Road transport and foodstuff distribution in the Northern Region of Ghana

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Road transport facilities in the Northern Region are among the most important factors that affect economic activities, especially food production and distribution. The growth of internal road transport in the region has greatly assisted the production and distribution of food crops like maize, rice, millet and yams for both local consumption and “export”. However, despite the important role that road transport plays in food production and distribution in the Northern Region, the transport system is besieged with numerous problems and as such, its role though important, is not very, effective and mare efficient as should be the case. There are still situations in the region where a lot of food get rotten in the farming settlements and large tracts of land which have potentials for agricultural food production remain unexploited. This situation occurs partly because of the lack of adequate transport facilities which have been, and continue to be, a great impediment to the distribution of foodstuffs and the development of the economy. The objective of this thesis is to study the road transportation system within the Northern Region of Ghana and to assess the extent to which it promotes or hinders food production and distribution. The research is based on a field survey conducted in the study area and a literature review of road transport and food distribution. The stratified random sampling technique was used to select the districts, towns and villages from where the farmers and traders were interviewed using a questionnaire. Inventory was also taken of the existing road transport network within the study area and information on the condition of the various roads was also gathered. The study revealed that there were some correlations between the nature of the roads over which foodstuffs were evacuated for distribution and the fares charged, The correlation between the distance travelled with a 100 kilogram weight of foodstuff and the fare charged was very high on these roads as compared with what was charged over the same distance on the good roads. Overall, the condition of the roads in the study area was very poor arid transport fares for carting foodstuffs were very high and sometimes prohibitive. The study also revealed that the dominant mode of evacuating food- stuffs in the study area was head porterage; and traders who went to villages to purchase foodstuffs for further distribution restricted their operations to only villages that had good access roads, However, in the Mamprusi and. Bole districts it was revealed that the dominant mode of transport used in evacuating foodstuffs was head porterage whereas in the Western Dagoinba and Western Gonja districts, the dominant mode was by trucks. Also the Western Gonja district has the lowest road density as well as the highest average distance between any two markets in the study area, One of the implications of these findings is that greater quantities of foodstuffs could not be evacuated from many of the farming villages and farms, For example, because head porterage was the dominant mode of transport used in the evacuation and distribution of foodstuffs, the quantity of foodstuffs that could be conveyed through this means was very limited. It was therefore inferred that a lot of foodstuffs were left locked up in the villages and on the farms only to get rotten later. The isolation of sons of the farming villages, the poor nature of the roads and the high transport fares paid for evacuating foodstuffs did. not encourage their easy and efficient movement, The result of this was that foodstuffs which could have been easily moved to the markets if the roads were good and all villages accessible were left looked up at the production centres, This situation introduced an element of limited market supply in the midst of plenty, On the bases of these findings the study recommends that the Western Gonja district should be the priority area for the improvement of the conditions of the road transport facilities to enhance increased production and efficient distribution of foodstuffs within the very near future. The study also recommends that three of feeder roads leading to the major food producing areas in the district should be reconstructed and maintained to stimulate production and facilitate easy evacuation and distribution of foodstuffs. An economic analysis of these projects revealed that they are feasible because they all had internal rates of return which were higher than the opportunity cost of capital. Ranking of these roads also revealed that the Sorri- Damongo road should be constructed first and this will be followed by the Damongo-Busunu road. Thereafter the Daboya-Busunu road is to be rehabilitated. Finally, the study recommends that a sub-depot for buses and other vehicles should be opened at Damongo to serve the district in the evacuation and distribution of foodstuffs as well as for the movement of people. A service centre should also be set up in the district to serve the farmers.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Regional Planning, 1986