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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Equal opportunities key to agricultural transformation with CAADP

The commitment of African leaders on Agriculture for Women Empowerment and Development is the focus of the 11th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development (CAADP) Partnership Platform (PP) Meeting holding in South Africa.

CAADP is an African-wide agenda designed to support the transformation of the continent’s agriculture for sustained food security and socio-economic growth.

The annual continental forum brings together more than 500 stakeholders in African agriculture – ranging from government, the private sector, international development agencies, the African Union, civil society and Regional Economic Communities.

“Our top challenge remains that of changing the lives of our farmers that will benefit all our fellow citizens by improving our collective food and nutrition security. And of course this can only happen by tapping into the potential of those who can most contribute to it. Our women have to be at the forefront,” says Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency.

The 11th CAADP Partnership Platform is being held in the context of the celebration of the year of women empowerment and after a landmark summit for African agriculture last year in Malabo.

The NEPAD Agency, as development agency of the African Union, is considered critical for addressing challenges of achieving the Malabo goals with particular attention for women.

Through the Malabo Declaration, a recommitment to CAADP made by Heads of States in 2014, the CAADP Partnership Platform also reaffirms the central role of farmers, men and women, as well as small-medium entrepreneurs as key players to foster decisions on matters of economic policy in Africa.

“By strengthening the position of farmers, women and youth in the value chains we should aim at reducing inequality and creating a more equitable society,” Dr Mayaki said.

Mrs Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, echoed Dr Mayaki by stating the CAADP has put in place several programmes on the ground that are yielding results, and are inclusive of African citizens.

In referring to the Malabo Declaration, Professor Edith de Vries, Director-General at the South African Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry emphaised that all stakeholders need to hold themselves accountable in CAADP for concrete results on the ground.

During a media briefing, Dr Mayaki stated that the energy so far focused on the remobilisation of African States towards participatory and improved planning processes in agriculture, resulting in the design of more than 40 investment plans, some of which were carried out at 100% with significant results.

Speaking on the role of women in agriculture, Mrs. Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes, said that CAADP has allowed a more structured way of thinking and planning in the agricultural sector. 


For Africa to achieve its full potential in agriculture and development, women have to be supported, encouraged and empowered through favourable policies, platforms and various mechanisms.

Youth in rural Africa to benefit from $4 million agric project

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have launched a 4-year project that aims to create decent employment opportunities for young women and men in rural areas.

This is through the development of rural enterprises in sustainable agriculture and agribusiness along strategic value chains. 

The USD$ 4 million project is funded by the African Solidarity Trust Fund.

NEPAD's chief executive officer, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, has lauded this partnership. 

“The collaboration between NEPAD and FAO will go a long way in ensuring that the youth, Africa’s future, are not forgotten,” he said. “It is by creating an economic environment that stimulates initiatives - particularly by conducting transparent and foreseeable policies - and at the same time by regulating the market in order to deal with market failures that we will attain results and impact through the new thrust given to our farmers, entrepreneurs and youth.”

The project – which will see over 100 000 young men and women in rural Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger benefit – is anchored in the Rural Futures Program of NEPAD. Rural transformation is at the heart of this Programe where equity and inclusiveness where rural men and women can develop their potential and thrive.

Agriculture and agribusiness transformation required

FAO Assistant Director General for Africa Mr Bukar Tijani said, “Today marks an important milestone in moving forward and upward in terms of empowering youth in these four countries - especially women, as 2015 is the African Union’s year of women empowerment. This is actually also one of the concrete ways that we can see the declarations made in Malabo in mid 2014, coming to fruition by opening new paths for African youth within the agricultural arena”.

Over half of the continent’s population is below 25 years and approximately 11 million young Africans will join the labour market every year for the next decade. Despite strong economic growth in many African countries, wage employment is limited and agriculture and agribusiness continue to provide income and employment for over 60 percent of Sub Saharan Africa’s population.

However, the laborious, subsistence-oriented small-scale agriculture is often not the preferred choice of work for many young people. If Africa is to reap from this demographic dividend, it will need to attract young people in to the agri-food sector. This will require transforming the agriculture and agribusiness sector to be more modern, profitable and efficient capable of providing decent employment opportunities for this young labour force.

Africa leaders need to set policies that encourage skills development in the agriculture sector to train the youth in different aspects of agribusiness and ‘Agripreneurship’ along agriculture value chains for them to take agriculture as a business. The emphasis of this project is on acquisition of skills along specific value chains and the transition of the trainees into business in the sector.

Ending Hunger by 2025

In 2012 the African Union Commission, NEPAD Agency, the Lula Institute and FAO formed a partnership aimed at ending hunger in the continent. A year later, the four partners organised a high-level meeting of ministers - in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - leading to a declaration to end hunger and a road map for implementation.

This Declaration was subsequently endorsed at the 2014 African Union summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and incorporated as the “Commitment to Ending Hunger in Africa by 2025” in the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods.


In providing a model for advancing the Commitment to Ending Hunger by 2025, it contributes to the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which aims to boost agricultural productivity and food security on the continent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Climate justice takes centre stage at World Social Forum 2015

The struggle for climate justice has emerged as one of the most significant themes in the World Social Forum 2015, as frontline communities across the globe continue to build the “Road to Paris” and leverage global pressure to impact the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Over 70,000 grassroots activists from around the world have kicked off the World Social Forum 2015 with a march calling for peace, democracy and social justice in solidarity with the people of Tunis and all communities impacted by violence worldwide. 

The Social Forum will continue from March 24-29, under the banner: Together to pursue the revolution of rights and dignity.

The final global agreement on climate to be signed in December 2015 at the Conference on Parties (COP) 21 in Paris is expected to be insufficient and far from the kind of action needed to address the mounting crisis.

“People on the frontlines of the climate crisis know what action needs to be taken, and are ready to make change happen,” Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network. ”We need our governments and global leaders to catch up with the people on the ground. Keep the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole, and the tar sands in the land.”

Climate justice organizations from around the world will lead a track of “Climate Space” workshops, discussing the links and common root causes of the climate crisis, food, water, employment, migration, democracy and human rights, and profiling community-led solutions. 

Among the alternatives, delegates from the US will be lifting up the work of Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi and the struggle for economic democracy inside the United States.


Global feminism has also emerged as a core theme in this year’s Social Forum.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Forests essential for meeting needs and tackling climate change

The sustainable management and conservation of forests must be considered in the design and implementation of the new sustainable development goals and the new climate change agreement to be adopted this December in Paris.

This is according to UN officials and forest experts in messages for the International Day of Forests, observed on 21 March.

At least 1.6 billion people directly depend on forests for food, fuel, shelter and income, but everyone benefits from the clean air, water, and climate regulation that forests provide. 


Three-fourths of freshwater, crucial for human survival, comes from forested catchments. Healthy forests are critical for building resilience—the ability to bounce back from storms and other natural disasters.  Mangrove forests, when left intact, reduce loss of life and damage caused by tsunamis.

With a focus on climate change, this year’s International Day of Forests aims to highlight how sustaining healthy forests and tackling climate change go hand in hand.

“Forests are integral to the post-2015 development agenda,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message marking the International Day of Forests.  “To build a sustainable, climate-resilient future for all, we must invest in our world's forests.”

Forests are the largest storehouses of carbon after oceans.  They can absorb and store carbon in their biomass, soils and products, equivalent to about one tenth of carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century.  At the same time, deforestation and land-use changes account for 17 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.


Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the benefits that forests provide are incalculable.  “Forests drive economic development and prosperity, provide jobs and livelihoods, and at the same time, promote health and well-being.  Proven solutions exist to create the future we want; investing in our forests is a pathway to transformative sustainable development.”

Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, said “As the world’s population grows, demand for forest goods and services continues to increase. The dividends from forest stewardship will benefit us, and future generations.”

"Forests are central to the global effort to meet the climate change challenge, eradicate poverty and realise a sustainable century,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Figueres added, “The new universal climate agreement to be inked in Paris at the end of the year needs to put in place a swift peaking of global emissions, a deep decarbonisation of the world-wide economy and climate neutrality in the second half of the century--this will not be possible without smarter and more sustainable ways of managing existing forests and the restoration and expansion of many lost and degraded ones.”

Tackling deforestation, Helen Clark said, requires mobilizing political commitment and working through partnerships. “Addressing deforestation promises wins for our climate, biodiversity, and inclusive development. But tackling deforestation requires political will and leadership from all sectors.”

Global targets set by the international community are driving action that will strengthen forest biodiversity, according to Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  “These targets provide a foundation for addressing the underlying causes and direct pressures of forest loss as well as improving its status, enhancing benefits to all and ensuring wide-spread participation in forest and tree management.”

Mike Wingfield, President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations said the many uncertainties associated with climate change require a robust understanding of appropriate forest strategies.  “Global collaboration in forest research plays a key role in improving knowledge that will underpin effective measures for adaptation and mitigation.”

The International Day of Forests is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests.  Global celebrations will range from community-level tree-planting events, to publication of new forest data and analysis, as well as cultural activities featuring art, photographs and film festivals.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

UN Communicates Negotiating Text for Climate Agreement

The secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has communicated the negotiating text for a new climate change agreement to governments in all six official UN languages.

This communication means that the formal legal and procedural requirements to allow countries to adopt a legal instrument under the UNFCCC have been fulfilled.

Governments are set to agree a global climate change agreement in Paris, in
December, which will come into effect in 2020. As part of the agreement, every country is expected to contribute now and into the future, based on
their national circumstances, to prevent global warming rising above 2
degrees Celsius and to adapt societies to existing and future climate
change.

“This allows early consideration of the emerging consensus and the options
now on the table by all concerned government ministries so countries can
conclude successfully in Paris,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana
Figueres.

“Paris needs to puts the world on a recognizable track to peak global
emissions as soon as possible, achieve a deep de-carbonization of the
global economy and reach a climate neutral world in the second half of this
century at the latest,” she said.

The negotiating text covers the substantive content of the new agreement
including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building,
and transparency of action and support.

Last week’s devastation of the small island State of Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam
brought into sharp focus the human consequences of the threats of climate
change and disasters to sustainable development. Pam hit just as nations
under the UN gathered to reach a new disaster risk reduction agreement in
Japan.

“There is no time to lose. Nations have now agreed new objectives to reduce
disasters and will decide a set of fresh sustainable development goals at
the UN General Assembly in September. The Paris agreement must ensure
climate change does not wipe out these efforts and sets all countries on a
faster track to a clean energy, climate-resilient future,” said Ms. Figueres.


Next Steps in Climate Change Negotiations


2015 will see continued, intense negotiations towards the Paris climate

change agreement. Formal negotiations will continue on the basis of the
negotiating text at the next UN climate change meeting in Bonn from 1 to 11
June.

“The Bonn meeting will be a key opportunity for countries to demonstrate
flexibility and willingness to come to an early resolution of the outstanding issues and to seek common ground on unresolved issues,” said Ms. Figueres.

Further sessions during which countries will have the opportunity to converge on and resolve issues in advance of the Paris conference have been scheduled in Bonn, from 31 August to 4 September and from 19 to 23 October.


Additionally, ministerial-level meetings throughout the year will include
climate change on their agendas and contribute to convergence on the key
political choices.

These include the Major Economies Forum, with up to four sessions
tentatively scheduled this year; the Petersburg Climate Dialogue (17 to 19
May); and upcoming G7 and G20 meetings.

“These opportunities will help to ensure that countries can inject the right level of political energy and direction. What is needed now is that the views of Heads of State, Ministers and negotiating teams reflect a consistent view of ambition and the means to achieve it,” Ms. Figueres added.

Microfinance companies to be hit by mergers and acquisitions

Ghana’s microfinance industry is expected to be hit by mergers and acquisitions as the regulator demands recapitalization of companies in the sector.

The Bank of Ghana wants to microfinance firms to increase their capitalization from the current Gh100,000 to Gh250,000 by June 2015 – this should further go up to Gh500,000 or more in 2016.

There are concerns some companies may be challenged in meeting the requirement and the deadline.

Businesses operating in the sector would have to explore available options if they are to survive.

The Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC) says there are arrangements to engage the regulator in managing the process.

National Chairman, Collins Amponsah Mensah however acknowledged the directive would help build stronger institutions, whilst instilling discipline and sanity in the industry.

According to him, members are encouraged to open up for mergers and acquisitions.

“I’m very hopeful that as we go forward, a lot more of our members will be coming together to form stronger institutions and in that case be able to raise the capital that is expected to be able to run this kind of business,” said the GAMC Chair.

Mr. Amponsah Mensah also believes there are opportunities for the public in invest in the industry.

“People who want to even start new microfinance institution should rather be looking at the possibility of acquiring equity in existing ones or even acquisition,” he noted.

The Bank of Ghana has also initiated action to flush out firms operating without license – names of companies which are not under regulation have been published in the dailies.

Mr. Amponsah Mensah has endorsed the exercise, stating that the savings public is getting increasingly discerning in entrusting their funds with an institution.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

AGRA boosts African seed market with a plant breeding initiative

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is implementing an initiative to increase availability of a new set of plant breeders who can better service Africa’s seed sector.

The Improved Msc in Cultivar Development for Africa (IMCDA) program has a revised practical training and internship approach to enable students to be more productive and useful to the private and public sectors.

The Program will train 90 students in three regional training hubs in Africa – Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Uganda (Makerere University) and South Africa (University of Kwazulu Natal).

The Ghana component of the initiative was launched at KNUST, where 30 students from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will be trained.

AGRA is providing a grant of $2.67million to offer full scholarship to students over a five year period.

The agric sector continues to face challenges of improved quality seed for improved yields.

According to Vice-Chancellor of the KNUST, Prof. Otoo Ellis, certified seed usage and marching applications of other simple agricultural technologies can lead to higher crop yields.

“Therefore an increase in the number of plant breeders who can develop improved varieties with significant genetic gains quickly, in either the private seed companies or the public sector using modern data management and breeding methodologies, can result in higher crop yields and improved incomes for our resource poor farmers,” he stated.

The program, he believes, will empower the KNUST to train industry-ready graduates to produce improved varieties more quickly and efficiently in order to address the “dwindling productivity of staple food crops due to the inability of unimproved local varieties to adequately tolerate emerging biotic and abiotic constraints”.

He believes KNUST is adequately positioned to address problems of smallholder farmers in crop production.

AGRA has been funding other programs in soil science and seed systems at the university.

Dr. Rufaro Madakadze, Programme Officer at AGRA, the program should be beneficial to farmers and the private sector agricultural actors.

“We are beginning to realize that providing scientists for the public sector without some for the private sector does not work,” she stated. “The whole point of breeding is to develop a variety of cultivar that the farmers will adopt, that the farmers can grow and improve their yields.”


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sweet potato: a special food security crop for health and wealth

The story is told of Nalongo Sekiguce, a widow and mother of 16 children, who lives in a hillside village in the Mukono district, a two hour drive from Kampala, Uganda.

Nalongo grew sweetpotato along with other traditional crops like banana and cassava. When she heard about the nutritional superiority of the Orange Fleshed sweetpotato, she planted it to feed her family.

She received her vines and training on good agricultural practices from extension workers trained by International Potato Centre (CIP) – one lesson she learned was that of clean planting material and how the vines from her sweetpotatoes could be multiplied and sold to others.

Nalongo became so good at this that once her cell phone number was announced on a radio station, she was inundated with calls for her vines.

Today, she grows just enough sweetpotato to feed her family but focuses on multiplying and selling her vines to other farmers as her primary source of income.

Adiel Mbabu, CIP Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, describes Nalongo as his hero because she is such a good farmer and business woman and also because she took a chance on a new crop that was good for her family’s health and well-being.

Mr. Mbabu is therefore challenging other Africans to be like Nalongo by taking a chance on Orange Fleshed Sweetpotato.
 
“You know in Nalongo’s village they sing a song about it that says ‘the orange sweetpotato is the healthy one. It’s good for the eyes and the body’. This is true and it’s a great way to tell others about this nutritious crop,” he noted.

The CIP Strategic and Corporate Plan for the next 10 years is to reach 15 million households by responding to the strong demand for biofortified orange fleshed sweetpotato, working with national partners to generate new, locally adapted and nutritious sweetpotatoes and by accelerating breeding and multiplication.

“We can soon claim to have reached a milestone in our history by reaching one million households in Africa with sweetpotato – preventing blindness and stunting in children along the way. This is part of a 10 year CIP program to scale up and out Resilient Nutritious Sweetpotato in Sub-Saharan Africa,” stated CIP Director General, Barbara Wells.

Promoting new varieties in Ghana

In Ghana, CIP has set a goal of reaching nearly 500,000 households with resilient nutritious sweetpotato by 2020.

Former UN Secretary-general, Kofi Annan and Wife, Nane Annan joined a round table discussion led by CIP and attended by a range of Ghanaian partners to discuss innovative ways to harness the power of orange-fleshed sweetpotato, which is rich in beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A that is critical to enhance children’s health and in reducing blindness. The crop is also rich in other nutrients and carbohydrates vital for children under the age of five and lactating women.

“The high Vitamin A content of sweetpotatoes is of high value to children and young infants, particularly in West Africa and in Ghana,” stated Mrs. Nane Annan. “Offering vocational training to mothers and youth and making use of marginal lands is a great model for the region.”

Ghanaian researchers have been deliberating on opportunities and strategies to enhance sweetpotato production along the value chain for health and wealth creation.

Dr. Stella Ennin, Director of the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), describes sweetpotato as special food security crop in the face of climate change.

Her Institute has developed and released 12 high yielding sweet potato varieties, which yield 2-3 times higher than the traditional varieties.

The CRI-CSIR, as part of its vision, wants to establish a Sweetpotato Resource Centre “for stakeholder capacity building along the value chain”. This will serve to demonstrate best cropping and harvesting practices, provide technical backstopping to the private sector on commercial processing, raise the image of the crop and facilitate entrepreneurship in the sector.

CIP breeders will focus on developing a nutritious version of this sweetpotato to make it palatable to the Ghanaian taste buds and improve beta carotene intake.

“However, to get these scientific products in the hands of the smallholder farmers, it is critically important that we work closely with the partners who work closely with the target communities,” observed Adiel. 

He expects partners under the sweeetpotato value chain – from farm to folk – to work towards ensuring products and services generate health and wealth to the deserving communities in Ghana. 

This, he noted, “would be inspiring enough to turn it into another Nalongo story for Ghana”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, March 16, 2015

Local farmers can be part of global food security system – Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan championed the establishment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the objective of catalyzing the transformation of smallholder agriculture into a highly productive, efficient, sustainable and competitive system.

Since inception in 2007, AGRA has reached over 15 million farmers in 16 African countries with over $386 million invested in projects.

Ghana is among the four “breadbasket” countries receiving 44% of AGRA’s resources in support of farmers with seed and soil health and water management along the agricultural value chain. Other countries include Mali, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Today, the former UN Secretary-General says he has a bigger ambition for farming in Africa.

Kofi Annan wants smallholder farmers to become part of the global food security system.

According to him, local farmers can produce to feed their families and also for export by taking a collectively decision at the community level.

“Today Africa is spending $35 billion to import food and we have all the land around us; we have the labour, we can encourage young people to go into farming. If they don’t want to be called farmers, we’ll call them agribusinesses but get it done,” he stated.

Mr. Annan and Mrs. Nane Annan met with the International Potato Centre (CIP) to discuss collaboration with the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to promote sweet potato for health and wealth in Ghana and West Africa.

Citing the efforts of Ghanaian farmers in producing cocoa to feed the world, Mr. Annan noted that such drive can be extended to other crops like sweet potato.

“As a continent, some of us have the habit of producing what we don’t eat and importing what we eat; that has to stop,” he said.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: The African Giant: Risky or at Risk?

"Africans are like the elephant in the zoo," so argues Dr. Samuel Pipim in his latest book release titled THE AFRICAN GIANT. 

He maintains that Africa is a giant, in more ways than one. But despite its huge resources and human potential, the African continent – led by its most populous nation – poses a threat to the world at large.

Thus, he argues “the African giant is at risk, and therefore risky. The time to mitigate or remove that risk is now. Those to mitigate that risk include you. And how to do so begins by reading this book—THE AFRICAN GIANT—and making a decision to be the change that you want to see, beginning in your own sphere of influence.” 

Part I of THE AFRICAN GIANT book is based on Dr. Pipim’s keynote address at an Independence Day event at the Chamber of Commerce and Industries in Lagos, Nigeria, October 1, 2014.

The speech was delivered on the occasion of the inauguration of the Circle of Hands Foundation—a new initiative that targets the youth and young professionals, harnessing their yet-untapped creativity and energy for national development

Although Nigeria was the context, the message was directed at the larger issues of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance. The message is equally relevant to many developing countries of Asia, South & Central America, and the Islands of the Pacific.

Part II of the book appears also in the latest issue of the “African Development Magazine” whose theme is: “The New Scramble for the Wealth Africa.”


Even though this section of the book addresses “The Role of the Youth in African Development," the message goes to all youths and young professionals in other developing nations of the world.

Find out why Dr. Pipim argues in THE AFRICAN GIANT that “Africans are like the elephant in the zoo.”  The book will challenge all Africans and friends of Africa to work towards the liberation of the MENTAL chains that have replaced the METAL chains of the African Elephant.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Researchers target senior high students with biotech education

Ghanaian researchers are focused on increasing knowledge on the application of biotechnology in agriculture and other economic activities.

The scientists believe the high opposition to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) products into the country could be a result of limited information on the subject.

“Biotechnology is an emerging area of science; it’s progressing faster than computer science and even those of us in this part of the world, it’s difficult to even catch up with the pace and that is what has brought about all the myth fear about the GM technology,” said Dr. Marian Quain, Head of Biotechnology Research Programme at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

She is coordinating a project to introduce biotechnology education in high schools across sub-Saharan Africa.

Some Senior High Schools in Kumasi were engaged in a debate on biotechnology as part of the project – it was won by T.I. Ahmadiyya Senior High School, Kumasi.

“The information on biotech even in the syllabus is scanty, so we don’t have much facility in the laboratory even to help teach it,” stated Henry Edem Denteh, a teacher at T.I. Amass.

He describes the programmes as education as his school also receives training kits to facilitate teaching and learning of the subject.

Dr. Quain observed Ghana is yet to optimize use of biotechnologies in agricultural production and is hopeful the project will enhance critical thinking among students in the areas of biotech and GMOs.

“We need to get them educated so that they can make informed decisions and communicate effectively about the technology,” she stated.

The project is supported by Inqaba Biotechnical Industries Limited, a company that assists researchers in testing for GMOs to detect and isolate wrong materials. It is also creating a network in sub-Saharan African to promote biotechnology.

Ghana Area Director of Inqaba Biotec, Christian Adabor Badu, acknowledged there are “bad” GM products in the system but stated that the country should not neglect the importance of having “good” GMOs in place.

He is worried a high court injunction halting production and commercialization of GM products will impede efforts at applying science and technology to increase Ghana’s food security.

Campaigners against GMOs, Food Sovereignty Ghana, is in court contesting the process of testing and production of crops like rice and cowpea using GM technology without an established Biosafety Authority to legally regulate such activities.

According to the group, Ghana’s food security is endangered if it has to depend on multinational companies to produce seeds for local farmers and also contends that GM products will hurt the ability of farmers to use natural seeds for production.

The Court has ordered government to stop GM activities until the case brought by Food Sovereignty Ghana is determined.

But Mr. Adabor Badu says this development will not be in the interest of research for higher productivity.

“If we are able to embrace GMOs in the right way, the country will be able to go far in terms of increasing yield and crop and animal production,” he stated.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Action 2015 Ghana rides women on bamboo bikes for climate action

The bamboo bike market is still growing and it is growing at a faster rate in its own niche market.

Bicycle ridership has grown over the last few years globally and bicycle enthusiasts all over the world are gradually eyeing bamboo bikes.

The bicycle advocacy is increasing as the wind of global warming and climate change issues blows the world over, coupled with increasing cost of steel and aluminium, higher fuel prices and other environmental concerns.

As part of the Action/2015 Ghana advocacy campaigns, campaigners used this year’s International Women’s Day commemoration to urge government to invest in the establishment of a bamboo plantation to support climate mitigation strategies.

Action/2015 Ghana in partnership with civil society groups organized two major activities in Greater Accra and Eastern Region under the theme: “Rethinking Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in 2015 and Make it Happen”.

The activities involved a bamboo bicycle road show in which Miss Tourism Ghana and a former winner of the Ghana Most Beautiful pageant rode bamboo bicycles through some principal streets.

“I am happy to be an ambassador for action/2015 Ghana and particularly excited to promote this bamboo bicycle to mark International Women’s Day as part of my rural community development based project which works to improve educational and equal economic opportunities for women in rural Ghana,” said Miss Tourism Ghana 2014, Naa Teidey Ofori.

She noted that the project is helping to improve the environment and creating employment opportunities for the youth, women and people with disability.

The former Ghana Most Beautiful, Lamisi Sam Awinongya, noted that women in developing countries are not only victims of climate change but also effective agents of change in relation to adaptation, mitigation and disaster reduction strategies.

“Their responsibilities in households and communities as guardians of natural resources have prepared them well for livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities,” she stated.

The road show attracted market women and created a platform for young women to count various milestones and progress made so far whiles calling for greater equality.

Coordinator of action 2015/Ghana, Kenneth Nana Amoateng, said rural women need equal access to natural resource such as land and water, adding that investing in women through agriculture, education and child care will make young girls and women stronger to contribute their quota in their communities for national development.

“We stand at the turning point for the future of people and the planet. We must accelerate action and leave no citizens behind. We will raise our voice today for the generations of tomorrow and demand Action,” he concluded.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Work of Ghana’s oil revenue watchdog hampered by lack of funds

The integrity of Ghana’s oil and gas resources will be better protected when the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) is given a strong legal status, observed Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP).

PIAC is a statutory body mandated to monitor and evaluate compliance of the Petroleum Revenue Management Law and ensure prudent use of petroleum revenues by government and various state agencies.

But this mandate to ensure Ghana’s oil revenue is prudently used is hampered by funding constraints hitting the revenue management watchdog.

According to PIAC’s Yaw Owusu Addo, the Committee, as at the beginning of the 2015, had a meager Gh1,000 in its coffers to run activities. This lack of funds has placed huge limitation for the committee to do its work.

“Our situation is dire, very dire,” he exclaimed. “This year we haven’t got any funding for our budget; it is only the benevolence of some benefactors which is allowing us to survive up to today but the money that must come from the taxpayer to support us so that we do this job is not forthcoming.”

PIAC’s annual reports on the management of petroleum revenues serve to inform the Ghanaian public on revenue and expenditure in the oil sector.

Dr. Amin Adam, however, says the legal status of PIAC is very weak as it lacks the power to summon public officials for information and also to go beyond the Attorney-General to proceed to court to prosecute people against whom adverse findings have been made in the mismanagement of petroleum revenue.

He therefore wants the Committee’s capacity adequately built to deliver its mandate.

“I have so much respect for the members of PIAC; these are members who are not coming from the industry background, they are coming from different backgrounds as journalists, as lawyers, as accountants, as traditional rulers, and so they need a strong secretariat with all the technical capacity and if they don’t have that they should be able to have consultants attached to the secretariat,” he requested.

The ACEP boss believes such capacity is critical to enable the Committee undertake its own independent analysis and technical work on the use of the country’s oil revenues.

Dr. Amin Adam hopes a review of the Petroleum Revenue Law should empower the Committee to leverage on its work done so far.

“PIAC in its current state can still play a significant role if they are given the capacity, in terms of the resources,” he noted.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Friday, March 6, 2015

African Ministers call for Adaptation-Mitigation Parity in 2015 Climate Agreement

The 15th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) has issued the Cairo Declaration which reaffirms their resolve to reach a binding climate change agreement that reflects the continent’s priorities and aspirations at the Paris talks, later this year.

The Declaration also spotlights the need to improve the management of Africa’s abundant natural resources and the integration of the inclusive green economy in development planning.

AMCEN President and Minister of Environment of Egypt, Dr. Khaled Fahmy said, “the Cairo Declaration covers a wide range of priorities for the continent; from climate change and natural resources management to the illegal trade in wildlife and the integration of the inclusive green economy across sectors. African countries are showing solidarity and a determination to play a positive and responsible role in support of sustainable development, building resilience and poverty eradication.”

Stressing Africa’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change, in particular the adverse effects on ecosystems, food production, and social and economic development, Ministers agreed to support an agreement in 2015 that provides parity between mitigation and adaptation – noting the increased burden for adaptation in developing countries.

They indicated the agreement needs to ensure that the mitigation ambition keeps global temperatures well below 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels, by the end of the century.

The Cairo Declaration calls for a global goal for adaptation which takes into account adaptation needs and associated costs, including support for developing countries, while recognizing the need to up adaptation investments in developing nations.

The science shows that Africa is the continent where a rapidly changing climate is expected to deviate earlier than across any other continent from “normal” changes; making adaptation a matter of urgency.

The second edition of the Africa Adaptation Gap report indicates that extensive areas of Africa will exceed 2°C by the last two decades of this century, relative to the late 20th century mean annual temperature. This would have a severe impact on agricultural production, food security, human health and water availability.

In a 4˚C world, projections for Africa suggest sea levels could rise faster than the global average and reach 80 cm above current levels by 2100 along the Indian and Atlantic Ocean coastlines, with particularly high numbers of people at risk of flooding in the coastal cities of Mozambique, Tanzania, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco.

Under these scenarios, adaptation costs would reach US $50 billion annually by mid-century.

“The only insurance against climate change impacts is ambitious global mitigation action in the long-run, combined with large-scale, rapidly increasing and predictable funding for adaptation. Investment in building resilience must continue to be a top funding priority, including as an integral part of national development planning,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The coming months will determine how Africa’s development priorities and climate change common position are articulated and reflected in the context of global negotiations. The work undertaken here by the AMCEN will influence the future of generations to come. It is a grave responsibility that also carries myriad opportunities for the future welfare, prosperity, and development of the continent and its people,” he added.

Managing Africa’s Natural Capital and Transitioning to a Green Economy
African Ministers agreed to optimize the use of natural resources for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. They also expressed their resolve to integrate the inclusive green economy into development planning by mobilizing funds, creating jobs and specially targeting small and medium-sized enterprises.

“We need to step up regional and national efforts and to consider natural capital valuation in decision-making in order to harness the full potential of Africa’s rich endowments and to employ the competitive advantage offered as an engine for inclusive economic growth,” said AMCEN President, Khaled Fahmy.

Africa, the world’s second-largest continent, holds a huge proportion of the world’s natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable. Ecosystem services such as water, hydrologic regulation, soil fertility, biodiversity, climate change adaptation etc. underpin Africa’s economic sectors like energy, tourism and agriculture.

The new Green Economy Africa Synthesis study, conducted across 10 African countries, shows that despite real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increases across Africa of, on average, 5.1 per cent a year over the last 10 years, social and economic challenges remain acute: 48.5 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africans live in extreme poverty, 76 per cent of households are not connected to the grid, and 70 per cent do not have access to improved sanitation.

The report makes clear that green investments can not only drive economic growth faster than business as usual investments, but represent a valuable opportunity for Africa to conserve the natural foundation wealth on which economies, lives, and livelihoods depend.

Enormous sustainable, renewable, and untapped resources exist on this continent. Africa receives 325 days per year of sunlight and is using less than 7 per cent of its hydroelectric potential, and less than 2 per cent of its geothermal capacity.


“What is required, if the green economy is to effectively take off across Africa, is to scale-up investments and adopt the right mix of policy, incentives, enforcement, education capacity development and informational tools,” said Mr. Steiner.

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