Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vice President Hands Over 100 tractors to Northern Farmers

The vice president John Dramani Mahama has reiterated the government’s commitment to revamping agriculture in the northern sector to offer not only job opportunities to the unemployed youth but also help improve on the socio-economic conditions of the people.

Northern Sector which includes, Upper East, West, Northern and part of Brong Ahafo region is said to be poverty stricken area and lacks basic infrastructure such as good roads, quality education, clean drinking water among other things that could support the development of people socio-economic conditions. 

The government, he said was opening northern sector to investment through the Savannah Accelerated Authority (SADA), the government programme established to bridged the development gap between the north and south.

The Vice president reiterated this when he handed over 100 farm tractors and implements to farmers in northern sector to support this year’s farming activities.

The tractors which were imported by the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority and aimed to help realize northern sector agriculture development dream set by the government would benefit about 16, 000 farmers within the SADA operational zone. 

The Vice President said the government was doing all that it could to ensure the revamp of northern agriculture which he described as the backbone of Ghana;s economy. 

“The development of  agriculture in northern sector is still the most important dream of the government. This tractors we are handing over today is to support the government’s initiatives aimed at improving sustainable agriculture that will ensure food security in the country”, the Vice president said.

He was optimistic that the government’s initiatives including the activities of SADA would turn northern Ghana into an investment destination to deal with poverty, unemployment and youth migration situation in the area. He however, advised farmers to handle the tractors well and adopt regular maintenance culture to ensure high efficiency and effectiveness of the tractors. 

The Vice president assured Ghanaians the government support to improving socio-economic well-being of the citizenry. He appealed to Ghanaians to co-exist peaceful and support the government to create enabling environment to ensure development and progress of the entire country. 

The Board Chairman of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, (SADA) Mr. Alhassan Andani said the tractor distribution is the third largest initiative by SADA aimed to propel agriculture sector in its operational area.
He said that SADA was developing agriculture after it was identified as leading driving force for the country’s economy and that when the sector is well developed, it would not only solved the food insecurity problems facing the country but help would create jobs, and reduce youth migration from the north to south in search for non-existing jobs.
The programme brought together farmers, Ministers of State, MMDCEs, and other stakeholders to witness the handing over ceremony held at the premises of Ghana Cotton Company in Tamale.     

Chemical Fertilizer Impedes Development of African Agriculture

Life has been a constant struggle for African families since the collapse of colonialism in the early 1980s.  People living on this continent have had no choice but to live a hard life in order to sustain themselves.
One of the major problems in Africa is the lack of existing industry to engage the teeming youth in employment. Very few industries built by the colonial masters have survived the test of time due to the fact that the technologies and expertise required to manage such industries were never transferred to local Africans, who were engaged to work in these industrial set-ups.

Ghanaian official hands over donated fertilizer to farmers at Kpasenkpe. Photo by Npong Francis
Climate change presents another challenge to the struggling continent whose people have been living under a hornet’s nest of social, economic, and political systems.  These systems are a mixture of western and conservative traditions, making these structures a most complex system to live with.

The continent has been struggling over the years to cope with changing times, conditions and ultimately the effect of climate change on existing struggles which include poverty, food insecurity, unstable economies, an unprecendentedly high rate of maternal and infants deaths, malaria infections, malnutrition and under development.

Despite the crippling maladies, the continent is noted for the largest farmlands in the world, and provide favourable conditions for the growth of almost every single crop on earth.  Yet in spite of this, Africa faces severe food shortages and malnutrition – the cause of which has been associated with floods, drought and heatwaves.

A community submerged in water during the Central Gonja flooding in northern Ghana. Photo by Npong Francis

The weather patterns have also changed – rainfall has become erratic and unpredictable, and there exists considerable weather predictions forecasting  difficulties for yielding crops.  As a result, farmlands have been left to the mercy of climate conditions which determines what can be produced and when. There are also the considerably long droughts and thunderstorms which destroy farms and crops in Africa.

One should not forget that man is equally liable to extinction, in much the same way that the planet’s flora and fauna face challenges to survive in a rapidly changing environment.  The inability of 21st century man to “think and act green” is leaving people with no option but to pick up weapons to fight for and secure resources which will support their livelihood.

There is evidence that Africa’s food is in short supply. Water scarcity is also hitting a crisis level. The civil strikes taking place on the continent today are directly linked to the mismanagement of resources and the inability of African leaders to utilise existing resources to meet the development needs of people.
It has become evident that developing agricultural potential in Africa may be the solution to the challenges which face the deprived continent.

The world food programme (WFP) report indicated that the world’s food is in short supply, and this has begun to stir conflict over land and other natural resources. Food donations to the WFP has dwindled over the years which has prompted the UN body to pump billions of dollars to purchase food supply to salvage communities facing crisis.
While food was in short supply, water scarcity across the globe has become eminent. In Sub-Saharan Africa for example, conflicts over resources – particularly water and land are begining to take shape, prompting people to look for weapons – triggering an influx of light arms; as well as mass youth migration from the rural communities to urban centers to search for non-existant ‘greener’ pastures. Youth migration is also notoriously associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS, rape, teenage pregnancies, sexual transmitted diseases (STDs), armed robbery, street-ism, drug abuse, indiscipline and the creation of slums in cities.
Between the 17th and 20th Centuries, the potency of Africa’s land to support the development of agriculture was very high. Within the agricultural sector, both crops and animals were doing well until chemical fertilizers were introduced onto African soil. Now, chemical fertilizers and other agronomic chemicals have contributed immensely to the food shortages in Africa. The use of chemical fertilizers and agronomic chemicals have worsened agriculture in Africa and made  farmers more dependent.

During an exclusive interview with Mr. Abdul-Razak Sanni, an Agriculture extension officer based in Northern Ghana,  he had the following to say:  “Now if you apply one bag of fertilizer on a piece of farmland this year, the next year the same quantity can not produce the same result”.  He said that fertilizers could increase farm yield, however this makes farmers dependent on agro-chemicals to be able to yield crops.
This he said negatively impacted farmers’ income levels in developing countries and contributed to soil fertility.

Most of the chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals are supplied to Africa by US and European companies.  It has been said that chemical fertilizer is the major contributor to the decline in African agriculture. If the plight of African hunger is to be solved, then the impact of chemical fertilizer needs to be taken more seriously.

Irrespective of the motivation behind US and European companies in introducing chemical fertilizers and agro-chemicals to African farmers, the result has made the already poverty stricken farmers dependant, instead of independant.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

G8 Must Act on Africa Food Security and Sustainability

Four African leaders are participating in this year’s G8 summit at Camp David on May 19 for a discussion session on accelerating progress towards food security in Africa, a statement inviting the president of the Republic of Ghana has stated.
The statement signed by the White House Spokesperson Jay Carney indicated that President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana, President Yaha Boni of Benin, Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi would be taken part in food security session of the summit.
The summit discussions will centre on security will also discuss extensively on food security in Africa and the world at large and how to tackle the looming crisis in the wake of climate change and global warming.
This is not the first time Africa leaders are participating in a high level meetings internationally, however such meetings often do not bring Africa deprivation to an end. Mostly, members of the G8 earn political points with vague promises to elevate the poorest continent from deprivation.
Several of such meetings promises to Africa never came through. In certain situations the promise(s) came but with restrictions that tied the hands of the leaders to utilize such support effectively. “The word conditionality that is often embedded in agreements sign between the developed and developing nations is worrying”, says Albert Meinbah, expert in Africa development.
The meeting which comes at the time the world leaders are preparing for Rio+20 Earth Summit will need to focus also on how to reverse climate change and global warming as evidences of the situation abound. Climate change is worsening the plights of Africa continent. Despite the evidence of climate change increasing burdens on the poor people, G8 members continue to remain relatively silence over Africa food insecurity and sustainable development situation.
Africa, though played crucial roles in world affairs, it was still struggling to gain a strong voice at international level. Why must decisions be taken on behalf of Africa without her involvement? This is certainly amounts to “colonialism” and “suppression”. Recent resolved by G8 members to allow Africa leaders take part their summit is laudable however, the voice of the continent must not always be down played recognising that problems in Africa affect the world.
If G8 members are concern about food insecurity in Africa it must as a matter of urgency ban the sale of unacceptable agro-chemicals including chemical fertilizers, which is said have helped destroy farmlands of the poor continent. These chemicals are produce by G8 members most specifically for the poor continent farms.
G8 must also support the continent to reclaim rights to Rio+20, and other international agreements that will elevate the continent from the back bench to front runners that push them rethink of their responsibilities to their own people. Food Sovereignty in Africa should be seen as a collective responsibility.
The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) highlights two Approaches to respond to the causes and impacts of climate change: mitigation of climate change by reducing Green House Gas emissions (GhGs) particularly carbon dioxide and methane; adaptation by limiting the negative impacts of climate change on social and ecological systems.
Africa which just came out from the net of colonialism will need helping hands to survive the brunt of climate change. It need to be supported to adapt and mitigate.  Waiting for the continent to however develop her responses to global warming to reduce the impacts of the changes which had affected agriculture causing food insecurity will not only affect the progress of the continent but the entire world.
Effective climate policy response sets; the adaptation and mitigation are costly cheaper than managing the aftershocks hence the need for policy support.
The G8 countries which comprises France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan, the US and Russia are most industrialized nations whose progresses were done at the expanse of weaker nations admittedly.
The involvement of Africa leaders in food security discussion during the G8 summit must necessarily help prepare the roadmap that will lead the continent out of the foreseeable climate change impacts and reduce the vulnerability of the continent.
The time has come for Africa leaders not to fold hands at international meetings but keep reminding the world particularly the G8, their role and responsibilities to the current stage of Africa and demand accountability.
Inviting Africa leaders to partake in high level meetings such as the G8 does not matter as far as the problems persist in Africa. What is important in African participating in such meetings is to allow them discuss the problems faced the continent while the meeting discuss, design and implement roadmap to eliminate poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and infant and maternal deaths.
Africa deserves such recognition and assistance and G8 cannot afford to fail the continent again but must support its agriculture for sustainable food security, support the development of her industries and management of her natural and human resources to enable her cope with the shocks of climate change.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CARE International trains Journalists on Digital Photo Story Telling Techniques

Francis Npong, Nalerigu

Mr. Romanus Gyang CARE International ALP Manager
As part of efforts to building local capacities to adapt to effects of climate changeCARE International-Ghana has adopted Digital Photo Story Telling (DPST) as a process for helping vulnerable communities to prioritize and share their climate change adaption strategies.

The Country manager for Care International-Ghana Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP) Mr. Romanus Gyang explained that DPST will be deplored by CARE International not only as a monitory and evaluation tool but also to access the impact of climate change on livelihoods and how communities were coping with or without interventions.

Mr. Gyang was addressing participants during the trainer of trainees DPST training workshop organized for some selected journalists from the Northern and Upper East regions at Nalerigu in the East Mampurusi District.

According to him, the aim of the training was to change how climate change adaptation issues are communicated. He observed that though climate change was critical social, economic, health and development issues, communicating climate change issues were poor among policy makers.

“Though climate change is most compelling issue today, communicating climate change issues among policy makers, research institutions and governments is appalling”, he said.

CARE International he said is exploring DPST as innovative ways to communicate the issues of climate change adaptation to community members and the general public.

“DPST is adopted by CARE International to explain the complicated subject using photos and mini films”, he said.

The Manager of ALP also stressed that climate change was a threat to livelihoods, economic development, food security, peace and stability in Africa and needed to be prioritized.

Digital Photo Story Telling is an ideal tool for not only monitory and evaluation but also effective communication tool that can support communities and vulnerable groups to effectively communicate their plight to the world, according to the facilitator and trainer, Ms. Hanne Tornager.

Ms. Hanne Tronager, CARE International Communication Consultant 
Ms. Tornager, a communication specialist and consultant for CARE Denmark ALP took the participants through to produce three digital photo stories in Zambulugu community. The DPST produced focused on deforestation, Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) and advocacy using local persons as guest artists.

The DPST produced are likely to be broadcast on social media by CARE International to reinforce the effects of climate change on the poor and rural folks.

The stories will also be used by local communities, civil society organizations and CARE to more easily share the views of often-marginalized and vulnerable people who are most impacted by a changing climate. 

The digital stories (shown as mini films) can also create spaces for dialog with other community members, local civil society and government institutions in ways that other materials with similar information might not.

The DPST will support ALP’s M&E process by working with community members who have undertaken participatory exercises to identify and analyze their vulnerabilities and capacities to climate change impacts, plan their adaptation strategies and have started to implement them.

ALP will use its participatory monitoring methods to help the groups prioritize their top three adaptation topics - which give them most information on how much and how well they are succeeding to adapt to climate change. The first stories provide a “baseline” for them to record the most important aspect of adaptation that they want to explain, and track over the course of the project.

 Stories may include their current and past situation, how the group feels the impacts of climate change in terms of livelihoods, socially, changes in risks and other change, what they are already doing about it, how and why, challenges and opportunities they face etc, according to what the group finds most important to tell.   The group can then select up to 3 people who will represent them in the workshop to develop their story.

CARE International’s Climate Change Adaptation and Learning Programme (ALP) seeks to increase the capacities of vulnerable communities and households to adapt to the effects of climate change using what they called community based adaptation approach.

The community based adaptation approach hinged on four key elements; promoting climate resilient livelihoods strategies, building capacities of local NGOs and local public institutions, disaster risk reduction strategies and addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability through social mobilization for empowerment and advocacy to influence policies implementations.

Journalists: Right to Left: Kassim Abdallah and Ebo Bruce Quansah
The Care ALP’s overarching goal is also to increase the capacity of vulnerable households in Sub-Saharan Africa to adapt to climate variability and change. It is being implemented in 40 communities in Ghana, Niger, Mozambique and Kenya by CARE International and its local partner organizations.

ALP uses Community Based Adaptation (CBA) as its main approach - developing innovations in CBA, facilitating learning from experiences and advocating for CBA in local, national to global policies and plans.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Major Boost For Ghana Vegetables, Fruits Farmers; MWW to Invest in Northern Ghana

Francis Npong, Bolga, Upper East

CEO, SADA Alh. Gilbert Iddi (3rd from left) conducts MWW Rep Francisco Stargardter (3rd from right)round manago plantation as he explains EU fruits, vegetables specification to farmers
The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) has provided hope and a brighter future for northerner sector vegetable, fruits and legumes and root crops farmers, producers, and marketers after it had been able to woo one of United Kingdom’s biggest handlers of freshagricultural produce companies, Minor, Weir and Willis Ltd (MWW) into its operational areas.
The company with many subsidiaries in about 40 countries in Europe andAfrica would not only partner with the local farmers to produce fresh fruits, and vegetables for European market but would also provide technical expertise and invest heavily in infrastructure development in the area.
The managing Director of Oxford Fruit Company, a subsidiary of MWW Ltd Mr. Francisco Stargardter who visited some local vegetable and fruit farmers in northern and Upper East regions described the zone as ideal place for fruits, vegetable and root crops production. “The zones are ideal place for fresh vegetable produce and we will like to invest in chemical free vegetables, butter nuts and roots crops and fruits production because we have the biggest for our produce already in Europe, Africa and Carribean”, he said.
Under the invitation of SADA, the field visit in the regions was for the management of the companies to explore the possibilities of collaboration and partnership in fresh agriculture produces such as mangos, butter nuts squash, vegetables and root crops production.
Established in 1963 and located in Birmingham at the heart of the UK’s road and rail networks, the company specialized in the procurement of produce from around the world for sale in UK, Europe and Africa, the company sources over 100 agriculture products from than 40 countries and work closely with British vegetables, fruits and butternuts growers to feed the market which was readily available. According to the managing Director, the MWW group incorporates associates produce companies in the UK, Spain, Holland and Germany. These include growers, wholesale, and catering suppliers and marketing companies, through which they can supply produce across Europe.
He assured northern farmers of a world class service in the procurement, supply and distribution of certified seed crops, technical expertise to help them meet the international or European standards for fresh agriculture produce. The company who promised to work in partnership with its suppliers and customers would also be dedicated to the continuous improvement and development of products and sources to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated market.
The Managing Director discouraged the massive and continuous uses of agro chemicals which he said was harmful to human health and was not acceptable in European market.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) Alhaji Gilbert Iddi stated that the establishment of SADA marks the turning point not only for agriculture but also infrastructure development in its operational area.
He said that SADA had moved into action, focusing on market led agriculture that seeks to expand the market for the agriculture produce particularly fruits, vegetables, and root crops from the regions.
SADA he disclosed was also sourcing advance irrigation technologies to encourage dry season farming to make the regions all year farming destination.
Alhaji Iddi told the Enquirer after conducting investors from the United Kingdom’s most popular fruits and vegetable producers and marketing Company round SADA supported vegetables and fruits farmers in parts of northern and Upper East regions that, SADA would turn the agriculture into a fruitful venture that would attract more youth idling in southern sector into agriculture.
He disclosed that SADA was piloting butter nut squash cultivation, a dry season crop that needed little but effective and efficient irrigated land to produce. The crop which does well in hot weather takes only 90 days to plant and harvest. The crop does not also need chemicals to or fertilizers to grow but just water and hot weather and northern sector provides an ideal condition for the cultivation butter nuts squash which was in hot demand in European market.
SADA, the CEO told the Enquirer would also invest heavily Northern sector of Ghana which covered about 65 per cent of the total landmass of the country is said to be disease prone, poverty stricken with high maternal and infant deaths, lack basic infrastructure that forced the sizeable number of the youth to migrate from the areas to southern sector in searching for none existing jobs.
According to the CEO, SADA was poised to transforming the area under its jurisdiction and was leaving no stone unturned to ensure massive development of the area.
“By the time we are done the youth not like to make move out of the region because the potentials and opportunities will be huge to sustain them”, Alhaji Iddi told the Enquirer.
SADA was partnering with EDIF, NRGP, MiDA and other developmental agencies to provide a long term solution to solution the regions deprivation. “We want to bring the youth back to the region to engage in activities that will give them both long and short term benefits. That is why SADA is bankrolling the pilot project butter nuts squash cultivation and funding irrigation projects and supporting local farmers with technical expertise and high but short term yielding crop varieties”, he said.

a women in Upper East region irrigates her land for butter nuts squash cultivation
Butter nut squash is a wild fruit which takes less efforts and investment to produce as it does not demand too much water, or the use of agro chemicals. The crop which was said to have improved the livelihoods of most European farmers takes only ninety days to mature in a hot but less raining zones being its ideal environment. The crop which is also said to have some medicinal values has ready market internationally and was already in high demand. It was said to have turned agriculture in Brazil to flourishing business venture.
It is against this background that the SADA was bankrolling the pilot cultivation of the crop in its operational area which indicates a positive response. The Upper East Regional Minister Mr. Mark Wayogo who hailed SADA for bringing the investors to explore investment possibilities invited investors to in irrigation project to support the dry season farming to make the regions self food sufficient and improve the livelihoods of farmers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

NGO constructs GH¢11,370 rain harvesting water tank for Gnani community in Yendi

From: Francis Npong, Gnani,
A sod has been cut for the construction of three rain water harvesting tanks for the pupils of Gnani primary and junior high school at a short ceremony held at Gnani in the Yendi Municipality.
The project valued at GH¢ 11, 370 and funded by Eagle Communication Filming Company based in Canada through Christian Children Fund of Canada (CCFC) was part of the efforts to promote children health and education.
The tanks when completed would bring the number of rainwater harvesting tanks constructed by CCFC through partner organisations in the northern region to 107 at the cost of GH¢305, 000 according to the country Director of CCFC, Mrs Sanatu Nantogma.
She said the project is part of the water, health, nutrition, sanitation, sustainable livelihood development and hygiene intervention area under CCFC which aimed at reducing water and sanitation related diseases among school pupils. The organisation is registered in Canada as charity organization, also member of Child Fund Alliance- a child focused alliance of international organisations operating in over 55 countries protecting and promote children development, education and health.
Mrs. Nantogma explained that CCFC addresses the needs of children in economically poor areas and that provision of water to school children would help them stay and learn in the school, promote hygiene and prevent sanitation and water related diseases. She said the project would also discourage absenteeism, child delinquency among other things.
The Vice president of CCFC-Canada, Carol Froom said children are the future world leaders and deserved every encouragement and support they deserve to development as responsible adults and that her outfit would continue to support the needs of children in Ghana and for that matter the whole wide world.
The project which is being implemented by Tuma Kavi Development Association, a community based non-for profit organisation is parts efforts to solve perennial water crisis faced community schools. The project Coordinator of Tuma Kavi, Mr. Jonathan Nasona Zakaria said aside these water tanks CCFC is financing $32,000 3-class room Early Childhood Development Center at Gnani to improve children education in the Yendi Municipality.
The rainwater harvesting tanks which is being constructed by Duraqua Company Ltd (DCL), would contain 30,000 litres which is enough to last for six months dry season period and would serve the pupils and community members from the difficulties they go through before accessing water during dry season.

Ghana gov’t urged to lead role in climate change talks in Africa

From: Francis Npong, Tamale
The stakeholders in development have called on government of Ghana to play an influential role in forging a concerted and strong African voice at the Copenhagen talks and beyond to signal the seriousness of climate change issues to Africa and other vulnerable countries in the world.
According to them, a concerted and strong position by Africa governments in Copenhagen talks would give a good signal of the seriousness of climate change for Africa and developing world that are most likely to bear the brunt of climate change.
In a nine-point communiqué signed by the Director of SEND-Ghana, Mr. Samuel Zan Akologo, Delasie Frank Amable, Care/KASA, Tony Dogbe, Participatory Development Associates, Tzvetelina Arsova, Christian Aid and Bashiru Daballi for chief of Tamale, and issued at the end of a two-day consultative forum on climate change organized by SEND-Ghana held in Tamale, the stakeholders commanded government on her efforts so far undertaken and its willingness to continue to engage civil society in the run-up toCopenhagen climate change talks and it related issues.
They however called on government of Ghana to play an influential role in forging a concerted and strong African voice at the Copenhagen talks to advocate for a comprehensive deal on climate change that recognizes climate as an issue that was central to development, growth and poverty reduction, fair and equitable, recognizes the need to support vulnerable countries to adopt, and enable them to benefit substantially from financial mechanisms in responding to climate change.
They stressed the need for sustained efforts by civil society to partner government with the view to shaping a strong position at the Copenhagen climate change talks. They also encouraged government to build capacity across government institutions and integrate responses to climate change in relation to their development mandates and objectives.
They urged government to empower traditional authorities to play their role of stewardship over natural resources at the local in a responsible and accountable manner. They also urged civil society organizations to commit themselves to participate in the government of Ghana consultative processes in the lead up to the Copenhagen talks and beyond and also continue their own independent engagement on climate change issues through areas like sensitization, tracking government commitments, advocacy and lobbying.
They also called on civil society to enhance their capacity and broadening the consultative processes leading to the Copenhagen talks and beyond at the levels of society and developing a broad constituency and consensus on the causes, impacts and responses to climate change, climate vulnerability and adaptation among other things.