Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ghana: Cycling for Necessity, Not Ecological Reasons

According to Alhassan, between 1962 to 1989 rice farming was booming in the area and farmers had to get to the farm early to provide security to the crop against rodents. A lack of public transportation to and from farms and market centres, where farmers would be selling their produce, required another solution – and it was the bicycle. “Mobility became very important: you need to be on the farm on time, else the birds will destroy the rice. So bicycle became the most important thing in our life,” he said.
Today, the bicycle is still the most important means of transportation for rural farmers in northern Ghana where access roads are non-existing. “We prefer bicycles to other forms of transportation because it is cheaper, easy to repair, and does not pollute the environment,” said Moses Binjo, a 46-year-old farmer. Small carriers can also be attached to the bikes to carry foodstuff enough to feed a family for a day.
For Binjo, riding a bicycle is also a comfortable exercise that “relaxes our muscles when we are not doing any hard work during lean farming season.” He himself suffered from knee injury but says that cycling frequently had fixed that.
Although the exact number of bikes in Ghana cannot be calculated, there are some 700, 000 vehicles registered, according to Ghana’s Driver’s License and Vehicle Authority (DVLA). “There are thousands of bicycles in use in Ghana, particularly within rural communities,” says Awuni William, an environmentalist. He believes that most people in urban centres would love to ride, but there are no bicycle lanes which would make it safer.
According to William, in rural Ghana almost everybody knows how to ride a bike. For women, cycling reduces the fatigue from carrying workloads and babies on their backs.
Adult states that riding a bike increases cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and flexibility, stamina and endurance and helps burn lots of calories, all of which improves the overall health of an individual. Cycling is also a stress releaser.
Hafisatu Adams learning how to ride a bike. Picture by Npong Francis/
But for the poor rural farmer, health and environmental cleanness reasons are not the main concerns; for them, cycling is just a matter of necessity, a means of livelihood, transportation and communication.
Adams Fuseina, a farmer, said: “My farm is miles away [from my home]. Before, we used to sleep in our farms and come home over the weekends, but with the help of a bicycle we could easily visit our farms and come back the same day.” She wanted to be close to her children – a challenge successfully eliminated by the bicycle.
“You can go and come back to sleep with your family, so we don’t bother too much managing our farms and families at the same time. The bicycle has bridged the gap that previously existed between our farms and families,” she said.
Fuseina’s youngest child, 4-year-old Hafisatu Adams, is currently learning how to ride a bike. She will soon join her friends who ride their bicycles to and from the community school.

Farmers in Upper East Region Livelihoods Threaten

Farmers in some communities in the Upper East region livelihoods have been threatened
because of poor yields recorded in 2012 farming season.
The poor farmers who are now relying on water melons for their livelihoods sustainability experienced poor yield when they allegedly used same foundation seeds (improved seeds) from the previous farming season which affected the performances of farms leaving farmers deeply
disappointed in the so-called improved seeds.
The fears of these farmers heighten because of the fast perishability and un-dependability of
water melons putting their livelihoods under a critical condition. Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Enquirer, the assembly member for Bantafarigu/Farfar Electoral Area in the Garu-Tempane District of the Upper East Region Mr. Joseph Duut Yennukor who disclosed this said, farmers were alarmed
by the failure of the crops. He said they have to resort into the cultivation of water melons as a adaptation and mitigation measures to sustain their livelihoods.
The assembly member however, could not tell what caused the failure of the crop but blamed it on the foundation seeds they acquired from the Presbyterian Agriculture Station in Garu (PAS-G), erratic rainfall and expensive agronomic practices or the lack of knowledge of it. “We adopted the cultivation of water melons as alternative livelihoods strategies which we sell to buy foodstuff”, he said. He said that, the farmers have to resort into water melons farming adaptation and mitigation processes to sustain their
“But this crop is perishable and anytime soon its season will be over and that means that a lot of us will sleep without food”, he said. The assembly member said the farmers are in a distress situation challenged with a
life threatening condition and were now relying on sales of water melons for survival either then that it would be difficult for these farmers, he said.
When contacted the manager of Presbyterian Agriculture Station in Garu, Mr. Solomon Atigah said, the affected farmers used the foundation seeds supplied to them by his outfit the previous year and that affected the output of their farms. He explained that genetically modified or improved crops could not be planted twice
and that farmers who adopted hybrid crops would have to buy seeds each year to be able to increase their productivity adding that this farmers failed to heed to the directive of his outfit.
“The yield was good the previous year so they thought it will be the same when they used the same seeds but that does not work with hybrid or improved seeds”, he said. Mr. Atigah pointed out that these community farmers also failed to follow the prescribed agronomic practices relating to hybrid seeds.
He said, it is this reason that most farmers even in advance countries are against the introduction of genetically modified crops because it makes farmers “more vulnerable and more dependable”. “Farmers who use genetically seeds always have to buy the seeds, but the cost of buying such seeds are high and their availability not reliable”, he said.
He said the flooding of ‘killer seeds” and banned agro chemicals in the market without a clear governmental policy to deal with it would affect greatly the agriculture sector of the country in the long run. The Manager alleged that some banned agro chemicals that found their way into the country are repacked
by some unscrupulous individuals without recourse to national food security the situation he said must be checked.
The influx of such banned agro products in the Ghanaian market he said was an evident of porous, weak and failed systems.
The Director of Ministry of Food and Agriculture in charge of Garu-Tempane District, Mr. Paul S. Ayagiba told the Enquirer that the affected farmers situation arose as a result of inappropriate agronomic practices. He hinted that the farmers were adopting too much to the use of chemicals and that even the water melons from the region are fast losing it value and consumption rate because of the chemicalization of the crop. “People are now conscious of their health and are selective of what they eat explaining why the consumption rate of water melons in the region is reducing drastically”,he said.
The farmers made this rather disturbing revelation at a climate change adaptation review workshop organised by Care international Ghana under the auspices of Adaptation Learning Programme for Africa (ALP). The farmers were alarmed by the influx of “killer seeds” and alleged banned agro chemicals in the market saying if the situation was not control could put their lives in danger.