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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 

Listen to audio link...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

EDAIF expands reach to stimulate business and export trade

Access to credit and low production capacities as well as market information, product development and packaging are among major challenges facing businesses in the country.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is hoping to address these through interventions of the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund (EDAIF).

Acting sector Minister, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed, says zonal offices are being established across the country to make services accessible by reducing cost and time for potential clients.

He however tells Luv Biz accessing support under the Fund depends on how bankable, saleable and feasible a proposal is to receive approval.

“EDAIF is ready to support all businesses that are aiming to expand their activities so that they can also increase their capacity to export more,” said Dr. Ahmed.

Ghana export strategy has a policy of increasing revenue generation from the non-traditional export sector from the current $2.4billion to $5billion by 2017.

Dr. Ahmed noted there are special funding arrangements for some industries in poultry, agribusiness and pharmaceuticals to boost production and meet international market standards for export.

The EDAIF has the objective of providing financial resources for the development and promotion of export trade, agriculture related to agro-processing and industrial development.

Ashanti regional minister, Samuel Sarpong, is hopeful the siting of the EDAIF Zonal office in Kumasi would drive the promotion of business, commerce and tourism in the region.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Aging agric population in Ghana a worry to best cocoa farmer

Ghana's inability to engage more young people in agriculture production to replace the aging farming population is a worry to industry players.

Best cocoa farmer, Opanyin Abraham Kweku Adusei says it is high time young graduates are empowered to venture the agricultural industry.

He says viable agri-business enterprises, run by young people, will help sustain the sector.

Majority of the people engaged in agriculture are believed to be over 50 years old. Young people turn away from farming, often thought to be difficult, time consuming, risky and not very profitable.

Opanyin Adusei’s call is for Ghana to think critically about how to attract the youth to replace the aging farming population, especially cocoa production.

“We feel that those who are educated can come to the field, use the knowledge they have acquired and then develop the industry. If it’s taken as a business, then definitely the cocoa industry will have a future,” he stated.

Opanyin Adusei, the 2013 National Best Cocoa Farmer, owns over 400acres of cocoa farm. He emerged the global best cocoa farmer at the World Cocoa Conference this year.

He is advocating a review of the country’s land tenure system to ease access for the youth going into agribusiness.

“The arable lands are in use but those who want to go into farming would need land and they’d have to fall on the old lands of the old farmers; but the agreement terms are not attractive and do not attract the youth to go into farming,” he observed.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Students make business out of engineering innovations

Students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) are being exposed to the business of engineering through their involvement in the ‘Makers Faire 2.0’ competition.

The initiative offers a platform for students to exhibit their engineering creativity and ingenuity in solving industrial and environmental problems in society.

Project Founder, George Appiah says the key objective is to encourage innovative teams in design process, technology development and establishment of ventures for job creation.

“Most of these students have wonderful ideas that can be scaled up for businesses,” he noted. “In this programme, there is a part in which they are sent through entrepreneurship and business development, in which they are also required to draw a business plan for their project.”

The competition, which started in 2013, is organized by the Ghana Engineering Students Association with the support of the College of Engineering, KNUST.

Selected projects in the current competition attempts to solve some problems faced by the country – including a smart thrash bin to separate and recycle waste products; a smoke detection gadget to fight fire outbreaks in markets; and a portable biogas system that transforms waste into energy.

“What the students intend doing is to turn the challenges into prototypes,” explained Dr.  George Obeng, Director of the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC), KNUST.

According to him, the best prototypes would be turned into products of commercial value with the support of the TCC and other partners.

“These products can turn into ventures or enterprises to create jobs in our society,” said Dr. Obeng.

An exhibition of the projects is scheduled for next month.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Friday, September 26, 2014

Venture Capital Trust Fund expands initiatives to fund agriculture

A Soya Value Chain Project is being established in Ghana with the objective of financing of seed germination and production of soya beans for the poultry industry.

The initiative of the Venture Capital Trust Fund (VCTF) targets nucleus farmers, out-growers and farmer-based organizations to benefit from the project.

The value chain intervention strategies seek to build partnerships with key institutions, especially incubators and centres of innovation, to promote entrepreneurship with the aim of covering research findings into potential business proposals and viable businesses for funding.

“It is expected that this collaboration and the associated research thereof will go towards improving productivity and economic outputs from the Soya industry,” said the Trust Fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Duku.

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.

From November 2014, the Trust Fund would activate a $20million agricultural fund.

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

Small businesses have complained about the cumbersome processes in accessing support from the VCTF – a situation that often discourages the sector from exploring funding options under the facility.

Mr. Duku however 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.

A zonal office has been established in Kumasi as part of a drive to deepen financing of the value chain programmes in the northern sector of the country.

The VCTF is a government of Ghana backed private equity initiative providing long-term funds and technical support to enable SMEs grow and expand operations.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Newmont Ghana confident of surviving turbulence in mining industry

Newmont Gold Ghana Limited has had to reorganize its production model to survive current challenges in the mining industry.

Managers describe the present production period as “turbulent” which demands critical measures to sustain operations.

Profitability in gold mining has dwindled in recent years, mainly due to high cost of production and lowering gold price.

Mining giant, Anglogold Ashanti has shut its Obuasi mine for a two-year restructuring process – over five thousand workers have lost their jobs at the mine.

Other mining firms are facing similar challenges.

Newmont’s African Regional Social Responsibility Manager, Emmanuel Ato Aubynn, says the company has taken critical measures to sustain operations.

“There is the need for leadership to re-organize our production model so that we’ll be able to survive in this very tumultuous period of the mining industry,” he stated. “If you are working in an industry with unpredictable price that you sell your products, it becomes very difficult to actually plan and as a result some of these things you might have heard about redundancy actually happened because we have to think first about the business survivability.”

Newmont Ghana retrenched about 250 workers last year. An additional 600 are expected to lose their jobs this year.

Mr. Aubynn believes the company has taken the right steps to stay in business for the benefit of all stakeholders.

“We strongly believe that things might turn around so even at this time that we may be operating at break even point or any other level of profitability, we have the hope that if we’re able to re-organize ourselves very effectively, things might change because the gold industry is cyclical; today the price is up, tomorrow it’s down,” he noted.

Newmont operates the Akyem and Ahafo mines in Ghana.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 


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