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Friday, August 22, 2014

Medical lab scientists advised against sample test of suspected Ebola

The Ghana Association of Biomedical Laboratory Scientist (GABLS) has asked its members not to carry out medical laboratory investigations on suspected cases of Ebola in labs of clinics and hospitals not equipped for such tests.

Practitioners are also cautioned against taking any sample from a suspected Ebola infected individual expect with the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE).

President of the Association, Prince Sokode Amuzu, says the directive is in line with standard practice as a precautionary measure to save lives.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that all clinical samples suspected of viral haemorrhagic fever viruses, including the Ebola virus, are to be processed at a certified class II biosafety cabinet and by medical laboratory professionals highly trained in handling such samples.

Most hospital medical laboratories in Ghana however operate below the required standard and biosafety levels.

The GABLS therefore wants the Health Ministry “to consider providing medical laboratory facilities in those isolation facilities to support the management of all suspected and confirmed Ebola virus diseases while providing all medical personnel with the necessary PPE”.

Ghana is yet to record any Ebola infection but the country is on high alert for any possible outbreak.

A total of 1,350 have died in four countries – Guinea, Liberaia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

According to Prince Amuzu, “infection prevention measures are important in preventing transmission of bola virus disease.”
 
He has also called for the speedy launching of the National Health Laboratory Policies, which he believes, would have put medical laboratory practice and the nation in a better stead in such situations as the preparedness for the containments of epidemic outbreaks of Cholera and Ebola virus currently threatening public health.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

K-Poly boosts Ghana’s energy security with centre for renewable energy

The Kumasi Polytechnic is seeking to boost Ghana’s energy security with the establishment of the Centre in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

The drive, according to Rector, Prof. Nicholas Nsowah Nuamah, is to help reduce energy poverty in rural and peri-urban areas through the provision of affordable and readily accessible energy and allied services.

“We are looking at new ways of providing energy to the people of Ghana and we realize that the renewable energy is the best for Ghana, especially the rural communities,” he noted.

The Centre will harness the potentials of solar, wind, bioenergy and energy efficiency as viable alternatives in the country’s energy mix.

Prof. Nsowah Nuamah says the facility will particularly leverage on its investments in solar-powered products which have been developed over the years. These include solar cooker, solar motor bike and fufu pounding machine.

“We’ve invested a lot in human resource and research and we have the competencies and the ability to transfer knowledge to people,” he said.
 
The Centre is expected to train 200 artisans and local businesses in the area of renewable energy and energy efficiency at the end of the initial two year project phase.

The objective is to create jobs, contribute household income and national gross domestic product (GDP).

Prof. Nsowah Nuamah says entrepreneurship is an important component of training at the centre, adding that a strategy for commercialization has been developed under a project with COTVET and the Ministry of Science, Environment, Technology and Innovation.

Majority of residents in rural Ghana do not have access to the national grid.

Senior Researcher at the Centre, Edem Bensah, says opportunities to disseminate the available technology would be enhanced with the availability of funding.

“In isolated communities, people usually live sometime below the poverty line and funding becomes an issue but all these can be addressed with policy. We need a very viable and workable national policy that would enable the technology centres to disseminate whatever we develop to the people who need them,” he stated.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ghana to trial GM technology on cassava to fight mosaic virus

Cassava is expected to be the next crop to undergo confined trials with genetically modified technology to combat the Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD).

Cassava plays a role as the leading food security base, widely consumed in various forms in many parts of Ghana. But the cassava mosaic virus is considered the most important biotic constraint which greatly reduces yields.

The disease spreads easily from one field to another in most cassava growing areas as farmers continue to use infected stem cuttings as planting materials.

The application of biotechnology is therefore important to sustain production, said Eric Okoree of the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation.

“We are doing well with cassava production but we have cassava mosaic virus… and the virus is something that the GM technology is trying to fight against. It’s already on trials in Nigeria and I expect it to be in Ghana probably very soon,” he stated.

Ghana is presently undertaking confined field trials on four biotechnology crops approved by the National Biosafety Authority.

Mr. Okoree, who works with the regulatory authority, says all the four trials – Bt. Cotton, Bt. Cowpea, High Protein Sweet Potato and GM Rice – are complying with the terms and conditions under the regulations.

“As far as biosafety is concerned they are on course and Ghana is on course,” he observed.

It is early days yet to know the outcomes of these research activities but the aim is to increase food security and income for farmers.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ghanaian scientists make progress with GM rice trials

The first two trials of genetically modified rice in Ghana have been successful, according to researchers at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The first-ever GM crop to be planted in Ghana took off early 2013 on confined fields at Nobewam in the Ashanti region.

The research seeks to develop genetically improved African rice varieties by combining genes for three traits – nitrogen use efficiency, water use efficiency and salt tolerance in rice production, dubbed ‘NEWEST Rice’.

“What we do in the trial is that we take agronomic data; so we look for yield, plant performance, then we compare with those that do not have the gene,” stated Charles Afriyie-Debrah, a research scientist and biosafety officer at the CRI.

The germplasm transformed is the NERICA-4 developed by AfricaRice.

Compounded by climate change, drought is so widespread it cannot be mitigated solely by irrigation, he observed.

“The next stage, according to our plan, is the second gene which will make the plant survive in times of little rain, so in years where we have drought problems the plant can still survive,” said the researcher.

At the end of the different trials, the triple stack genes will be put together into one plant. “That means I will have a plant that can survive when I don’t apply fertilizer, when there is less water and when the soil is acidic,” Mr. Afriyie-Debrah stated.

A ban on inland rice importa­tion in Ghana is contributing significantly to the demand for local rice. However, the demand for local rice currently outstrips supply.

The objective of the NEWEST Rice trials is to explore how farmers can maximize yields per bag of applied fertilizer to enhance Ghana’s food production.

But commercialization is not expected any time soon. According to Mr. Afriyie-Debrah, the trial will include a ‘food and feed analysis’ which will take more years to ensure the product is safe for consumption “so that when we say that we are commercializing it, somebody wouldn’t eat and say I’m having allergies or anything”.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ghana should be cautiously optimistic of biotech in agric production

Ghana is presently undertaking confined field trials on four biotechnology crops approved by the National Biosafety Authority.

These include Bt. Cotton, Bt. Cowpea, High Protein Sweet Potato and GM Rice, driven by some institutes under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The field trials are mainly for research and not commercial purposes, explained Dr. Stephen Amoah, research scientist in breeding and molecular biology at the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the CSIR.

“The Genetically Modified Organisms are governed by the Biosafety Law and at the moment anything that is being done on it is under confinement, so the institutions in Ghana can only do confined field trials and they are non-commercial and not for profit,” he stated.

It is early days yet to ascertain the outcomes of these research activities but the aim is to increase food security and income for farmers. When combined with conventional approaches, biotech can go a long way in the improvement of crop productivity.

According to the National Biosafety Authority, all the four trials are complying with the terms and conditions under the regulations.

“As a regulator, my interest in not in how well the crops are doing, that is the scientists business so when we go out we look at their compliance to the terms and conditions and that I know that they’ve been 100 percent,” stated Eric Amaning Okoree, a member of the Authority.

Public education and participation forms an integral part of the trials, he noted.

However, skepticism is rife in Ghana introducing genetically modified crops in the country’s food chain.

Some researchers would rather expect Ghana to be cautiously optimistic than to be pessimistic on issues of biotechnology.

“A pessimist would say it is not possible, it is dangerous but a cautious person would say that if it is dangerous but still helpful, can we put in place safety guards?” said Daniel Osei Ofosu, Country Coordinator of Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) Ghana.

PBS is run by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to provide science-based biotechnology analysis to ensure regulations guiding the technology are in place and enforced.

The PBS is assisting regulators and other interest groups in Ghana to instill best practices that ensure human and environmental safety in biotechnology application.

“Currently we are helping build functional systems and helping the Biosafety Authority come out with guidelines to guide scientists as they conduct field trials; we’re also helping to educate the general public on the safety measures that need to be put in place or are in place that will ensure that we’re all safe with the introduction of biotechnology,” noted Mr. Ofosu.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Shortfalls in supply of petroleum products is an economic and security threat

Interest groups in the Ghana’s petroleum downstream sector want the current challenges in the supply of products to be treated not only as an economic but a security threat to the country.

Government’s inability to honour its financial obligations to the Bulk Oil Distribution Companies (BDCs) and the failure of commercial banks to facilitate the process have resulted in shortfalls in products’ available on the market.

Most fuel stations are presently unable to access ordered quantities of diesel and premix fuel to meet market demands. In recent times, petrol has also been in short supply because the BDCs are not supplying.

Coupled with hikes in utility prices, the operators of fuel stations say they are challenged in breaking even, making the business of petroleum retailing unattractive.

According to the Petroleum Retailers Association, members are tempted to lay off workers in order to survive the impact of inconsistent and inadequate supplies of petroleum products.

Sammy Amett, Secretary for the Northern Sector of the Association, says the inability to lift supplies increases the cost of borrowing from the banks as the businesses have to pay high interest rates in credit facilities.

He is particularly worried at the security implications when companies can’t get the services of bullion vans to move their cash from business premises to the banks.

“It gives a field day for miscreants in the society that money may be sitting somewhere, so security wise we are in danger,” he observed. “The moment the driver can’t move to the hinterland to pick food, people get hungry in the city; the banks cannot work if they can’t get fuel to power the generator when we have power outages.”

The retailers are sometimes accused of hoarding products to sell at unapproved prices to consumers.

But a fuel station manager, Anthony Kwamena Ammissah says the dealers can sell what is available though often refuse to serve late night due to security concerns. Other stations also seek to first serve their regular customers in difficult times.

Mr. Amett believes it’s high time the government paid serious attention to revamping the Tema Oil Refinery to service the needs of the West African sub-region.

“It is very sad that at the advent of oil discovery in Ghana, we can’t refine our share and serve the sub-region. When they were formulating the policies, were they not able to foresee this kind of situation?” he queried.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Landscape restoration project in Ghana

Interest groups in Ghana’s forestry sector are engaged in a landscape restoration project to identify barriers to plantation development in the country.

Proposed project sites include resource-rich Dunkwa Forest District, resource-medium Offinso Forest District and resource-poor Kintampo Forest District.

The project will analyze the present approaches and the different schemes of landscape restoration for sustainable development.

The three year project is funded by TBI Ghana at a cost of €102,784, will come up with options to inform policy for effective and sustainable models for plantation development.

Listen to audio report by Kofi Adu Domfeh…



Monday, August 11, 2014

Integrated farming as economically and environmentally viable venture

Ghanaian agricultural researchers are encouraging integrated farming as an economically and environmentally sound activity in food production and income generation.

The integration of fish farming with livestock and crops production, including vegetable farming has been described as an all-round agriculture venture.

The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) believes diversification of production is highly productive and efficient in managing risks imposed by the environment and climate change.

The Institute’s project field is exposing the public to opportunities to earn sustainable livelihoods from integrated farming whilst contributing to environmental protection.

Listen to audio report below:


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Agric transformation under spotlight of Climate Change and Development in Africa confab

The 4th Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) conference will put spotlight on climate knowledge opportunities that can transform agricultural production systems to feed Africa sustainably.

In recognition of 2014 as the year of agriculture, the CCDA-IV will be convened in Marrakesh, Morocco from 8-10 October 2014 on the theme: "Africa Can Feed Africa Now: Translating Climate Knowledge into Action". 

The Conference series is a policy influencing space organized each year under the auspices of the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) Programme.

ClimDev-Africa is a consortium of three leading pan-African institutions – the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The overall objective is to provide a platform for deliberating on how Africa can utilize climate knowledge to transform agricultural production systems in order to sustainably feed itself and improve the socio-economic wellbeing of its people.

To continue on a trend that commenced during CCDA-III, this year’s conference will lay focus on impacts of climate change on vulnerable groups and also integrate strong participation of civil society groups, with the aim of perceiving the realities, opportunities and challenges faced at the grass-root level, for which policy makers and researchers in attendance can begin to design interventions.

The targeted vulnerable groups include farmers, women, the youth and pastoralists.

CCDA is a unique space where stakeholders come together to discuss the interrelationships between climate change and development, with Africa as the main focus.

ClimDev-Africa partners, as well as other stakeholders, share their programmes’ achievements as well as challenges they face on key climate change issues and seek new knowledge on ways to better cope with them in the interest of Africa’s development.

It further builds a consensus amongst policy makers, academicians, researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders on best approaches of integrating climate change opportunities in policies, strategies, planning and practices in Africa.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ghana Mineworkers Union takes stock of mining industry

General Secretary of the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMWU), Prince William Ankrah, says the 4000 employees who were made redundant in 2013 by mining firms could have been avoided.

He says the captains of industry could have ensured prudent spending in areas such as procurement, new mines acquisition through mergers and acquisitions as well as reckless spending on expatriates, who, in his view, often add nothing new to the industry.

“We, however, take consolation in the fact that in recent times the Minerals Commission has step up the implementation of the localization policy in its regulations in the industry stem the growing tide on the expatriation issue,” stated Prince Ankrah, at the Union's National Executive Council Meeting held in Tarkwa. 

According to Prince Ankrah, the Union has, in two different resolutions, underscored the urgent need for the establishment of a Mining Community Development Fund into which 25% of mining receipt would be lodged to fund the much anticipated and awaited infrastructure in these communities.

“We are mindful of the provisions in the Constitution of Ghana and the Minerals and Mining Act (2006 Act 703) which vest all minerals in the President who hold it in trust for all the people of Ghana. However, we do think that we have failed to ensure the effective utilization of our mining receipt to the benefit of the host communities,” stated Prince Ankrah. “The current royalty apportionment to the district assemblies and the traditional authorities need a rethinking to ensure its judicious use”.

The GMWU is also eager to know the outcome of the Professor Akilakpa Sawyer's Committee instituted by government and tasked to review and make recommendations to government on the various contractual regimes our country has with the mining companies.

National Chairman, Mensah Kwarko Gyakari says some mining companies want to take advantage of the current challenges in the industry to exploit workers.

He is particularly unhappy with the decision of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited to entrench about 600 workers “with impunity”, though the company’s financial outlook depicts it is in good financial standing.

The NEC would take a decision on the posture of Newmont, he stated.

Other concerns of the Union include the reconstruction of the Western Rail line to ease haulage of bauxite and manganese deposits in the Awaso and Nsuta areas to the Takoradi Port.

“This, we believe, would expand the activities of the companies, impact on government revenue and provide employment to the youth in the communities,” observed the GMWU General Secretary.

Prince Ankrah announces the Union has initiated a process to partner the University of Mines in Tarkwa to research and offer concrete direction into the sustainable future of the mining economies.

The GMWU’s 70th anniversary would be commemorated under the theme "70 Years of Playing a Progressive Role to Promote a Just and Equitable Society". The main celebration would however be a year belated ostensibly due to the current turbulence in both the industry and the country.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Ghana‘s problem is more of planning than implementation

Project planning and implementation should be mutually reinforcing for development to thrive in Ghana, says Nyaaba-Aweeba Azongo, a development planner.

There should not be any dichotomy between planning and implementation, he said.

Mr. Azongo has bemoaned the persisting culture of contracting experts to lead the planning phase of national projects, yet allow others to proceed with implementation without engaging the planners.

He says such practice allows the architect of these plans to escape accountability, adding that the “poverty of implementation” results in the non-attainment of expected impacts of plans.

“The architects of the plans would often exit the documentation phase of the plan and when it comes to the ground engineering aspect of the plan, they leave it to others who have very little knowledge about the documentation in terms of the content and the direction of implementation,” observed the planner.

Ghana prides in devising excellent plans and policies to drive socio-economic development but often fails in implementing such plans.

Mr. Azongo believes plans should not be determined by the quality of documentation but implementation outcomes.

“Development is a product of planning,” he noted. “Ultimately, we’ll have to rely on our planning regime to be able to generate the kind of development we all wish to see”.

Mr. Azongo therefore advocates that the architects of plans for government projects need to be part of the implementation team to achieve better outcomes.

The planning-implementation duality has only succeeded in creating an escape route for professional laxity, making documentation phase of planning an exit- route comfort industry, he observed.

As consultant to Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization (SMIDO), Mr. Azongo planned an initiative to secur a 1000acre land and a Gh₵10million private funding arrangement to implement the first phase of the SMIDO industrial complex project.

The project is a transformational resettlement scheme for artisans of Suame Magazine contained in SMIDO’s Policy Blueprint designed by the consultant in 2007.

The Suame Magazine Industrial Development fund (SMID Fund) has been launched to drive funding for the project.

Mr. Azongo has emphasized that there can only be a case of a good plan or bad plan and not the split-sided barometer Ghana has been constantly fed with. 
 
He posited that “if preparing a plan is seen as rocket-science professional enterprise, then matching it on the ground cannot just be said to be the responsibility of others without its architect as the leading marksman to facilitate the process towards its realization”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Kuapa Kokoo marks two decades of empowering poor cocoa farmers

The success of Kuapa Kokoo is vindication of the vision that, given a fairer opportunity, smallholder farmers can direct and improve their own lives and communities, and be stewards of a sustainable cocoa farming business, observed Sophi Tranchell, Managing Director of Divine Chocolate UK.

The idea of forming a farmer-owned organization was conceived in 1993 by Nana Yaw Frimpong Abebrese II when the government of Ghana liberalized the internal marketing of cocoa.

Nana Yaw’s quest was to change the paradigm of the rich exploiting the poor by forming a company of the farmers, by the farmers and for the farmers.

The goal, according to Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Limited, Emmanuel Arthur, was to ensure Ghanaian cocoa farmers would take the price of their produce, share the profits from the produce and have a say in their produce.

A UK-based not-for-profit organization, TWIN, aligned itself with the vision to assist the farmers in both technical and financial support to establish the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union.

Mr. Arthur says the farmers have over the past two decades defined the direction of the organization as “have a say in the way their organization is run and how their profits should be distributed”.

In the 1993/1994 crop year, the Union mobilized about 1,250 metric tonnes of cocoa from 2,000 members.

Today, the cocoa farmers’ co-operative is mobilizing about 61,000 metric tonnes of cocoa from about 90,000 members. They are delivering more than 5% of Ghana’s cocoa and approximately 1% of the world’s cocoa.

Through the increase in Fairtrade sales, schools have been built, medical teams have attended to farmers at their doorstep through a mobile clinic project, cutlasses have been distributed to members and boreholes have been built to improve on farmers’ livelihoods.

“We are still negotiating with our Fairtrade partners and Fairtrade International to ensure that the farmers continue to benefit from Fairtrade premiums through increased Fairtrade sales,” said Ms Fatima Ali, President of the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union.

Members of the Union in 1997 voted to launch their investments in Divine Chocolate Limited based in the UK – the farmers presently own 45% shares in the chocolate company which sells products in about 12 countries, including the US.

“Kuapa Kokoo has shown that fair remuneration, for a job and skill that people get wonderful benefit from all around the world, is well invested,” said Ms. Tranchell.

She added that the farmers’ organization has demonstrated how democracy, accountability and transparency has empowered the poor farmer, historically exploited and marginalized in the chocolate supply chain.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kuapa Kokoo farmers receive dividend from UK-based Divine Chocolate

Divine Chocolate Limited, a UK-based company partly owned by Ghana’s Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (KKFU), turned over £5.6million for the 2012/2013 financial year.

The company has for the third year recorded a decline in turnover – the figures have dropped from £10.4m in 2010 to £8.2m in 2011 and £7.53m in 2012.

Managing Director of Divine, Sophi Tranchell, however says the 2013 performance “is a growth on the year before”.

The company made a profit of £44,000 and distributing a dividend of £57,000 to shareholders – Kuapa Kokoo farmers are receiving £24,000 of the amount.

“In the next year, I am glad to say we are seeing an increase in turnover and a much better margin,” said Ms Tranchell at the 20th Annual Delegates Conference of Kuapa Kokoo in Kumasi.
She also stated that Divine Chocolate’s operations in the USA continued to grow but failed to break even.

“The team in the USA are working really well together and delivering significant growth, you can now see Divine Chocolate in thousands of outlets across America and we are getting very close to break even,” Ms. Tranchell stated.

The Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union owns 45 percent shares of Divine Chocolate, which sells in 12 countries around the world. All chocolate products are made from cocoa from Kuapa, the biggest cocoa farmers’ organization in the Fairtrade system.

The farmers’ co-operative delivers more than five percent of Ghana’s cocoa and approximately one percent of the world’s cocoa.


story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Young farmers rate weeds as most challenging constraint to cassava farming

In an interactive discussion aimed at unraveling bottlenecks to farming, young farmers identified devastations by weeds as the most challenging constraint demoralizing cassava farming and hurting yields.

“Our experience is that even before you complete the first course of weeding, you see another set of grasses coming behind,” Akinyele Bankole, a youth agripreneur with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, said during a meeting with members of the Cassava Weed Management team at IITA.

“We have weeded about five times but it appears we are not doing anything when you see the weeds in the fields. This is the most difficult challenge we are facing,” he said.

“And sometimes it looks discouraging seeing our fields with weeds competing with cassava,” Evelyn Ohanwunsi, another youth agripreneur added.

Generally, farmers weed cassava three times, but in cassava farms where perennial weeds such as spear grass are predominant, more weeding may be required.

Researchers estimate that weeding takes 50 to 80% of the total labor budget, and up to 200-500 hours of labour of mostly women and children per ha are required to prevent economic cassava root losses in Nigeria.

Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader for the project Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria said solutions on weed control in cassava farms were underway following efforts between IITA and partners to combat weeds in cassava.

Under the cassava weed management project, Dr Dixon and his team are conducting research that will develop new best bet innovative weed management practices, combining improved varieties, proper planting dates, plant populations, and plant nutrition, all coupled to intercropping and tillage options, through well-focused trials in the three agro-ecologies where cassava dominates in Nigeria.

The project is also testing herbicides for efficacy and economic merit to help make weed control in cassava more efficient and effective.

Dr Dixon said results from the 5-year cassava weed research would be shared with the IITA young agripreneurs and other farmers to enable them to make informed decisions that would not only increase the productivity of cassava but also make cassava farming more attractive and put money in their pockets.

“I am sure with the cassava weed project, we will be able to tackle the menace of weeds… so be rest assured… we will support you,” he said.

Established two plus years ago under the leadership of Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, the IITA Youth Agripreneur program is an Africa-wide initiative that is attracting youths back to agriculture by exposing the youth to the numerous opportunities that exist in the agricultural sector.

Last year, the IITA youth agripreneurs in Nigeria cultivated more than 50 hectares of cassava, maize and soybean. The group intends to more than double the hectarage this year as weather conditions look positive.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smallholder plantation developers targeted in Ghana’s Landscape Restoration Project

A “Landscape Restoration Project” has taken off to develop guidelines for the planning and implementation of forest plantation schemes on off-reserve areas in Ghana.

The research project, implemented by Tropenbos International (TBI) Ghana, seeks to arrest deforestation and forest degradation whilst enhancing livelihoods. It also aims at discovering ways to improve benefit flow from forest plantations to stakeholders, especially local forest communities.

The three year project is funded by TBI Ghana at a cost of €102,784. Proposed project sites include resource-rich Dunkwa Forest District, resource-medium Offinso Forest District and resource-poor Kintampo Forest District.

“Invariably, plantations would be undertaken by smallholders but the system as it is now does not seem to take very good care of the interests and concerns of these smallholders who would be involved in the plantation programme,” observed Progamme Director of TBI Ghana, Samuel Kwabena Nketia.

The project will therefore analyze the present approaches and the different schemes of landscape restoration and engage stakeholders to identify barriers to plantation development. It will come up with options to inform policy for effective and sustainable models for plantation development.

“One key area we would be looking at is forestry extension service particularly to support smallholder plantation developers,” said Mr. Nketia.
 
Tree grower, Sylvester Amo-Quarm has been in private afforestation development for almost two decades. He complains government’s policy is not encouraging tree planting as a viable economic venture.

“I have about 75acres of teak which is supposed to be marketable but companies that treat woods cannot buy our teak so we cannot get money out of our trees and cumbersome processes for permits before harvesting the trees are not encouraging,” he observed.

The main objective of the Landscape Restoration Project is to provide insights into how plantations can be used to enhance the holistic functionality of forest landscapes, harmonize competing land uses, stimulate local economy by creating sustainable livelihoods and reduce some of the drivers of degradation.

Project implementation partners include Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), Resource Management Support Centre (RMSC) and the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources (FRNR) of the KNUST.

Mr. Kyereh Boateng of the FRNR highlighted the importance of the project to improve the contribution of smallholder forest plantations to livelihoods, the Ghanaian economy and the environment.

The mechanism for project implementation, he noted, will provide analysis of the present approaches to forest plantations development through field surveys, stakeholder engagement and desk studies to identify policy, management and socio-cultural barriers to successful plantation development and the support needs to overcome them.

It will feed into a number of government programmes, including the Ghana Strategy for Restoration of Landscape Productivity, which has an annual target of planting 20,000 both on and off-reserve from 2015-2040 under the forest plantation programme.

Technical Director at the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource, Musah Abu-Juam, says there are new funding opportunities for the private sector to go into tree plantation.

Through the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a $10million facility would be available as start-up to create the enabling environment, especially in land tenure and training, to support plantation developments, he said.

Mr. Abu-Juam observed Ghana is making progress in sustainable land management but noted there are great examples in other economies for the country to learn from.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ghana needs to urgently review producer price of cocoa

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) should as a matter of urgency review the producer price of cocoa to prevent smuggle activities along the borders, says the Managing Director of Kuapa Kokoo Limited, a licensed buying company.

According to Mr. Emmanuel Kwabena Arthur, raising the margin will discourage farmers from seeking higher prices from neighbouring countries, especially Cote d’Ivoire.

The margin has remained unchanged over the past four years – the producer price of cocoa in Ghana is presently pegged at Gh₵3,392 per tonne.

Mr. Arthur expects the COCOBOD to review the margin paid LBCs to reflect the current economic conditions in the country and reduce the negative impact of smuggling on operations of LBCs.

“We advance money to our purchasing clerks to deliver the cocoa to us; so we pre-finance the supply of cocoa. Now we have taken loans from the banks which attract interest; it is the cocoa that is delivered that gives you the margin to be able to pay back the loan and the interest. So if you give out the money and you can’t get the cocoa to buy, then you can’t deliver to get the margin to be able to pay your interest,” he told LuvBiz at the 20th Annual Delegates Conference of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Kumasi.
 
Mr. Arthur observed the high incentive of smuggling cocoa out of Ghana, coupled with poor road infrastructure to take delivery of cocoa, could lead to the collapse of local LBCs.

Kuapa Kokoo Limited purchased 48,246 metric tonnes of cocoa in the 2012/2013 crop season - capturing about 5.7percent of the market share.

The company recorded a turnover of Gh₵183.8million and a profit before finance cost of Gh₵6.8million.

However, the profits that would have gone to improve on the livelihoods of the farmers were absorbed under finance cost, leaving only Gh₵203,561 as net profit.

Mr. Arthur is worried the situation will persist this year, as the banks are quoting between 27% and 30% interest rates.
“Something should be done about this so that the farmers can realize the full benefits of their toils,” he stated.

Other operational challenges include inadequate Seed Fund for the purchase of cocoa from the Ghana Cocoa Board and congestion at the takeover centres, leading to defects on the cocoa.

A group of cocoa farmers in the Western Region recently threatened to demonstrate against government policies, which they say are collapsing the cocoa sector.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Africa Progress Panel calls for responsible investments in Africa

The historic first US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C this week will focus on “Investing in the next generation.”

Ahead of the Summit, the Africa Progress Panel is calling for fairer and more ethical investment and business practices, particularly by US-listed companies in Africa.

Africa is among the front-runners in economic growth in the world. It also has abundant natural resources and a large, youthful workforce, making it a region with tremendous investment opportunities. But many Africans remain stuck in poverty. Investments in natural resources and agriculture have so far done little to boost government revenues, reduce poverty and inequality, and create jobs.

In the oil, gas and mining sectors, in particular, multinationals make use of shell companies in offshore tax havens to evade taxes.

Kofi Annan, chair of the Africa Progress Panel, says these practices “weaken disclosure standards and undermine the efforts of reformers in Africa to promote transparency”. He adds that such practices “facilitate tax evasion and, in some countries, corruption, draining Africa of revenues that should be deployed against poverty and vulnerability”.

Irresponsible investment and business practices include the plunder of Africa’s fisheries and forestry resources. Instead of boosting government revenues and generating jobs, fisheries and forestry resources are being squandered through corrupt practices and unscrupulous investment activities.

“Natural resource plunder is organized theft disguised as commerce,” says Mr. Annan. “Commercial trawlers that operate under flags of convenience, and unload in ports that do not record their catch, are unethical.” Mr. Annan adds that these criminal activities compound the problem of tax evasion and shell companies.

This year’s Africa Progress Report, Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, challenges the international community to combat the plunder of natural resources by strengthening multilateral rules. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing has reached epidemic proportions in Africa’s coastal waters.
 
West Africa is conservatively estimated to lose US$1.3 billion annually. Beyond the financial cost, this plunder destroys fishing communities, which lose critical opportunities to fish, process and trade. Another US$17 billion is lost through illicit logging activities.

By supporting transparent investments and paying fair taxes, US multinationals can help fight poverty and hunger, and increase the government revenues that pay for education and health infrastructure in Africa.

The Africa Progress Panel believes that the best way to secure a stable environment for investments is for US investors to negotiate contracts with governments in a transparent manner consistent with international standards.

With two-thirds of Africans depending on farming, boosting agriculture is an effective way to reduce poverty and inequality. “We have to significantly boost our agriculture and fisheries, which together provide livelihoods for roughly two-thirds of all Africans,” Mr. Annan says.


“We have a rising and energetic youth population,” Mr Annan adds. “Our dynamic entrepreneurs are using technology to transform people’s lives. We have enough resources to feed not just ourselves but other regions, too. It is time for Africa’s leaders – and responsible investment partners – to unlock this huge potential.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IFAD backs cassava flour in bread and confectionery initiative

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is supporting the inclusion of cassava flour in bread and other confectioneries as part of efforts to improve food security and the livelihoods of farmers especially those in the rural areas.

This follows the launching of two projects under IFAD grant: Enhancing the Competitiveness of the High Quality Cassava Flour Value Chain (HQCF) in West and Central Africa; and Improving Quality, Nutrition and Health Impacts of Inclusion of Cassava Flour in Bread Formulation in West Africa (Nigeria and Ghana).

The projects will among others support the generation, dissemination and adoption of improved technologies for cassava production and processing; develop and pilot-test a set of integrated best-bet options for HQCF production and promote market access to secondary products; and develop and promote appropriate evidence-based models for sustainable value chain development for African agricultural commodities using HQCF production and processing.

Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s project on Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria, said the two IFAD-funded projects were timely in view of Africa’s comparative advantage in cassava production.

He described cassava as a poverty fighter, and stressed that improving the utilization of the crop, and scaling up/out processing technologies would help Africa address the issue of poverty and hunger on the continent.

“Africa has a comparative advantage in cassava production… so let us use cassava to get what we want,” he said in Lagos at the launch of the projects.

Grown mostly by small scale farmers, cassava is a source of livelihood to about 600 million people in the developing world including Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, the value chain of the root crop is under developed and coupled with the relative high perishability of the crop, farmers in Africa are yet to exploit the full potential of the crop in terms of livelihoods improvement.

In recent times, researchers from IITA and partners successfully baked bread using 40 percent cassava in wheat flour, providing an alternative source of raw material for makers of bread and other confectionery.

IFAD sees the inclusion of cassava in bread/confectionery as a major step that would address food insecurity, create jobs especially for rural youths, and incomes.

“Our expectation is that these projects will touch the lives of rural poor farmers,” Dr Malu Ndavi, Senior Program Officer, IFAD said.

He urged implementers and partners to work together towards ensuring that the project’s goals and objectives were delivered on time.


The 18-month project on cassava is for increasing nutrition and health impacts.

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