Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ghana launched Sustainable Land, Water Management Project

 Francis Npong, Tamale
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MEST) has launched 8.15 million US dollars new environmental project in Tamale aimed to reduce land degradation and improve biodiversity conservation in northern Ghana.

The project dubbed Ghana sustainable Land and Water Management Project (SLWM) is part of efforts by the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology (MEST) and for that matter the Ghana government to demonstrate improved sustainable land and water management practices to reduce land degradation enhance maintenance of biodiversity in micro-watersheds and strengthen spatial planning for identification of linked watershed investments.

With the funding support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and World Bank (WB), the new environmental project which seeks to introduce new agricultural technology for adoption to improve land and water management to reverse desertification, land degradation and water pollutions would benefit the Upper West, East and Northern regions.

The project, according to the Executive Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Daniel Amlalo represents a comprehensive approach to sustainable land and watershed management and would combine what he termed “soft and hard” investments at the community level to manage and maintain ecological infrastructure with planning activities to be integrated into water and flood management in northern Ghana and agro-agricultural zones.

Mr. Amlalo who was speaking during the official launch of the project explained that the sustainable land and water management project is a five year Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and World Bank assistance under both Land Degradation Focal Area (LDFA) which is contributing $ 7.15, million, and Biodiversity Focal Area (BFA) $1 million while the Ghana government would contribute in kind an estimated amount of $7.8 million as part of her efforts to help deal with land degradation, loss of biodiversity and protection and maintenance of watersheds under the new project.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Enquuirer, the Technical Director at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) Dr. Nicholas Iddi explained that the new project is not would only maintain watersheds and fights desertification and land degradation but also would work toward economic transformation to facilitate development and reduce extreme poverty in northern Ghana.

He said that the project is also taking onboard the ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forestry commission (FC), Wildlife Division, and District Assemblies as partners or implementing agencies to achieve the desire result.

The challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought while real, are solvable but would need not just multi-million dollars projects but the commitment of implementing agencies to implement the project fully.

The launch of this so-called comprehensive project will definitely not open up northern Ghana or help transform the area if strategies used to implement similar projects aimed to transform the area were not changed.

Most of these projects though are good failed because the implementing agencies do not involve community members whereas most strategies and technologies introduce are either expansive to adopt and manage or could not be fused into indigenous existing technologies. It is hoped this project would take into consideration the existing indigenous technologies and integrate it into the new project plans, and involve community members to make it community own. 

Desert March Thretaens To Swallow Northern Ghana

From: Francis Npong, Tamale

The kind of ecological calamity that sent Ethiopia and Sunden’s Darfur from relative food sovereignty to food scarcity may pretty soon fall on Ghana’s lot, as Sahara Desert has continued to turn the northern parts of Ghana into wasteland and marches violently and unstoppably southwards.

According to environmental experts, about 35% of the total land mass of the country has already been swallowed by the advancing desert and the three northern regions, Upper East, West and Northern, which together constitute about 40% of the total land mass of the country are the worst affected area.
It is estimated that the 8.2 million hectares of the closed forest of the country have been depleted leaving a current level estimated at 1.9 to 2.0 million hectares.

This experience has also taken a heavy toll on the economy. For instance, in 1998, the total estimated annual loss due to environmental degradation amounted to GH¢41.7 thousand, representing 4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

The three northern regions which fall under the savannah zone cover 55% of the country’s land mass in 1972 and had been expanded to 58.1% by 2000.
Documents at the forestry departments stated that the forest cover of northern zone constituted about 41,600km in 1952, which represent about 46% of the total land area of the three regions, but the unregulated exploitation of these resources to meet the economic needs of the growing population of the people and livestock have reduced the forest cover of the land to semi-desert and wasteland.
Though desertification was arguably the first environmental issue to be recognized as taking place on global scale Africans countries have placed their focuses on physical infrastructure development to the detriment of environment which is now catching up with them. Land degradation, through sand wining, tree felling, bush burning and construction has turned the vegetation cover in Northern Ghana into waste and semi-desert land aggravating poverty, hunger and starvation, diseases, and youth migration, armed robbery among other social vices.
The UN conference on desertification in 1977 in Nairobi and later in 1994, the UN convention to combat desertification was opened for ratification by countries in which Ghana in 1996, December 27, ratified the convention but had failed in implementation of environmental laws.
Several factors were responsible for the desertification and deforestation in northern Ghana. The regions carry about 80% of the nation’s livestock,74.4%, Northern region 43.4% and Upper East 36.5%. an area of with a low rainfall between 645mm and 1250mm per annum and a long dry period of six to seven months and without irrigated grazing lands the consequence of this high livestock population has put pressure on the limited land resources, which sometimes generated conflicts between the owners of the livestock and farmer lands.
The rampant and uncontrollable bush burning for the purpose of either farming or hunting has been a constant culture of the people in these parts of the country and this had destroyed limited organic matter suitable for crop production hence food scarcity, hunger and starvation and increased poverty level.
A sizeable number of trees are felt every day for the purposes of charcoal burning or firewood and construction works have also aided the speedy advance of desertification and deforestation in the north.
The effects of desert encroachment in the Northern Ghana are alarming. Changes of rainfall patterns and climate in recent times have devastated the lands leaving several kilometres of scorched farmlands, leaner livestock, dried dams, and rivers impoverishing the population.
Already, poverty, hunger, diseases and unemployment have begun to force hundreds of the youth from Upper East, West and Northern regions to urban centers as a result of the loss of agricultural farm lands to desert encroachment, turning the marginal area of the regions into wastelands.
It for this reasons that experts at a four-day environmental workshop organised by the Rural Media Network (RUMNET) under KASA project, an environmental mechanism put in place by development partners including CARE International, The Netherlands Development Agency (SNV), and Inter-Church Co-operation for Development (ICCO) called for urgent measures to curb environmental degradation.
The programme which seeks to increase civil society involvement in attaining Natural Resources and Environmental Governance (NRE) was to enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to carry out effective advocacy on the conservation of natural resources. The participants were selected from civil society and media organisations from the Upper East, West and Northern.
The Northern Regional Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an interview Mr. Iddrisu Abu lamented that the rate at which the desert was moving into the country. He said the desert keeps advancing southwards from the boundaries at the speed of 0.8 kilometres per annum.
The situation he said has assumed such a magnitude that the minimum vegetation cover in some communities in Upper East region has already fallen below 5% as against the total ecological cover to support life. He desert could be felt at Garu, Zongoiri, Zebila, Paga, Nangodi and Tungu in the Upper East region.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Experts Call for Research into Agriculture

Francis Npong, Tamale

Agricultural experts at a two-day training workshop on food security have called for a well research into disease resistance and high yielding food crops to serve the nation from the looming famine.

According to the experts, food production in the country was diminishing steadily because some food crops could not withstand new generation of crop diseases which would need a well research to serve local farmers from calamities.

“Climate change is adding new dimension to the failing agriculture and has tendency to reduce food production by 67 per cent”, they observed.

They observed that if Ghana failed to develop new technologies through research the country is likely to suffer from extreme famine in the near future.

“Our farmers are continually relying on disease prone local grains”.
It is against this background that they have recommended joint research effort between the government and crop seeds production institutions to come out with high yielding, diseases resistance and short period fruiting crops to enable farmers cope with the climate change effects.

The workshop which was organized by Community Life Improvement Programme (CLIP), a local NGO championing climate change campaign in northern region was aimed to develop strategies that would help ensure food security in the wake of climate change.

The participants include Agricultural extension agents,  agric and climate change experts, seed production institutions, NGOs in Agriculture, environment and climate change among others deliberated on climate change and coping strategies for local farmers.

It was also used to discuss issues affecting food security in Ghana and how to mitigate effects of climate change on agric to ensure sustained food supply in the country.

Speaking in an interview with the Enquirer, CLIP personnel in-charge of Food and Security Mr. Lukman Yussif explained that the workshop was parts of efforts to improve food production.

It was also to help prepare local farmers against climate change and adopt coping strategies to sustain food production and supply throughout the country.

He explained that research show that food production particularly rice and maize has reduced significantly for the past two years because of non availability of improved seeds, coupled with emergence of climate change hence the need for the country to prepare her farmers against effects of climate change.

He observed with concerns that majority of farmers were planting un-improved seeds or seeds which qualities could not be determining coupled with unavaibility of farm inputs dwindling food production.

He however appealed to the government to ensure that crop seeds supply to farmers are satisfied, diseases resistance, and high yielding to ensure continue supply of food in the country. 

DCE Entangled in 45,000 Ghana Cedis Scandal (Enquirer 20 July 2011)

From: Francis Npong 

The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Zabzugu/Tatale, Mr. Umar Wahab who was recently cited for defrauding his youth numbering about 200 who paid him Ȼ50 each to participate in ICT training course has again been accused of defrauding his farmers of a colossal sum of Ȼ45, 000.

This amount is said be a deposit of Ȼ4,500 each handed over to him as part payment and in fulfillment of the requirement to acquire tractors through the ministry of Food and agriculture high purchase scheme by some ten farmer groups in the district.

Information however gathered by the Enquirer from the ministry of Food and Agriculture indicated that a farmer who wish to purchase a tractor and its accessories is supposed to deposit 50% of the total cost of the implement while the balance is spread through within three years. The cost of a tractor and its accessories is now between Ȼ24,000 and Ȼ28, 000, according to the Enquirer information.

This implies that this group of farmers or individuals who wish to obtain a tractor(s) under the ministry’s high purchase scheme would have to deposit 50%.

The farmers who are peeved with the president’s representative have appealed to the presidency to impress upon the DCE to refund their money with interest.

Some of the supposed farmer group members alleged that the DCE was adamant to demand for refund saying “he verbally pour “venom” on them and threatening them with arrest” anytime they appear before him to discuss the matter.
“That is why we want the public to know about this deal so that we can at least recover our money mobilized through our daily toil if he is not able to supply us with the tractors”, a frustrated farmers told theEnquirer during interaction in Yendi.
Though the DCE allegedly promised to deliver the tractors to the said farmer groups within the shortest period, it has however taken him two years now to supply them with a single tractor, they said.

The farmers alleged that Mr. Wahab who could not produce receipts to individual farmer groups as evidence of payment to the ministry’s tractor service account alleged that they were being “bully” by the president’s representative when they approach him on the matter.

According to the frustrated farmers, the DCE could not also direct them to the ministry or agency he was working with to get the tractors supply to them but always flares up.
“We are suspecting that he used the money to buy some shares so it is difficult for him to access it again”, they said.

The farmers who are planning to hit the streets to demonstration again the president’s representative called on the president to look into th matter.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Enquirer, some members of various farmer groups who want to remain anonymous for fear of intimidation and harassment complained that their wards recently lost huge amount of money to the DCE who promised to train them in ICT but failed.

“The DCE will always burst out with anger anytime we demanded receipts as evidence of payment. This gave us a clue to suspect that something is wrong somewhere”, the farmers said.
The farmers who described the DCE as “highly cunny” said that they have lost confidence in him and appealed to the president to intervene.

The actions and inactions of the DCE, according to a top NDC guru within the district were provoking the people against the government.

He said that this may have some repercussions of the performance of the party during the 2012 elections if nothing was done about it.

“Section of the people in the district has been complaining about the conduct of the DCE, from one allegation to the other this is not good enough for the party development”, he said.

The top NDC member also alleged that the DCE takes decisions without consultation.

The DCE when contacted confirmed taking money from some group of farmers to help them acquire these tractors through the ministry of Food and Agriculture high purchase scheme.
He however refused to disclose the amount he collected and the number of farmer groups involved but only to say that the groups had paid Ȼ4,500 each to him.

He also claimed to have in his possession a receipt backing the deposit for the tractors but could not tell this reporter which ministry or agency account he paid this money into for verification purpose but promised to show the receipt covering the deposit to the Enquirer when he had recovered from malaria and had made a journey back from Accra later within the month.

Mr. Wahab who sounded very disturbed on phone told the Enquirer to direct those farmers who were not interested in the deal to come for their refund disclosing that somebody had already indicated to him that he had seen a used tractor and was interested in it “so I told him to look for the money elsewhere to pay for it so that anytime I travel to Accra I can bring his money to him”, 

On consulting party members, the DCE said that he does not need to consult party when taking decisions.
Stay tune.

Food Think Tank Inaugurated in Tamale

Francis Npong, Tamale
An Eleven – member Food for life Think Tank comprises researchers and agriculturists, climate change experts and environmental scientists has been inaugurated in Tamale as part of efforts to ensure that rural livelihoods which depended on agriculture is sustained and also to address the problems of food insecurity in the northern region.

The members of the think tank are experts drawn from the Savannah Agricultural Research institute (SARI), the University for Development Studies (UDS), Irrigation Development Authority (IDA), CARE International, Water Research Institute (WRI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) among other organizations tasked to re-examine and reformulate strategies to help local farmers cop with the climatic changes.

The initiative is under the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) and the Friendship Groups in Denmark (GV) under its Empowerment for Life Programme (E4L,) an intervention aimed to meet the goal of food security, sustainable livelihoods and climate change resilience in northern Ghana.
food security and climate change which he described as most critical and challenging global issues today.

Inaugurating the group, the Northern Regional Minister Mr. Moses Bukari Mabengba lauded the GDCA and partners for initiating research think tank to re-examine and formulate strategies to support the region to achieve food security and better livelihoods.
He pointed out that sustainable development and food security could be achieved if stakeholders work around a common thematic area devoid of duplication, parallel focus and inefficiencies.
The minister urged the think tank to come out with concrete research findings and recommendations on 
Mr. Mabengba said the government recognized climate change as an obstacle to achieving the better Ghana agenda and would support any initiative such as the think tank towards finding innovative ways of building community resilience in tackling the situation in Ghana.
The Chairman of the GDCA Professor Abubakari Al-hassan said the formation of think tank is part of the efforts by the organization to deal with food insecurity and climate change.
He explained that though there were policies and interventions aimed to improve food security and sustainable livelihoods in northern Ghana, these interventions have not achieve much because of the uncoordinated and parallel focuses.
The problem he said could be tackled holistically if there were research findings to show the way hence the 
formation of the think tank to undertake research on food security and sustainable livelihoods.
He thanked GV, a Danish organization for the support and urged the group to come out with evidence base research that is implementable and achievable.
The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated that climate change is likely to push developing nations back into extreme poverty; hunger and starvation, conflicts, diseases, massive immigration, destructive flooding among other things and proposed the adaptation and mitigation climate change models including protection of environment, reduction of greenhouse gases emissions, among other things.

Forestry Commission cites: DCE, Police In Timber Deal

some piles of rosewood beams
Francis Npong, Tamale
A chain saw operator who allegedly felled over 1000 trees in Saboba District in the Northern Region after securing a permit from the district assembly to do so has been arrested by the Yendi police.
The Chain saw operator identified as Dari Abass who is now helping police investigations and his accomplices, now at large were transporting full loads of rosewood beams in two cargo trucks with registration numbers AS 5237X and ER 7362 E to Accra when the tracks were impounded by the youth in Ugando community in the Saboba district on the suspicion of illegality.
The case, which is now before the forestry commission in Yendi has implicated the District Chief Executive for Saboba Mr. Adolf Ali and a number of personnel in the Saboba District Assembly and Saboba Police for complicity and bribery.
Briefing the Enquirer in his office the Northern regional Director of the Forestry Commission Mr. Ebenezer Djaney Djagletey who suspected complicity in the felling of trees among the major stakeholders in the Saboba District indicated his office readiness to bring perpetrators of the act to book irrespective of the position of people involved.
To help the commission deal with the issue, the Director has petitioned the Northern Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to look into the matter citing uncooperative of the district police, issuance of permit by the district assembly and the growing tension between the communities in that Electoral Area.
The Enquirer information indicated that some key personnel of the district including DCE were alleged bribed with unspecified cash by the chain saw operator to allow then carry out his act.
A receipt in possession of the Enquirer dated 18th August 2011 under the heading “permit” issued to Mr. Dari Abass by the Saboba District Assembly reads “Received from Dari Abass the sum of one thousand Ghana cedis (Ghc1,000) on the account of felling trees in the Saboba District” was in fulfillment of the agreement between them.
The illegal lumbering was done at the time the government was spending huge sums of taxpayers money trying to revamp the depleted forest in Ghana and as measures to check climate change.
Currently this issue of lumbering is said to have tempered with the security as communities such as Ugando, Jagrido, and Nangundo were allegedly bracing fight.
For reasons, the forestry commission has petitioned the Northern Regional Security Council to intervene to allow the law to take it course.
The investigative team of the commission though has not been able to ascertain the actual acreage of the forest depleted but the manager pointed out that number of rosewood beams seen around the bushes in the depleted area so far  suggested about 5,000 hectares of land would have been affected.
The chain saw operator was allegedly hired by a Tema based wood trading company, to deplete the forest at Saboba District after it was realized the rosewood beams which is currently on high demand in the world market in abundant in the north.
Though the law in Ghana forbids commercial wood logging in any part of northern Ghana, personnel of the Saboba District who were supposed to help enforced government directives rather aid the culprits by granting them permit to the illegitimate act.
Speaking in a telephone interview, the Yendi Forestry manager Mr. Henry Kudiabo said alleged that the Saboba District police were frustrating the move by the commission to deal with the lumbering in the area. He said that the police were not cooperating with his office leaving room to suspect some complicity.
He was also unhappy with the personnel of the saboba District Assembly for issuing permit to the chain saw operators to cut down trees when his office was making efforts to revamp the already depleted vegetation in the region.
“The tree felling was going on in the district for month now but the assembly did nothing to stop it
but rather aid”, he said. The efforts to contact the DCE for Saboba District Mr. Adolf Ali for his comment was unsuccessful as all his phone lines available to the Enquirer could not go through. However the
Enquirer was informed the DCE had travelled out of the district when it made a subsequent phone call to the District assembly. Thousands of agricultural farm lands have been affected in the process, which would affect food security by reducing agriculture potentials that engages thousands of youth. The area is predominantly a farming area and the livelihoods of the people depended on agriculture. This means that lost of biodiversity that would affect soil fertility is eminent, while desertification that comes with climate change and its associated effects would also be expected if the forest is not revamped in shortest period.
The government Ghana is currently working closely with its agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), The Forestry Commission and Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and ministry of lands, and Natural Resources in collaboration with international development agencies to revamp forest in Ghana to increase agriculture potentials, check climate change and enhance food security. These objectives might not be achieved if the deforestation in the region continuous with a larger or commercial scale hence the need to put a stop to the illegal felling of trees.       

94 farmers drag to court over GhȻ2.9 million defaults

Francis Npong, Bimbila N/R  
Nanumba North DCE, Hon. Mohammed Ibn Abass
About ninety-four (94) farmers in the Nanumba North District Assembly have been dragged to court over GhC2.9 million.
This amount is said to be the total cost of fertilizers and farm inputs supply to these farmers by the ministry of agriculture under the government block farm project two years ago.
This came at the time the minister of Food and Agriculture Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi is advocating the stoppage of the government funding of agriculture as the ministry is subtle with huge debt under the block farm programme. The minister who recently proposed this when he met with the public account committee to answer questions relating to his ministry indicated that it was difficult recovering the money from farmers.
The culprits allegedly defaulted in payment in spite of the consistent reminders from the District Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture to repay.
The 94, who were served with the writ filed by the District Director of Agriculture Mr. Eugene Yelfaanibe at Bimbila Magistrate Court are supposed to appear before it later this month to answer charges on dishonesty and default.
The District Director of Agriculture Mr. Eugene Yelfaanibe who disclosed this to the Enquirer in an exclusive interview in his office at Bimbila indicated that his action to sue these farmers was to ensure the sustainability of the programme.
The programme, the Director described as “fantastic agriculture programme” is to ensure not only food security but support the development of agric sector and enhance the livelihoods of the people.
It also has the objectives to improve economic conditions of these poor farmers, make Ghana food sufficient, food reliable and reduce the difficulties farmers often go through in acquiring farm implements to undertake farming activities.
The Director who is now be threatened by some of these disgruntled farmers pointed out that politicking on all the government programmes including the government highly subsidized fertilizers and farm inputs, were responsible for the failures or unsuccessful implementations of most government programmes and livelihoods interventions.
The farming activities had increased tremendously in the Nanumba North District after the introduction of the government lock farm programme that engages thousands of unemployed youth. Currently the district is doing 1, 500 hectares of maize as against 100 last year, 500 hectares of rice as against 200 last year, 200 hectares of soya beans as against 90, and 35 hectares of sorghum this year alone.
The improvement of farming activities is a result of the government agriculture initiative including the supply of highly subsidized fertilizers and other agriculture inputs, the Director said.
Mr. Yelfaanibe disclosed that his office was compelled to take action against these defaulting farmers after the office’s consistent reminders and threat of prosecution could not compel them to voluntarily pay back the money belonging to the government.
“Some of them are reluctant to pay because their thinking is that the fertilizers were freely supplied by the government”, he said.