidly increasing population. The increased health risks of childbearing of women aged 15-49 years, and children aged 0-4 years who are susceptible to disease, put a strain on the few maternal and child health resources.

The Sene District has the least number of health facilities. The district is the only one in the region, which has no hospital. This is a major health concern, since all serious health cases have to be referred to hospitals in other districts.

Increasing attention should also be paid to paramedical personnel, such as laboratory technicians, pharmacists and ward assistants, because they constitute the backbone of health institutions. The shift from medical to health personnel and the emphasis on interdependence of medical and paramedical personnel, need to be encouraged. For instance in rural areas,licenced chemical seller have been the first line of contact in minor and emergency health situations.

Several recent studies indicate that a reduced rate of population growth played a key role in the economic development of many Asian countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Specifically, these studies have found that:

  1. Fertility decline slowed the growth in the number of school age children. By keeping educational expenditures high, these countries were able to increase the enrolment rates and the quality of education received by each child.
  2. Savings increased as household size declined. As dependency rates declined, families were able to save more of their income. These savings replaced foreign capital as the major source of domestic investment.
  3. Fertility decline eventually led to slower growth in the labour force. As a result, both wages and capital investment per worker rose.

The above results mean that when the growth of the population is slowed down, many of the problems and their implications could be adequately addressed. Married couples are being encouraged to raise small families and practice family planning. The 1998 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) revealed that modern contraceptive use among married women in the region is 14.8 per cent, which is very low. Reducing fertility improves the chances of infant and child survival and has beneficial impact on population growth. Family planning has proved to help women avoid births that are too early, too late, or too frequent.

Family planning activities in the region should be stepped up to reduce the high total fertility rate, especially in the Sene and Asunafo, Districts. Long-term and permanent family planning methods should be encouraged. The Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (fCUBE) programme (1996-2005), which is a mandate of the 1992 constitution of the 4th Republic of Ghana, was launched in October 1996 to address the low school enrolment and attainment levels.

A girls’ education unit was established in February 1997 under the basic education division to be solely responsible for addressing equity in gender issues. Specifically this unit was to work toward achieving maximum enrolment and retention of girls in schools through community sensitisation and advocacy against negative religious and cultural beliefs and practices.

The problems still exist and the Ministry of Education needs to double its efforts in identifying shortcomings in the educational reforms and rectify them.

Functional literacy programmes, by which the ability in reading and writing could be extended to cover a greater proportion of the population to enable them to effectively engage in normal socio-economic and cultural activities, should be intensified.

Efforts should be made to equip the workforce in the informal sector with financial and management skills and experience to improve their competitiveness by:

  • Developing systems to facilitate co-ordination and linkages between the formal and informal sectors of the economy;
  • Promoting technological proficiency and advancement of the labour force in the informal sector; and
  • Reforming and strengthening the traditional apprenticeship system.

The rural environment can be transformed through agro-based industrialisation, effective decentralisation and private sector development. Access to potable water and good sanitation should be increased to achieve the health outcomes and sustainability of poverty reduction. The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) should be well resourced to enhance the operation and maintenance of water facilities in rural areas. The timely disbursement of the District Assembly Common Fund will also go a long way to support the maintenance of water facilities in the rural areas. The disbursement of the common fund should further be decentralised to the area and town council levels for accelerated development of poor communities.

To halt the rapid destruction of the forest through felling of trees for firewood, fast growing trees that can also be harvested for firewood should be made available for cultivation. Biogas plants should be built in the communities by the District Assemblies as a cheaper source of gas for cooking as well as for solving the inadequate toilet facility problem. The degraded and deforested areas, particularly along major truck roads, should be reclaimed through afforestation programmes, including the cultivation of agro-based crops and cash crops such as cocoa or rubber.

For effective and safe liquid and solid waste disposal, District Assemblies should institute critical measures, including rationalising and up-dating of byelaws, to ensure safe management of liquid and human waste at the household level. They should also enforce laws on the provision of sanitation facilities by landlords. Simplified sewerage systems should be introduced for poor areas with high population density.

The various District Assemblies should help the communities with KVIP toilet facilities and also educate them on keeping the environment clean. Sanitary inspectors should be given incentives to work effectively and efficiently.

The problem of working children, especially in the Sene, Atebubu, and Kintampo, Districts should be tackled with all seriousness. Some NGOs have initiated moves to reintegrate child slaves with their families. In districts where the problem of child work/child slave is prevalent, the District Assemblies should provide the necessary support to families to enable them to sustain and retain children in the school system instead of the street or the work place at such young and tender ages.




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