Friday, October 26, 2012


THE importance of forests to human life cannot be overemphasized. According to agric scientists, forests, apart from conserving nature, are a source of life.

They purify the air that we breathe, serve as habitat for the animals that we feed on, and preserve climatic temperatures to protect our bodies. In Africa, in particular, forests are the main source of herbs and many of the food we eat.
Experts have also noted that forests play a crucial role in helping mitigate the impact of climate change on humans.
Some illegally-sawn timber that were recently seized in Saboba
According to the Director of the United Nations (UN) Forum on Forests Secretariat, Mr Pekka Patosaary, forests can act as a ‘sink’ to absorb greenhouse emissions and store large quantities of carbon for extended periods of time.
No wonder the developed world is now committing itself to invest in afforestation projects in Africa under the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.
One is therefore at a lost why forests in the Northern Region of Ghana are being depleted at such an alarming rate, in spite of how essential they are to the livelihoods of the people in the region.
Checks at the Forestry Commission indicate that there are 24 forest reserves in the Northern Region.
The region even boasts of having the largest forest reserve in Ghana, the Yakombo Forest Reserve, near Buipe, which occupies an estimated land area of 1,160km².
Each year, more trees are planted in various parts of the region so as to create new or replenish existing woodlots and forest plantations.
Currently, the Forestry Services Department (FSD) of the Forestry Commission is establishing large acres of forest plantations in various parts of the region through the National Forest Plantation Development Programme.
During a recent visit to the Northern Region by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry, the Northern Regional Forestry Manager, Mr Ebenezer Djaney Djagbletey, revealed that the region had exceeded its targets for the plantation programme.
“A total area of 3,309 hectares had been planted by the end of December, 2010, which is far higher than the 2000 hectares target that had been set,” he told the committee.
He said in Yendi alone, a total area of 1,126 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas and 200 hectares in existing forest reserves.
In Tamale, a total area of 462 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas, whiles 70 hectares of areas located within forest reserves had been planted.
In spite of all these glamorous statistics about the establishment of large acres of forest plantations, the question to ask is “how many of these trees would survive?”
How many would become prey to the painful blade of chain-saw operators and how many would crumble when the dry season fires start?
Statistics from the EPA paint a gloomy picture about the depletion of forest resources in the Northern Region.
According to the EPA, the region loses 38, 000 hectares of its tree cover every year due to activities such as indiscriminate bush burning, deforestation, use of chemicals in fishing, over grazing by livestock and illegal commercial logging.
Just recently, the FSD intercepted large quantities of illegally sawn rosewood, which had been felled from forest plantations in the Saboba district.
Due to the depletion of forests and the vegetation, some parts of the region are being reduced to desert-like conditions and this has caused a reduction in food and water resources and also increased the intensity and duration of droughts and disasters in the north.
It is sad to note that many community folk do not seem to know about the harm they cause to the environment and future generations when they run down forest resources.
The extent to which they cut down trees for firewood and to make space for farming and settlements exposes the region to desertification.
Unfortunately, forest conservation issues do not receive adequate attention from local government authorities and politicians in the region.
Under the noses of District Chief Executives, Members of Parliament, Co-ordinating Directors and traditional rulers, forests are destroyed and no one seems to border.
It is high time that the nation’s leaders and the entire populace were reoriented on the importance of forests and the need to conserve them.
Politicians, chiefs and opinion leaders in the region must stand up now to protect the region’s forests and not wait for calamity to befall us.

Ghanaian Crop Scientists Divided Over GMOs

2 Votes

Dr. Abdulai Lansah, CSIR
Crop Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Institute, Ghana (CSIR) are extensively divided over the introduction of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops into a Ghanaian agricultural sector.
While some scientists brushing aside the adoption of GMO crops for the bases of uncertainty health risks, others are of the view that, conventional crop breeding has not withstood the test of time hence the need for all new methods to improve food production.
A Crop Researcher from CSIR Dr. Abdulai Lansah in an exclusive interview with the Enquirer in Bolgatanga, Upper East region, said “Even scientists at CSIR are divided over GMO introduction with the basis of uncertainty health risks”.
There had not been any laboratory analyses that pointed to the fact that, the consumption of GMOs are dangerous to human health according to scientists. However, the introduction of GMOs has sparked various protests from religious, political to traditional raising fears about the introduction ofGMO products.
Dr. Lansah explained that, unlike the conventional crop breeding system that allows natural modification, genetically modified crop procedures use laboratory techniques to change the genes or characteristics of crops. “The genes or traits maybe from animals to crops, from one different plant to another and even from human beings to crops depending on the desired traits”, he disclosed.
He said this methods are raising a lot of questions and created a controversy over the GMOs products the world over. In US, UK and other developed countries, people some cases governments outlawed the importation of GMO products because of alleged health dangers associated to it.
Dr. Lansah explained that questions raised against the consumption of GMO products are most related to beliefs and alleged uncertainty health risks associated with such crops modification processes. However, he said scientists are still researching details about GMO products and until that “we can not confirm or deny questions raised against the consumption of GMOs”.
“For now, Ghana has officially adopted GMO cotton but scientists at CSIR are still testing genetically modified crops which are strictly confined” the crop researcher told this reporter when asked whether or not there are GMOs in Ghana.
Dr. Lansah said, though there is/are no known GMO crops Ghana except Bt. Cotton, people are however, suspecting some brand of soy beans in Ghana to be that of genetically modified. “Some of the seeds come into the market with no labels so it is difficult to differentiate between genetically modified and non genetically modified”, he said.
On food security, he said industrialize agriculture was the sure way out for Ghana. The industrialization he explained would resolved post harvest loses in agriculture sector in Ghana. He disclosed that not less than 40% of total food produce in country is lost in transit because of unavailability of preservation and storage facilities, and good infrastructure such as roads.

Eight Deprived Communities in Ghana Take Destiny to Own Hands

A decision making for climate resilient livelihoods and risk reduction training workshop aimed to build capacity of vulnerable communities in the northern and Upper East region has ended in Bolgatanga with a called on the stakeholders in development to as a matter of urgency integrate climate change into community development projects.
The training workshop organised by CARE International under the auspices of Adaptation Learning Programme in Africa (ALP) used participatory Scenario Planning approach to support eight participating vulnerable communities including Garu, Farfar, Tariganga, Akara Kugri in the Upper East region and Zambulugu, Jawani,  Demia and Saamini in the northern region to develop climate response livelihood strategies.
This is not only to prepare these poor communities to adapt to climate variabilities and climate change but also to build their capacities to be able to recognise the underlying causes of their vulnerabilities to help them design coping strategies to effectively adapt to climate change and climate variability.
Addressing the participants, the Manager of ALP, Mr. Romanus Gyan said that, the weather pattern has become erractic and climate systems now unpredictable. This, he said makes communities whose livelihoods largely depended on weather more vulnerable.
Community Strategy mapping, Picture: Npong Francis
He said, it is against this background that CARE International Adaptation Learning Programme in Africa (ALP) was developed to support poor and vulnerable communities in Africa to effectively adapt to climate change and climate variability.
Working in partnership with local civil society and public institutions, the Adaptation Learning programme is being implemented in 40 communities across some selected African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Niger.
The training workshop assisted the participating communities to develop the most important climate change adaptation strategies after identifying the underlying causes of their vulnerabilities. The strategies proposed to be implemented by these communities to help them cope with the changing climatic events include tree planting, dry season gardening, livestock rearing, use of organic manure and engage income generating activities.
Other strategies these communities proposed to adapt were; drought and disease resistant crops, early maturing crops, formation of community savings and loan schemes, encourage the youth in vocational skills projects, advocate for good road network to connect them to markets centers  and construction of strong foundation for their houses to withstand floods and rainstorms.
These proposed strategies they said would not help to supplement their income but also improve the soil fertility and protect the environment. Speaking to the Enquirer after the training workshop, the National Advocacy Manager for Care International Ghana, Mr. Baba Tuahiru said diversification of livelihoods activities was the sure way that can reposition the poor communities to be able to cope with the effects of climate change and climate variability.
According to him, ALP is currently being piloted in some communities in the northern and Upper East region of Ghana considered to be vulnerable and that the programme is empowering the people to not only diversify, design coping strategies but also demand for accountable from duty bearers.
The Monitory and Evaluation officer for Care International Ghana, Mr. Thomas Ayamga who took the participating communities through the processes of Community Adaptation Planning (CAAP) helping communities to design their strategic plans would help them redirect their attention to the most important and pressing development projects that can help improve their living conditions.
section of participants at the training workshop. Picture Npong Francis
The governance officer for Care International Ghana Mr. Avura Francis urged the government institutions to always consult communities when they intend to undertake development projects in communities. He said this help them to design such projects to feed into the community development plan else the projects might impact positively on the livelihoods of the people.

My life depends on good harvest - groundnut farmer

Afa Alhassan being assisted by mom and auntie to dry his nuts

EACH year between August and October, one can see chains of women carrying sacks and pans filled with freshly harvested groundnuts and walking along dusty or muddy paths in villages in Northern Ghana.
It is that period of the year when groundnut farmers harvest their groundnuts, which were planted earlier in the year.
Groundnut or peanut happens to be one of the most farmed food crops in Northern Ghana due to its health, culinary and economic values.
In 2011, the Ministry of Food Agriculture (MoFA) indicated that the total output of groundnut produced in the three regions of the north accounted for about 80 percent of the nation’s total groundnut production.
In a recent trip to Zokuga, a farming community in the Savelugu/Nanton district of the Northern Region, I met with a 44-year old farmer who has been cultivating groundnut since childhood.

It was midday and Afa Mohammed Alhassan as he is called was busily drying groundnut he had harvested from his 10-acre farm. He was being supported by his mother, Mma Salamatu and auntie, Mma Maata.
In the interaction that followed, he mentioned that although he farms both maize and groundnut, it was the latter that was so dear to his heart.
Afa Alhassan speaking to me
“I focus much of my attention on farming groundnut because it is through this that I get enough income to take care of my family,” he said, adding that his favourite variety is ‘abaen’.
Afa Alhassan was unequivocal in stating that his life as a groundnut farmer depended on good harvest.
“When harvest is good, I can get about seven bags of groundnuts from an acre and this happens only once a while,” he stated.
At the time, a bag of groundnut was selling between GH¢50 to GH¢70 and this in an incentive to Afa Alhassan.
“When prices are good, it helps us farmers to reap what we have sown,” he said with a smile.
I asked him what were the factors that can account for a good harvest and he mentioned good rains as paramount.
He noted that having a good harvest depended also on planting at the right time, adding that to plant one needs to mobilise the seeds and get the land prepared.
Unlike maize and other crops, groundnut does not depend heavily on fertilizer and this, in the estimation of Afa Alhassan, is one thing that makes farming groundnut conducive for the rural poor.
In spite of this, he thinks that groundnut farmers, like other farmers, need some support from government and other organisations.
“When the season arrives and there are no tractors to prepare the land, then it could affect planting,” he said.
Afa Alhassan said the lack of equipment for harvesting and shelling groundnuts makes the work of harvesting groundnut a bit laborious.
During harvest, he and other farmers use either their hands or hoes to uproot the vines from the ground, depending on the texture of the soil.
“When the ground is still wet, we can use our hands, but if it is dry, we have to use hoes,” he said.
He said after the vines are uprooted, he employs the services of some women to separate the nuts from the vines, assemble them in heaps and transport them in pans and in sacks to his house.
It is then that another process begins as the nuts have to be dried for a period of time, before being shelled, separated from the kennels and packed into sacks.
“It is a painstaking process,” he said.
Of course, Afa Alhassan is also concerned about getting the needed technologies to increase yield.
“If we can get help to enable us get better yields, it would help us a lot because our lives depend on it,” he noted.
Like many other rural men, Afa Alhassan has two wives and four children, but is not satisfied.
“I want to have more children,” he intimated, adding that “Three of the children are for my first wife and so my second wife would also be delivering two more.”
He admitted that taking care of his four children, together with his mother and other extended family, is quite a challenge, especially in keeping his children in school.
Three of them, Zakaria, Alhassan and Memunatu attend the Zokuga nursery and primary school.
“Sometimes, the teachers ask us to pay some dues and buy some items for the children and I try to get it for them,” he said.
Afa Alhassan's children are in school
“They tell us that education is good, but I am yet to feel it because none of my children has gone far with their education,” Afa Alhassan said, with a sense of uncertainty.
“Have you not heard of family planning,” I asked him and his response was expected: “I have heard of it, but I want to have more children because I do not know which one of them would prosper in future.”
Efforts to explain that family planning is about planning child birth would however not sink.
Well, it appears that Afa Alhassan’s 44-years of farming has shaped his idea of life and what he considers the most important is how to get a good harvest each farming season.