According to Ghana Living Standards Survey 6 (GLSS 6), mean household sizes are higher in rural areas (4.5) are more than in urban areas (3.6), albeit lower than the national average of 4.0. The interplay of weaker performance on all development metrics (health, education, employment etc.) in the rural economy as compared to the urban area, fuels the problem of spatial mobility across regions and between rural and urban centres.
Even though the proportion of the rural population who may be economically active are more than their counterpart in the urban areas, the mainstay of rural economy (agriculture) has the highest underemployment figure (61.5%) as compared to non-agricultural activities (38.5%), according to GLSS 6. Albeit the GLSS 6 report by Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) stops short of providing clarity in terms of the cause-effect dynamics, a baseline survey conducted by Rural Heights Foundation in Oct. 2015 clearly suggests that this phenomenon is an effect of a more complex economic cause.
In the area of health care, the statistical data indicates that medical expenses were higher in rural areas, especially rural forest (GH¢147.88) than the urban areas at the time of the survey. Medical expenses were borne mainly by household members (54.5%) and 41.5% through health insurance services. Considering the fact that a greater proportion of female-headed households is higher in rural coastal (38.1%) than all other localities, with the lowest (16.4%) in rural savannah, it stands to reason that health care and other economic costs would be borne by women in the rural area thereby placing tremendous stress on them.
The Policy Challenge
All these conspire to serve as push factors to drive rural urban migration, which has become a critical policy challenge in the area of spatial mobility. The data on migration, according GLSS 6, indicates that 48.6 percent of the population is made up of migrants, with Accra commanding the greatest chunk (60.3%). Urban areas other than Accra, has 46.7 percent of migrants. The report also indicates 51.6% of the population in rural forest are migrants while in rural coastal, migrants constitute 44.6 percent of the population. Rural savannah has the least proportion of migrant population (37.5%). More than half of the migrant population had relocated to the rural areas, while 10.5 percent had relocated to Accra, with the rest (37.1%) relocating to other urban areas. Clearly, spatial mobility is driven not just by economics but also by other demographic variables, chief among which is age. That notwithstanding, the socio-economic factor plays a central role in influencing the movement of people across Ghana’s geographical regions and between rural and urban localities. The availability of social amenities, infrastructure, job opportunities and so forth provides critical parameters for evaluating the likely success of any policy initiative that is geared towards creating change.
A Private Social Intervention
Rural Heights Foundation is non-profit initiative founded to intervene in the rural areas (savannah and coastal) within three thematic areas; well-being, education and micro enterprise. The Foundation just concluded a baseline survey and stakeholder consultation in three villages in the Central Region; Gomoa Pinanko, Brofoyedu and Ampia-Ejumako. The purpose of the survey was to help refine metrics for evaluating impact and also to engage key stakeholders within the rural communities where the Foundation projects are located. The Foundation is helping to provide training and grants to 50 women in Pinanko and Ampia-Ejumako (25 for each locality) to enable them start micro enterprises in petty trading, agriculture and other value chains. The goal is to foster a sense of self-reliance and also help achieve financial security. The choice of women as agents of change was motivated by two factors:
- GLSS 6 data clearly suggest that majority of household heads in rural areas (Savannah) are women.
- Women, for one reason or the other are more effective in turning over economic value for collective benefits.
The mission of Rural Heights Foundation is to help promote financial security in rural areas through value chain interventions. Our broader focus is to help shape public policy in a manner that supports the agenda of shared growth through rural development.
In Dec 2015, Rural Heights Foundation will hold a maiden edition of “Patriots & Leaders” Conference, which would bring leaders and patriots from across various sector; academia, social entrepreneurship and the private corporate sector, to confer on issues that lie within the nexus of public policy, innovation and social responsibility. All proceeds from the conference will go to support the Foundation’s rural projects.