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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 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Development practitioner whips up voluntary communal spirit

A development practitioner is entreating opinion leaders and other influential individuals in society to set the pace for community development initiatives.

Vincent Frimpong Manu, a native of Kwadaso in the Ashanti region, says the spirit of voluntary service must be whipped up for sustainable development to thrive.

He recounted his days as President of the Kwadaso Students Union where he organized young people to voluntarily embark on clean-up exercises in the community.

“I am happy to see this kind of voluntary spirit still lingering and it is important that we keep that momentum,” he observed.

Mr. Frimpong Manu spoke to Luv News when he supported a clean-up exercise at Asuoyeboa, a suburb of Kumasi.

“I thought it was a good idea to come and support them; at least it will go a long way to create awareness about the need for people to protect the environment, ensure proper sanitation, de-silt the gutters and more importantly increase education. If people are able to do this regularly, then they can prevent diseases like cholera and malaria,” he expressed.

Mr. Frimpong Manu also donated some exercise books to students at the University of Education, Winneba Kumasi Campus – direct beneficiaries are the Tertiary Education Students Confederacy of the NPP (TESCON).

Whilst entreating the government to be sensitive to the needs of local communities, Mr. Frimpong Manu encouraged the spirit of philanthropy to meet the needs of local people.


“If you see these things, wherever you are as a good citizen you need to come and physically get involved; if you do not have the time to come and engage in such clean-up exercises or support certain key projects, you can make donations,” he noted.

According to him, the engagement of influential people in such activities inspires and motivates local communities to also commit to volunteerism.

The development practitioner has lined up series of activities to drive the promotion of education at Kwadaso and other communities.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Leaders at UN Climate Summit take steps to ensure food security by 2050

With demand for food set to increase 60 per cent by 2050, world leaders, major corporations and civil society at the United Nations Climate Summit have pledged commitments to transform agricultural practices by increasing productivity while reducing carbon emissions.

“I am glad to see action that will increase agricultural productivity, build resilience for farmers and reduce carbon emissions,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he opened the meeting. “These efforts will improve food and nutrition security for billions of people.”

Nine billion people are expected to be living on the planet in 25 years and food production will need to spike in order to feed them.

Today, at the biggest climate conference in history, more than 20 Governments, and 30 organizations and companies announced they would join the newly launched Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, which aims to enable 500 million farmers worldwide to practice climate-smart agriculture.

The countries joining represent millions of farmers, a quarter of the world cereal production, 43 million undernourished people and 16 per cent of total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

Civil society organizations also committed to take action on the ground that “protect the poorest and most vulnerable farmers from climate change,” according to a joint statement released today.

While farmers, fishers, and foresters have already adapted to climate change through indigenous and scientific knowledge, they need investment and policy changes to better manage risk, forecast weather and better use natural resources.

The Global Alliance strives to achieve increases in agricultural productivity and farmers’ incomes while simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ensuring people have access to quality food and nutrition is also a priority.

On a regional level, the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance- set up by the African Union- brings governments and civil society together to help about 25 million farming households across the continent practice climate-savvy agriculture by 2025.

“Africa is leading by example, and the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance will help ensure that the agriculture sector can continue to be an engine of economic growth and social development for all our people, even in the face of climate change,” said Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the African Union Commission in a statement.

A similar initiative in North-American will be launched in 2015 to help farmers adapt and improve resilience to climate change.

Major corporations are committing to the cause as well. Walmart, McDonald’s and the Kellogg Company have committed to increase the amount of food in their supply chains that are produced with climate-smart approaches – an important step to curb carbon emissions.

Walmart, the world’s largest grocery store, sells 70 million tonnes of food annually. McDonald’s buys two per cent of the world’s beef, a major source of agricultural greenhouse gas production.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank also announced today that 100 per cent of their agricultural investment portfolios – about $11 billion – would be climate-smart by 2018.

And the World Food Programme (WFP) expanded its R4 Rural Resilience Initiative to empower food insecure rural households in Malawi and Zambia.

These pledges come on the heels of the Secretary-General’s plea to keep global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius by reducing emissions, moving money, pricing pollution, and strengthening resilience.

Agriculture is just one of eight action areas identified as critical during the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a two-day meeting held in the United Arab Emirates in May 2014. Others include sustainable urban public transport and investment in renewable energy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Role of allied health professionals in effective service delivery

Under no circumstance should the role of any professional in the health service delivery value chain be discounted, says Professor E. Tsiri Agbenyaga, Provost of the College of Health Sciences at the KNUST.

He says every service provider in the sector – especially those not in the frontlines like doctors, nurses and pharmacists – has a significant role to play, hence must be accorded due recognition.

He spoke on the theme “Delivering Safe and Effective Practice and Healthcare: The Role of the Allied Health Professionals” at the induction ceremony for allied health interns in Kumasi.

Allied health professionals – including optical technicians, laboratory technicians and assistants and physiotherapy assistants – constitute about 60 percent of the total health workforce in Ghana.

They provide diagnostic, preventive, therapeutic, rehabilitative and supportive care across the range of health services.

Prof. Agbenyaga observed that the contributions of some health professionals may not be acknowledged, the most important thing is to meet the expectation of patients.

He particularly referred to the importance of the medical laboratory specialists in disease diagnosis for preventive purposes.

Acting Registrar of the Allied Health Professions Council, Dr. Clement Opoku-Okrah, enjoined the interns to search for improved and better ways of managing health for the betterment of clients and the population.

He also appealed to government ease the long period it takes to employed graduates after their internship programme.

Ashanti regional minister, Dr. Samuel Sarpong observed the need to build capacity of health professionals “in providing essential preventive and treatment services”.

“Government recognizes the important of allied health services and has dedicated a portion of its research and programming interest to understanding and addressing the needs of those professionals in the nation,” he stated.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, September 22, 2014

UN Climate Summit must hear the voice of Africa

The World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop wants the African voice to be heard, as more than 120 world leaders converge on New York this week for an unprecedented UN Climate Summit.

In all the global discussions around rising sea levels, shrinking rain forests, imperiled species and biodiversity, green bonds and carbon prices, Africa’s unique stake and contribution to a global climate strategy needs to be more front and center, he stated.

“This is only right for a continent that has contributed the least to the profound changes underway in the Earth’s climate but whose people will suffer its withering impact the most," said Mr. Diop.

Africa is responsible for only 3.8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet African countries experience first-hand the devastating effects of increasingly severe droughts and floods and more extreme weather patterns that scorch or drown their crops.

According to Mr. Diop, Africa’s political and business leaders are already committed to a climate-resilient growth path, yet the path promises to be bumpy. 

Ahead of the UN Climate Summit, ClimDev-Africa partners – Africa Union Commission, Economic Commission for Africa and African Development Bank – will organize an event to elicit new knowledge and innovative ideas on how best Africa could rise to the challenges posed by the impacts of climate change.

The event is under the theme, “Moving against the tide: Africa rising to seize climate change opportunities; Water, Food and Energy Security”.

The aim is to bring to the fore Africa’s particular climate challenges and opportunities and its efforts to turn these challenges into development opportunities.

Recent World Bank research outlines a disturbing scenario for Sub-Saharan Africa in a 2oC warmer world, forecasting dramatic effects on agriculture and food production in a region where 80 percent of Africans rely on agriculture to make ends meet for their families.

“Consequently, we cannot separate agriculture and food security from climate change,” observed the World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region.

Agriculture in Africa accounts for 30-40 percent of GDP. A 1.5oC to 2oC increase in temperature by the 2030s and 2040s will lead to a 40- to 80-percent reduction in the area of land suitable for growing maize, millet and sorghum.

At the African Union Summit in Malabo, last June, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete reminded his audience that the effects of climate change are likely to strike to the detriment of the whole continent.  

He added that Africa now requires in excess of US$15 billion per year to combat climate change, a figure that continues to rise.

The good news is that Africa is uniquely well positioned to build resilience, especially in energy and agriculture, and has already embraced sustainability.

Being green is good for business, said Mr. Diop, noting that the World Bank is stepping up to the challenge. We are financing transformational projects that attack poverty from multiple angles. We are supporting governments to promote climate-smart agriculture so that African farmers can achieve higher yields and make their farming more resilient to the changing climate.”

According to him, the green energy revolution in African cannot be achieved without financial support of the international community, to bring down the costs of adopting these clean technologies.    


“The warning signs are clear: climate change under even the 2oC scenario is a menacing threat to sustainable development in Africa. These impacts could potentially overwhelm existing development efforts. We ignore the early warning signs at our collective peril. But, through collective action, we can ensure a climate-resilient future that benefits all Africans and the entire planet,” said Mr. Diop.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Multimedia celebrates its outstanding journalists

Irrespective of what job one does, a pat on the back is enough to influence and motivate us to strive always to the top.

In line of its tradition of acknowledging and appreciating its people, Multimedia Group Limited has honoured two of its journalists for excellence and diligence.

Click to read full story:

Multimedia celebrates outstanding journalists

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Empowering mining communities with law on mineral revenue use

Concerns of local communities in the use of mineral royalties would be addressed when the country enacts a Mineral Revenue Law, advocates the Ghana Chamber of Mines (GCM).

Mining communities directly bear the brunt of mineral exploitation, especially environmental pollution. People in these communities however complain they see no benefits of mining to improve their livelihood.

The proper use and formula for sharing of mining royalties are thorny issues in mining communities. Among concerns is that government has used up the revenue from mining without recourse to addressing the development challenges of local mining communities.

Tutuka Central is a small town affected by mining exploration at Obuasi in the Ashanti region. Local electoral area representative, Gifty Owusu Afriyie expects that the municipal assembly would invest its share of mineral royalties in providing potable water for her constituents.

“Even communities which are not closer to the mines have their rivers polluted… so I want to Assembly to increase provision of pipe borne water,” she requested.

The consensus is that deprivation of local people of benefits from mineral resources could be disastrous as they sacrifice farms and livelihood sources for mining to thrive.

The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), an NGO, has advocated that local assemblies be made to be accountable in the use of mineral revenue.

Public Affairs and Environmental Director at the GCM, Ahmed Nantogmah, believes the passage of the mineral revenue legislation would empower mining communities to demand accountability in the application of royalties.

“So that people will spend mineral revenue according to particular stipulations and regulation,” he opined.

He noted that it is high time government heeded the suggestion for the law, which should be fashioned along the lines of the Petroleum Revenue Management Law.

“Recently we’ve seen that the Minerals Commission has come up with guidelines on utilization of royalties but we believe that it should go beyond the guidelines,” stated Mr. Nantogmah.

Local assemblies presently access 10 percent of total mineral royalties received by government for community development projects.
 
The Chamber has reiterated calls on government for the amount to be increased to 30 percent.

This in addition to targeted spending of the royalties would help drive local development, said Mr. Nantogmah.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Novel plan for African smallholder farmers to access quality seed

Access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across Africa.

This affects their agricultural productivity, income and resilience. Addressing this challenge is a complex task and cannot be done at national levels alone.

A new Africa-wide programme aims to support the development of a vibrant, market oriented and pluralistic seed sector in Africa.

The programme will use an Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) approach to address the challenges.

The ISSD approach is endorsed by the African Union Commission as contributing to the implementation of the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP) program and the seed agenda of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

The Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) aims to enhance reliable access of smallholder farmers to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at an affordable price.

“A well-functioning seed sector is vital to food security and farmers’ livelihoods, but making it work is a complex challenge. Governments, businesses, farmers and researchers all need to work together to make Africa’s seed sector more vibrant, dynamic and resilient for many years to come,” said Marja Thijssen, ISSD Africa Coordinator based in the Netherlands.

The programme — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch Government — will be conducted in phases.

The Piloting Phase of ISSD Africa – running from September 2014 to August 2016, will contribute to the development of the five-year Comprehensive Programme.

During the piloting phase, ISSD Africa will work with existing seed programmes in 8-10 countries to explore how seed sectors can be integrated at local and national level. The organisers hope to draw out lessons that will inform international dialogues on seed policy.

Four priority themes have been identified: promoting entrepreneurship in the seed value chain; access to varieties in the public domain; matching global commitments with national realities; and supporting African Union programmes and seed sector development.

Addressing these themes will be done through action research, innovation trajectories, policy dialogues, capacity strengthening, and joint learning in eight to ten pilot countries.

The project aims to set up an Africa-wide network of experts, seed programs and related organizations, and encourage those working in the seed sector to learn from each other and work together.

The project will be coordinated by a consortium of an African-based secretariat working closely with the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR), the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC).
The Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development — a policy research institute of the Kenyan-based Egerton University — will host the African-based Secretariat.

ISSD Africa will operate under a set of Guiding Principles on seed programs and policies. These stress the importance of pluralism, diversity and interaction between formal and informal systems.  They also focus on entrepreneurship and markets, policies to support a dynamic sector, and high-quality evidence. 

The programme is being launched in Nairobi on September 18.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Travel: Kumasi Airport upgrade to connect international flights

Domestic air passenger traffic at the Kumasi Airport has surged in the past three years with an increase in airlines and flight frequency.

The local airport has been identified as strategic in driving socio-economic development to the northern sector of the country.

Air travelers therefore want the upgrade of the Kumasi Airport to international status expedited to ease direct international flight connectivity.

Kofi Adu Domfeh filed this report from the airport… (Listen to audio)



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Investors explore establishing convention centre in Kumasi

A South African investment group is exploring the probability of establishing a modern international Convention Centre in Kumasi.

Such a facility often includes malls, motels and conferencing for people of different aims to converge for purposes of social, political, business and industrial shows.

Executive Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Charles Osei Bonsu who disclosed this says a team is presently undertaking feasibility to ascertain the viability of the project.

He says the interest is based on the ease in air connectivity from Accra to Kumasi and the strategic location of the Ashanti region as a central business enclave of the country.

Mr. Osei Bonsu says there are opportunities for job creation and a boost to the hospitality industry.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, Kojo Bonsu, believes the city of Kumasi can single handedly host the 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the continental football tournament.

“If we prepare a good programme proposal and get serious to champion the cause, we should be able to host the African Cup of Nations in Kumasi,” he told newly sworn-in executives of the Ashanti regional chapter of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF).

Newly sworn-in chairman of GHATOF Ashanti, Ahmed Naaman, says the preoccupation of the executives would be to drive tourists to Kumasi.

The Mayor wants players in the hospitality industry, especially, to gear up for the possibility of hosting the tournament in the city.

Kumasi would need 16 standard hotels in place to accommodate the 16 participating countries.

Mr. Bonsu therefore wants all hands on deck to engage government to make his vision a reality.

“All the other smaller hotels will make money because the tournament will be concentrated in Kumasi,” he said. He added that the football tournament will offer opportunities for small businesses and drive the city’s development.

The Kumasi Mayor wants the staging of the football tourney to be part of activities to commemorate the 350 years of founding the city of Kumasi.

Since assuming office in May 2013, the mayor has outlined ambitious projects to transform the socio-economic development of Kumasi. These include the planned installation of $1million CCTV cameras and the planting a million trees in the metropolis.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tourism federation targets informal sector with quality service training

Poor service delivery in the tourism and hospitality industry remains a major drawback to the growth of the sector.

Industry managers in both the public and private sectors are therefore committing to targeted training to improve the quality of service.

Some 18 thousand members of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF) have so far been trained under the Skill Development Fund, managed by the Council for Vocational and Technical Education and Training (COTVET).

President of the Federation, David Nana Anim, tells Luv Biz the focus is skewed towards the informal sector, with a scheduled training of an additional 5,800 traditional caterers across the country.

He however says training is as important as licensing operators to conform to standards and be subjected to monitoring.

“Look at people selling around gutters, unclean environments and others go there to buy the food; so they are the target group that we need to train. Look at the issue of cholera [for instance], they must be trained because they are the people who can manage diseases,” he noted. “At the same time since you are in business, you need to pay for your license.”
 
GHATOF is strengthening regional bodies to position the private sector to drive the tourism and hospitality industry in Ghana.

Ashanti region, the cultural-based tourism hub of the country, is considered critical heartbeat for the growth of the industry, hence the establishment of a regional chapter

According to the Executive Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Charles Osei Bonsu, says Kumasi is growing as an attractive tourism and investment destination based on the ongoing projects including the Kumasi and the planned construction of the second national theatre.

“If you look at the patronage of domestic airlines, that should tell you that we’re growing and the potentials are enormous,” he observed. “What we are going to do now is to focus on product development; that is the development of the attraction sites and then the development of the super-structure facilities; that is more hotels, more restaurants of specialty, nightclubs, movie theatres and so on.”

Mr. Osei Bonsu added that capacity building for personnel is prioritized. “We need to provide quality service so that we can meet or exceed the expectation of guests,” he said.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Exploiting win-win opportunities in agricultural biotechnology application

The African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) says the continent would be disadvantaged in agricultural production if countries continue to lag behind in the adaptation and application of biotechnology.

The network is set up by the AU’s NEPAD – New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development – with the goal of building functional biosafety systems in Africa and empowering local regulators with science-based information.

Dr. Moussa Savadogo, Senior Program Officer, Environment Biosafety, says no country should ignore the importance of biotechnology in food production.

“Africa has been caught up with misinformation about GMO but people have now started getting the right information, so they are seeing the importance of biosafety; they are seeing the importance of biotechnology and they are being aware that it will be a very bad thing if they continue to lag behind this technology,” he observed.

Agricultural productivity in Africa is relatively low due largely to the low level of engagement of modern technologies.

Fertilizer usage is not more than 8kg per hectare in Ghana compare 100-200 kg/ha in Asia for the Green Revolution and only 0.2% of land is under irrigation in Ghana.

Modern biotechnology is expected to contribute to the efficient use of agro-inputs as well as in the development of the seed sector, according to experts. It will contribute to sustainable intensification of agriculture in Ghana.

But there is fierce public debate on introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agricultural production.

Advocacy group, Food Sovereignty Ghana, for instance contends that “GMOs yield profits only with large scale mechanized agriculture that throws people out of work and off their land”.

Dr. Savadogo however says “no country should ignore biotechnology but harness the benefits of biotechnology by setting up biosfaty systems.”

Ghana’s Biosafety Act 831 of 2011 ensures that society derives the benefits from biotechnology for socioeconomic development. The Act regulates that the acquisition of the technology must be also enabling.

Prof. Walter Alhassan, a private consultant and former head of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says Ghana would need to go for win-win engagements with international agri-businesses in order that the country benefits from new technology application in agriculture.

He expects negotiations with multinationals in technology adaptation to be mutually profitable.

“The multinationals invest a lot in their technologies, so if they are bringing it to you they also want to maximize their profits; but you must also make sure that you gain as much as possible to ensure win-win outcomes,” said Prof. Alhassan.

Ghana, like other African countries, is exploring available technologies to sustain agricultural production.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Agriculture is now under sustained threat from climate change

Climate-Smart Agriculture is an efficient and effective intervention for achieving food productivity and security objectives and development goals at the same time, even as the world struggles to contain the effects of climate change, says former President John Kufuor.

“Agriculture is now under sustained threat from Climate Change and hence the call for Climate-Smart Agriculture,” he noted in a panel discussion of the ‘Global Panel on Agriculture for Food Systems and Nutrition’ at the 2014 African Green Revolution Forum.

The ongoing Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is on the topic “Linking Climate Smart Agriculture and Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture”.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture is both a victim and a culprit when it comes to climate change – agriculture contributes about 14% of the greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change, and an additional 17% from deforestation and land degradation associated with uninformed agricultural and other practices.

Mr. Kufuor’s advocacy for climate-smart agriculture is to ensure that agricultural production and productivity are enhanced for food security and income-sustainability.

It is also to boost resilience of livelihoods and ecosystems as well as mitigate agriculture’s contribution to global warming.
 
“In practicing Climate-Smart Agriculture, the agricultural sector stands to capture synergies that exist among activities to develop more productive food systems, and improve natural resource management,” he said.

The UN Envoy on Climate Change noted that achieving the four dimensions of food security – availability of; and access to food; utilization of food for adequate nutrition; and stability of food supply – must be the overall goal of food production and distribution systems.

This, he says should involve policies on extension advice, enriched soils, improved seedlings, efficient irrigation systems, mechanization, marketing information, credit availability, the use of ICT, and information on nutrition science on how to prepare food so as not to destroy the nutrients in food.

“If food is taken to ensure nourishment, and agriculture is perceived to provide the food that humanity needs, then, the fundamental purpose of agricultural systems is to ensure proper nutritional outcomes,” said Mr. Kufour.

Therefore the time has come for Agriculture not only to be climate-smart, but also to be nutrition-smart.

“The conjunction of Climate-Smart and Nutrition-Smart Agriculture underpins sustainable food systems for improved quality of life of mankind,” he stated.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Plant breeding rights in Ghana to enhance farming and seed industry

The passage of the Plant Breeders Rights Bill is in the interest of farmers and the seed industry as it is for scientists, according to advocates for the bill’s passage.

The Ghanaian scientific community is seeking to protect their intellectual property with the passage of the bill, which has been suspended by parliament after several concerns were raised against it by some concerned groups.

The Peasant Farmers Association, for instance, cites poor education and inadequate consultations as reasons for the passage of the bill to be postponed.

But the bill will inject more investments in plant breeding which will be in the interest of farmers and the seed industry, according to Dr. Stephen Amoah, a research scientist in breeding and molecular biology at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“If the Plant Breeders Bill is passed, it’s going to increase competition; it’s going to invite the private sector investments into plant breeding. There is going to be more varieties developed and farmers are going to have options,” he observed. “In the long term, it will help the farmers; the seed industry is going to be enhanced in a way that there will be more funding.”

The bill will allow commercial end-users of research products to pay royalties to the scientists and their institutions.

Opponents however contend the bill in its current form does not represent the interest of the country and passing it into law could negatively affect agricultural productivity.

Dr. Amoah believes more education will dispel the concerns.

“When there is accurate information in the system, it will reduce these concerns and it will also reduce the opposition. But I’m very confident that in the end the bill would be passed,” he said.
 

The bill would be looked at when Parliament resumes in October.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Africa needs the media to make it understand the importance of agriculture

The African Union (AU) has being commemorating 2014 as the ‘Year of Agriculture and Food Security’.  This is to give opportunities to communities, state and non-state actors to interact, express their voices on what works and chart the focus and targets for the next decade.

These engagements are expected to contribute towards setting the agenda for sustaining the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) momentum, which forms the basis for African leaders to recommit themselves to realizing the original vision set out in 2003.

CAADP is the African Union-NEPAD long-term framework to improve food security, nutrition and increase incomes in Africa’s largely farming based economies.

Since its adoption by African countries in 2003, over 40 countries are now actively engaged in CAADP at different levels. A decade of CAADP experience has demonstrated that Africa has a well-crafted, home-grown framework guiding policies, strategies and actions for agricultural development and transformation.

But sustaining the CAADP momentum requires the media in Africa to give more attention to the agricultural sector to advance economic growth.

In Nairobi, Kenya, radio journalists from 14 countries met in August 2014 to explore avenues and practical action to improve the use radio as the channel to reach local communities with information on agriculture and development, in the context CAADP.

Participating journalists maintained that the media, especially radio, remains an important instrument to communicate and facilitate dialogue on agriculture. 

Radio, they noted, also remains indispensable as a medium for sharing best practices, as well as raising awareness on key issues in advancing agriculture and development.

A facilitator at the workshop, Ochieng Ogodo of SciDev.Net, reiterated the role of smallholder farmers in sustainable development, inspite of the emerging extractives economies in Africa.

He therefore stated that the media has a role to play in shaping public discuss and improving livelihoods by reporting professionally and serving as instruments of change and contributing to literacy on agriculture.

“Africa needs the media to make it understand the importance of agriculture,” said Ochieng’.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency established the CAADP Journalists Network to promote agricultural development reporting in Africa.

The Network, which was launched on the eve of the 9th Comprehensive Africa CAADP Partnership Platform in Addis Ababa in 2013, aims to equip African journalists with a better understanding of CAADP, and the broader issues and debates related to agricultural development on the Continent.

According to CADDP Information and Advocacy Officer, Mwanja Nga'anjo, “Africa is still not food secure” hence the need for African countries to commit at least 5-10% of budget expenditure to agriculture.

At the Nairobi meeting, the participants agreed to bring increased attention to, and encourage debate and dialogue on the 2015-2025 CAADP Results Framework, which was recently adopted by African Heads of State and Government in the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth 1.

Florent Tiassou of Green Radio World observed that agriculture, climate change and environment reporting can be made interesting to the audience if journalists can change their approach and explore diverse areas of coverage including land use management, sustainable development and wealth creation.

The CAADP Journalists Network to seeking to enhance support for local community level radio programmes aimed at raising awareness on the value addition of CAADP in Africa’s agricultural growth, as well as its value addition to socio-economic development needs.

TerrAfrica is also lending support to improve reporting on sustainable land and water management (SLWM).

The meeting in Nairobi was attended by journalists from several African countries, including Togo, Niger, Namibia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Benin.

A drafted action plan will see radio programming in the Network enhanced through the NEPAD Agency’s technical support for improved agricultural coverage in African countries.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

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