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Friday, October 24, 2014

Ghana to activate Ebola Helpline to stay alert on the disease

Leading IT firm, IPMC Ghana is supporting the Ministry of Health to activate an Ebola Helpline to aid information dissemination on the deadly virus to the general public.

Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director, Amar Deep Singh Hari, who disclosed this to Luv News, says a unique telephone number has been allocated for the company to operationalize the service.

“We have trained call centre agents to be sitting on this helpline and anybody who has enquiries regarding what is Ebola, how Ebola gets spread, if they have any family member who gets sick, if they want Ambulance service and anything regarding Ebola, they can call this helpline and the agents at the call centre will be assisting,” he said.
IPMC on Friday embarked on a one-day nationwide Ebola awareness campaign under the title: “Get Smart to Prevent Ebola”.

Over 1,500 volunteers signed up to be engaged on twenty locations across the country to sensitize people in communities about Ebola.

“They are going from house-to-house, shop-to-shop, meeting individuals and families and by the end of the day, they should be able to talk to 200 thousand individuals about Ebola awareness,” noted Mr. Hari.

He says IPMC is supporting the awareness creation on Ebola prevention at the country level because “each one of us must behave and act responsibility” and also need to get smart so that “we keep ourselves ready internally”.

The latest Ebola patient is a two-year-old girl who recently arrived in Mali from Guinea, which along with Liberia and Sierra Leone has seen most of the 4,800 deaths.

Symptoms of the Ebola virus disease include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. It is spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva with fatality rate reaching 90% with no proven cure.

Ghana has been on high alert for any possible outbreak of Ebola in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses should be available in the first half of 2015.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vitamin A cassava as a game changer to “Africa’s best kept secret”

The bio-fortified cassava which is rich in vitamin A is becoming widespread in Africa, driven by increasing awareness of its health and nutrition benefits.

The variety is changing the description of cassava – a root crop often referred to as “Africa’s best kept secret.”

Consumed by over 300 million people in Africa, cassava has been marginalized in several debates because of myths and half-truths about its nutritional value and role in farming systems.

The greatest burden of the crop is the stigma of being considered an inferior, low-protein food that is uncompetitive with the glamorous crops such as imported rice and wheat.

“But the perception about cassava is changing… with vitamin A cassava, we are not talking just about a crop that is rich in starch but about a crop that has one of the vitamins that are most important for human Development,” said Dr Wolfgang Pfeiffer, Deputy Director (Operations), HarvestPlus at the recent Crop Meeting in Abuja.

Popularly called yellow cassava, vitamin A cassava was bred by a coalition of partners, including International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and released in Nigeria in 2011.
The first wave consisting of three varieties was disseminated to hundreds of thousands of farmers across the country.  Farmers’ adoption of the varieties is on an impressive scale and the appeal for the varieties has fuelled their spread for research trials to other African countries including Republic of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Ghana.

“Demand for the varieties is up and we have engaged farmers for multiplication,” Pfeiffer explained. “Our strategy is to get planting materials available to farmers so they can consume these nutritious varieties and improve their health.”

Vitamin A deficiency is a malady in Nigeria affecting about 20 percent of pregnant women and 30 percent of children under 5 years, elsewhere in Africa the statistics are no better. A lack of or a deficiency of vitamin A lowers immunity and impairs vision. This can lead to blindness and even death.

Paul Ilona, Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, estimated that about 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger in which vitamin A is an integral part.

He said that HarvestPlus and its partners were working on several staples to address hidden hunger, adding that in general the organization had worked with partners to release bio-fortified crops in 27 countries including those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Forum strengthens capacity to tackle post-harvest losses in Africa

Post-harvest losses constituent the most critical constraint for food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

It has been a perennial problem facing the Ghanaian food and agriculture economy – inadequate storage facilities, poor road infrastructure and lack of ready market for most agricultural produce are among contributing factors.

Ghana is implementing a national post-harvest strategy under the 2011-2015 Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP), which intends to reduce post-harvest losses through improved harvesting and post harvest handling practices.

The country however loses 20–50 percent of all vegetables, fruits, cereals, roots and tubers produced each year. This demonstrates the low capacity of African governments and other stakeholders to address and meet the challenge of reducing post harvest losses. 

To strengthen the capacity of stakeholders in the agricultural sector to tackle Post-Harvest Losses (PHL), a forum is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Komla Prosper Bissi of the AU Commission explains that the conference is taking stock of the implementation roadmap and strategy to achieve targets set in the Malabo Declaration to reduce post-harvest losses.
“This meeting will be able to come out with actions that will contribute to the development of the implementation strategy and roadmap which has been requested by our Heads of States,” he said.

It will also formulate interventions that would need to be undertaken in the short, medium and long term.

Reducing Post-harvest losses is one of seven intervention areas stipulated by African Heads of States in the recent Malabo Declaration to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) implementation.

In the Malabo Declaration, the Heads of States resolved to reduce the current level of post harvest losses by half within the next ten years. The commitment is to end hunger on the continent by 2025.

Mr. Bissi, a Senior Advisor on the CAADP, observed that one of the achievements of CAADP is to bring agriculture back to the discussion table as a priority sector as governments make efforts to support the process.

Countries are currently at different levels of implementation but from the African Union perspective there is a high level of commitment amongst governments on the continent.

“We have seen an increase in public sector budget allocation to agriculture. Ghana currently is working closely to achieving the 10percent allocation as well as other countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda,” noted Mr. Bissi.

But there is the need to integrate PHL reduction into national agricultural investment plans in the context of the CAADP, which guides member states of the AU on investments in agriculture. This is already the case in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania.

The ongoing PHL Conference is designed to fill some of the existing knowledge and policy gaps and promote increased investment in PHL reduction programmes.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Listen to audio report...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ghanaian farmers introduced to new weather forecast service

Ghanaian farmers are being introduced to the world’s first highly accurate tropical weather forecast.

Known as ISKA Weather, the forecast enables farmers to make informed decisions on when to carry out weather dependent activities, such as planting, fertilizing, chemical spraying, and harvesting.

The forecasts are specific to farm location, which means two neighbouring farmers might receive different forecasts.  The accuracy rate of ISKA Weather is up to 84% compared to other weather services, which average about 40% in the West African region.

Mobile telecommunication operator, MTN Ghana, is partnering high-tech firm, Ignitia Ghana Limited, to expose local farmers to the technology.

Subscribers to the ISKA weather service will receive five text messages per week during the rainy season after dialing a code to activate the service.

Chief Marketing Officer of MTN, Rahul De, indicated that the company is focused on using mobile technology to offer services that creates convenience for its customers.

“The ISKA weather service provides MTN an opportunity to support agricultural development in the country, especially because local farming activities are highly dependent on the weather condition on a particular day,” he said.

Using indigenous knowledge for the planting season is no longer reliable for local farmers because of the changing climate – the rains come when least expected and periods of drought and flooding are unpredictable.

“Consolidating the potential for agriculture, using climate information services, will have a multiplier effect in catering for our youth, shared prosperity, and providing food, water and energy security,” says Dr. Fatima Denton, Coordinator of the ClimDev-Africa Programme.

The Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) programme is jointly implemented by the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank to improve climate information services in support of African development agenda.

“With the ISKA weather service, farmers can undertake activities such as sowing, using fertilizers, and spraying pesticides without the risk of having it all washed off by heavy rain, which will ultimately contribute to increased yields by a significant margin, help in crop loss prevention and also effectively save cost on inputs as farmers will be able to plan well ahead of time”, stated Mr. De.
The service is also targeted at the general public who need highly accurate information about the weather to plan their daily activities.

It will also help business people to improve in planning their activities and events.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family farming is farming God’s way to feed people

Advancing family farming is the solution to combating hunger and poverty in developing economies, says the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA).

Chief Executive, Dr. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, describes family farming as “God’s way of farming” that benefits the development of local economies.
He has therefore recommended that governments in the sub-region commit a decade in supporting family farms and local private sector to build resilient livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

“Let’s give them all of the support; let’s ensure that their children will have access to education; let’s ensure that the food will come from the farm to the market and let’s ensure that the roads are good for the food to come to the market,” said Dr. Jallah. “We do not support the large scale agricultural engagement on our continent; we frown at land grab; we are totally against undermining our own security.”

This year’s World Food Day is being commemorated on the theme: “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” This is in line with the United Nations’ declaration of 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming” to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming to provide food security and nutrition.

A new report by the FAO ‘State of Food and Agriculture 2014’, says nine out of ten of the world’s 570 million farms are managed by families, making the family farm the predominant of agriculture, and consequently a potentially crucial agent of change in achieving sustainable food security.

Family farms produce about 80 percent of the world’s food. Their prevalence and output mean they “are vital to the solution of the hunger problem” afflicting more than 800 million people, noted FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Family farms are also the custodians of about 75 percent of all agricultural resources in the world, and are therefore key to improved ecological and resource sustainability. They are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of resource depletion and climate change.

While evidence shows impressive yields on land managed by family farmers, many smaller farms are unable to produce enough to provide decent livelihoods for the families.

Family farming is thus faced with a triple challenge: yield growth to meet the world’s need for food security and better nutrition; environmental sustainability to protect the planet and to secure their own productive capacity; and productivity growth and livelihood diversification to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.

According to the SOFA report, all these challenges mean that family farmers must innovate.

“In all cases, family farmers need to be protagonists of innovation as only this way can they take ownership of the process and ensure that the solutions offered respond to their needs,” Graziano da Silva said. “Family farming is a key component of the healthy food systems we need to lead healthier lives.”

At a recent ‘Government for the People Forum’ in Kumasi, local Ghanaian farmers identified poor road networks and lack of markets as challenges impeding food production as a business.

Dr. Jallah observed that “food insecurity is a security issue and this must be clear to all of us, whether people in the mosque – the Islamic community; whether people in the churches – the Christian community; this is a major concern.”

The African Union has also declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).

The intent is to “consolidate active commitments towards new priorities, strategies and targets for achieving results and impacts, with special focus on sustained, all Africa agriculture-led growth, propelled by stronger, private sector investment and public-private partnerships”.

Dr. Jallah wants African governments to fulfill their commitments of investing at least ten percent of their annual budget to agriculture.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ghana boosts agricultural financing for higher productivity

Smallholder farmer, George Amankwaah highlights access to agricultural financing as constituting a critical factor in enhancing productivity of Ghanaian farmers and promoting agribusinesses.

Commercial banks regard the sector as high risk and are often slow in responding to the financial needs of farmers.

Ghanaian agriculturists, like others across Africa, are therefore constrained throughout the production, marketing and distribution stages of their operations.

“We’ve been doing well by producing so many foodstuffs for the country. Unfortunately the banks that are supposed to grant us loans to do the expansion have ignored us totally; looking at the interest rates, it becomes very hard for one to go for funds,” George observed.

The paradigm is however changing. Government is heeding to calls to incorporate farmers’ access to financial services into national policies.

New public-private partnerships are also opening up opportunities for agribusinesses to receive support – from production to value addition.

“Everybody always talks about government investing but right now the private sector has a big role to play to take up some of the agricultural investments that are now available for them to make all the money they want”, says Dr. Robert Kwabena Asuboa, a Director at the Grains and Legumes Development Board. “There is so much money sitting with the Venture Capital where private people can harness and use it to invest into agro-processing and adding value to agricultural products.”
Ghana’s Venture Capital Trust Fund has a mandate to provide low-cost long term financing to small and medium scale enterprises.

Since inception in 2006, the Trust Fund has disbursed $3.5million in agricultural value chain financing of cereals and grains for the poultry, livestock and brewery industries.

The Trust Fund is now activating a $20million agricultural fund to expand financing of agricultural ventures, says Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Duku.

“It’s a bigger fund so more entrepreneurs, more SMEs can apply,” he stated. “That is not necessarily going to stick to the Soya bean but all the agric sectors of the economy.”

Agribusinesses, however, complain about the cumbersome processes in accessing support from the Trust Fund, which often do not take into consideration the seasonality of agricultural production.

Mr. Duku says a review has resulted in cutting down the processing period from six to three months. “A lot have changed and we are receiving more applications at this time and processing them faster,” he noted.

The Trust Fund has also proposed to provide wholesale lending for rural banks to increase their capitalization. This is to extend the reach of venture capital to smallholder farmers in rural communities.

Local agro-processor, Robert Nketia is cautiously optimistic of the Trust Fund’s renewed drive to support agriculture.

“Most of the already existing investments went to other sectors, neglecting the agricultural and agro-processing. But they’ve now realized their mistake and now focusing on agriculture which will have an impact in creating employment and making it possible that the rural areas are also opened up”, he opined. “The question ahead of us is: are they really committed? Because that is only way that as a country we can move forward.”

Ghana is among African countries spending at least 10 percent of their annual budget on agriculture, in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an initiative to boost agricultural productivity in Africa.

The programme is implemented by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency of the African Union.

“By adopting the provisions of CAADP programme, countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda have been able to make remarkable progress in the area of food production,” observed Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Ghana’s annual 10 percent investment in agriculture and the inflow from private investments means farmers can access more inputs for higher productivity, improved markets and increased opportunities in agribusiness.

But to commit to the Malabo Declaration of ending hunger and halving poverty by 2025, Ghana needs to do more in achieving higher levels of food production.

The government has a policy of targeted financing in agriculture, according to Acting Trade and Industry Minister, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed.

According to him, “there is special funding arrangement for some industries in poultry, some industries in the pharmaceuticals and then also agribusiness so that they can all boost their production, meet international standards, so that when they export their produce they can meet the market standards”.

The policy falls within NEPAD’s Agribusiness Strategy 2012, which has a programme that seeks to carry out a set of strategic interventions meant to lay the foundation for sustainable economic development through agribusiness, private investment and agricultural trade across Africa.

It is expected that Ghana’s amended Export, Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund (EDAIF) would help propel the growth of Ghana’s agriculture and food processing industry.

Hopefully, farmers, like George can be well positioned to take advantage of existing public-private financing opportunities to increase food production.

Travel: Africa’s busiest and dynamic square in a Red City

Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. 

A major tourist destination is Marrakesh, the third largest city in the northeastern African country after Casablanca and Rabat.

Marrakesh is the most important of Morocco's four former imperial cities that were built by Moroccan Berber empires – the region was inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, but the actual city was founded in 1062.

It is easy to get lost in the city because all structures are in one colour – the red walls and various buildings constructed in red sandstone have given the city the nickname of the "Red City".

Marrakesh has established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading centre for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination.

One Cultural space you cannot afford to miss is Jamaa el Fna – a square and market place in Marrakesh's medina quarter – old city.

The square attracts people from a diversity of social and ethnic backgrounds and tourists from all around the world. Major attractions are snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, food vendors, story-tellers and entertainers.

During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, youths with chained Barbary apes, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups, and snake charmers who will pose for photographs for tourists.

As the day progresses, the entertainment on offer changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with Chleuh dancing-boys, story-tellers, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines.

As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls as the number of people on the square peaks.

The square is edged along one side by the Marrakesh souk, a traditional North African market catering both for the common daily needs of the locals, and for the tourist trade. On other sides are hotels and gardens and cafe terraces offering an escape from the noise and confusion of the square.

Narrow streets lead into the alleys of the medina quarter and a strong but discreet police presence ensures the safety of visitors.

It is fun to be at the Square but have enough cash if you want to pose for photographs – it is big business!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seeking climate justice – from Marrakech to Lima and Paris

The Fourth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) has been an opportunity to reflect activities on the continent that ensure that agriculture is embedded into a solution space, in which climate change has become a risk amplifier.

But Africa would need to have a united voice to seek climate justice at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP 20).

Dr. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, a representative of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) speaks to Kofi Adu Domfeh on the journey from Marrakech to Lima and Paris.

Q:     What was the expectation of a civil society umbrella body like PACJA? 

A:     The agenda is to build the awareness and to raise critical issues on behalf of the citizens and one of those issues that we want to voice here is how to position adequately smallscale farmers if we would be able to feed Africa. The impact of climate change on local communities, those who produce food for us is a major concern to us.

Q:     Going by Conference discussions so far, do you get the feel that this objective is being realized?

A:     It seems we are still far away from the realization of our objectives and even the commitments and pledges that are being made by our leaders; it is disappointing that or leaders are yet to fulfill to those commitments and we want to hold them accountable by raising a united voice by calling on them to sure that pledges, commitment are brought to realization. We are disappointed that the pledges made to curtail the impacts of climate change by the international community are also weak.

Q:     Has it been worthwhile meeting as a continent to deliberate on issues of climate change in relations to agriculture and food production? What is your level of satisfaction?

A:     At the moment we cannot be satisfied with the Conference at all cost because it has been business as usual; we’ve heard from the experts over and over again but we want to hear that the commitments have come to reality. We cannot be satisfied until the situation of smallscale farmers have changed; we cannot be satisfied until our governments have made those pledges to commit 10percent of their annual budgets to agriculture reality; we cannot be satisfied until the money to finance climate adaptation is reaching local communities.

Q:     What then do we need to do as a continent to achieve something significant as we head for COP in Lima in December and later Paris 2015.

A:     We need to go to these conferences with a united voice and an Africa position to ensure that Africa must have the solution for Africa. We need to ensure that our colleagues from the West, the industrialized nations will see reason to accept their historical responsibility as polluters and they will not infringe on us as a continent to pay back what we have done little to create.

Q:      Is what ways do you expect African negotiators to drive this goal?

A:     We need to ensure that Africa and African negotiators will be stable at the table and that they’ll continue to listen to civil society and the voice of civil society will be heard with the help of our negotiators. As we end this phase by 2015, we need to reach an agreement and this must be a global agreement that must have the support of all countries, including the industrial countries who are the major polluters. We want to see our people move from abject poverty to live in prosperity in a continent of abundant natural resources.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

AfDB launches €33million ClimDev Africa Special Fund

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched a €33million Fund on the sidelines of the Fourth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The ClimDev Africa Special Fund is aimed at building regional capacities in climate information gathering and dissemination to overcome challenges posed by climate change.

The first ‘Call for Proposals’ offers private and public sector institutions and organizations the opportunity to access financing to build viable, reliable and regular climate information sources.

Coordinator for Special Initiatives at the AfDB, Ken Johm, says though the Fund is not enough to meet climate information needs of Africa, he hopes it will “be demonstrative enough that others can also benefit and learn from such experiences”.

Climate change makes Africa’s poor, especially smallholder farmers, increasingly vulnerable – with about 37percent of the continent at risk desertification.

There is therefore the need to stimulate growth through the translation of climate information into practical action.

The AfDB has committed to support countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change, ensure food security and support good land, water and forestry management good practices.

Climate information services enable better integration of the water, energy and land nexus, which are critical along the entire agricultural commodity value chain, says Dr. Fatima Denton, Coordinator of the Africa Climate Policy Center (ACPC).

“Our deepest conviction is that climate change remains a double edge sword,” she said. “It constitutes the greatest challenge of our times, but it is also Africa’s greatest opportunity to widen out ripples of prosperity across our continent.”

The Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) programme is entrusted with a mandate to improve climate information services in support of African development agenda. It is jointly implemented by the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AFDB).
Consolidating the potential for agriculture, using climate information services, will have a multiplier effect in catering for our youth, shared prosperity, and providing food, water and energy security, observed Dr. Denton.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Marrakesh, Morocco

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Africa must do more than increase agriculture productivity

Africa’s capacity to feed itself now and in the future remains a major challenge, despite its enormous agricultural potentials to produce enough food for the continent and sell surplus produce.

According to Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), transforming agriculture into a more dynamic commercial-oriented sector will improve productivity, create jobs, generate income and enhance livelihoods.

“Increasing agricultural productivity alone is not sufficient enough to ensure food security,” he observed. “Agriculture must gradually transition from subsistence to agriculture as a business in order to achieve the objective of ending hunger and alleviating poverty.”

Dr. Hamdok was addressing the opening session of the Fourth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) in Marracach, Morroco. The theme for this year’s conference is “Africa can Feed Africa Now: Translating Climate Knowledge into Action.”
To achieve the set objective, he recommends more value addition, agro-processing and agribusiness as well as improved access to markets.

“Limited access to markets, both at local and regional level perpetuates poverty and food deficiency whereas improved infrastructure would not only open up access to markets but also help address challenges of climate change and facilitating movement of food from areas of surplus to those that suffer crop failure due with impacts of climate change,” noted Dr. Hamdok.

Agriculture remains the single most important sector in many African economies, accounting for at least 30percent of national incomes and forming the bulk of export earnings. But the continent continues to spend colossal amounts of money annually – between $40-$50billion – importing agricultural products, inspite enormous resource endowment, unutilized arable land, fresh water resources and human capital to produce sufficiently.

Dr Fatima Denton, Director, Special Initiative Division, noted that Africa is missing the opportunity to use agriculture as a foundation for industrial pathway.

“Agriculture has not served as a transformational hub in fuelling economic growth and propelling industrialization,” she said.

She however there is a major opportunity in turning agriculture in Africa as the engine of development.

“This will require a deep reflection not just about producing more food, but also how we produce it using SMART agriculture for example,” said Dr. Denton.

Dr. Hamdok wants scientific and technological interventions and innovations efficiently harnessed to transform the agricultural sector.

“The availability of reliable and sufficient energy to drive this transformation process is critical across the entire agricultural value chain,” he stated.

According Ms. Yacine Fal of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the CCDA-IV is an opportunity for the Bank to hear from experts and stakeholders in designing its new agriculture strategy.

“We are convinced that the recommendations that will come from this important conference will be soon translated into actions by our respective countries. For our part, we stand ready to support any and all actions that are bankable and fall within the remit of the African Development Bank Mandate,” she said.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/in Marrakech, Morocco

Please listen to audio report...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

African CSOs to interrogate climate smart agriculture at CCDA-IV

African civil society groups attending the Fourth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) will be interrogating climate smart agriculture as a subject that has evoked significant interest.

This year’s conference focuses on agriculture with the theme: “Africa can feed Africa now: translating climate knowledge into action”.

The agriculture sector accounts for the Africa’s largest share of GDP – to sustain food production, climate smart agriculture is being promoted to sustainably increase productivity, resilience and enhance achievement of national food security.

“Climate smart agriculture is the dominant issues because it’s a very emotive issue; it is an evasive issue and we want to see as Africa what it means for the priority climate change discussions – that is adaptation,” stated Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

In a Pre-CCDA-IV Civil Society Consultative Workshop, CSOs under the auspices of PACJA, have been sharing ideas and discussing strategies on how to better support vulnerable African men and women, especially framing the narrative of climate compatible development.

“We believe that African countries are doing their best in accordance with the Climate Change Convention to respond to climate change impacts. Such collective unities like Clim-Dev Africa, along our countries individual efforts, are demonstrations that we even exceeded what it is for us to do”, said Mithika. “The CCDA and other spaces provide us opportunities to look back and see where we are and as the Civil Society, we will work with other stakeholders in such efforts as we believe this the only way to defeat the challenges presented by the growing climate threats”.

The CCDA-IV holding in Marrakech, Morocco  from 8-10 October 2014, is organised through a tripartite collaborative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as part of the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) programme.

According to Madam Olushola Olayide of the African Union Commission, the theme falls in line with the AU’s 2014 Year of Agriculture and the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), an initiative to boost agricultural productivity in Africa.

The Conference provides farmers, researchers, policy makers, civil society organizations, media and other stakeholders with the opportunity to exchange ideas on the ways in which to deepen and broaden understanding, analysis and advocacies on climate change and emerging sectoral issues in international dialogue processes.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Marrakech, Morocco 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Storm in Ghana’s microfinance industry settling

Ghana’s microfinance industry has within the past two years experienced a storm that left over 60 companies collapsing and others going into financial distress.

The burst of the once bubbling industry left most clients losing their savings and investments as some workers also lost their jobs.

“I wouldn’t say the storm is over but it is settling and so it calls for a lot of work, attention and also caution,” stated Collins Amponsah-Mensah, National Chairman of the Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC).

A study conducted by the Association indicates most operators failed to apply the principles of financial intermediation.

“Some will take money from the public and instead of lending it, they thought it was risky and so invested in other ventures without taking into consideration maturity, and so in some cases you see [firms] borrowing short term and then investing long term in other projects that had gestations that were long term,” observed Mr. Amponsah-Mensah.

This, he noted, created liquidity gaps which rendered some firms unable to honor payment of funds to depositors upon maturity.

Rising cost of operations without corresponding increase in revenue base also affected the microfinance companies’ ability to stay in business.

The GAMC Chair added that effective regulation and supervision of the sector was also a factor for the burst – as some firms attempted to beat restrictions on multi-branching.
“But now since the regulation requires that you have an active Board. We are encouraging members to make sure that they have their Boards in place – people who can help them to drive the process,” said Mr. Amponsah-Mensah.

One of the major hurdles to overcome is restoring public confidence in the industry.

A number of traders and account holders lost their savings during the distress period. “It is very difficult for us to trust them again,” said an aggrieved trader at the Kumasi Central Market.

Mr. Amponsah-Mensah has acknowledged a lot of things went wrong because of inexperience. He however says the industry is turning over a new leaf as managers and other staff are exposed to new knowledge in banking and microfinance.

“Anytime there is a storm, then the ground also becomes slippery when the storm is over; so it has to be managed. We are managing this through education, sharing experience of the past and then seeing how we mitigate some of the things that we could have managed before 2013,” he said.

He has appealed to the public to build trust and confidence in the companies because “for the 70% that is unbanked, it’s the microfinance companies that can provide financial services to them.”

The GAMC also wants the government to create a Microfinance Fund to support for the sector to surmount its liquidity challenges.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

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