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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 

Farming and Africa’s employment challenge

The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF 2014) is kicking off in Addis Ababa this week to present a major opportunity for interest groups to engage each other on the vision for agriculture and food security on the continent.

Over 800 African Heads of States, Ministers and farmers will be discussing and coordinating strategies for delivering the objective of Forum. 

Ahead of the meeting, a leading African agriculture research project argues that investment in smallholder farmers is the key to African economic success over the next 20 years. 

A report title: “Farming and Africa’s Employment Challenge” authored by T.S. Jayne, Milu Muyanga and Lulama Ndibongo Traub, suggests that governments should make it their goal to invest in small farmers if they want to see rapid economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The submissions are produced below:

Africa’s Heads of State will set off for the Green Revolution Forum in Ethiopia at the end of this month (August) in order to consider ways to improve livelihoods in this 2014 “Year of Agriculture”.

In preparation they would be well placed to consider the following challenge: Over 350 million young people will be entering the labor force in the next 20 years and even under the most optimistic projections, only half of them will be absorbed into non-farm wage jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This means that farming will need to employ at least a third of young Africans entering the labor force until at least 2025. However, for agriculture to provide viable employment, young people will require access to land.

Recent research highlights the size of this challenge. Studies by Michigan State University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and several African research organizations have concluded that 15 to 35 percent of the region’s potentially available cropland has been acquired by large-scale foreign investors. This figure excludes forestland. Roughly, a third of the region’s surplus land is currently under forest cover.  The conversion of forests to cropland would entail major global environmental costs.

While foreign ‘land grabs’ have attracted media attention, perhaps a more serious threat is African medium-scale investors, many of whom are relatively wealthy urbanites, have acquired an even greater amount of land.  Moreover, 80% of Africa’s remaining arable land is highly concentrated in just a few countries, many of which are fragile states.

Most governments’ existing strategies are officially oriented to promote agricultural growth and food security for the millions of their rural constituents who are small-scale farmers. And most of these strategies assume unhindered access to land. However, there are increasing concerns that in reality these policies are encouraging the transfer of land to medium- and large-scale interests without due recognition of how this affects future generations of indigenous rural communities to access land.

Africa is not alone in trying to overcome these issues. Countries such as Japan and South Korea were predominantly smallholder farming societies 60 years ago and their economies now rely on manufacturing and technology.

In these countries smallholder farmers increased their productivity and incomes through good policies and public investments in infrastructure, agricultural research and development and extension services, thereby supporting the demand for non-farm businesses and the growth of employment opportunities off the farm.  Over time, most smallholder farmers eventually moved into these non-farm jobs.

Some commentators have concluded that African leaders should expedite the process by giving up on the ‘romanticized’ vision of smallholder agriculture and favor commercialized large-scale agriculture. But large-scale grain production is an extremely weak employer of labor – about 1 worker per every 100 hectares cultivated -- and it pays little more than poverty wages. 

While rural people might wish to put down their hoes and walk into white collar office jobs tomorrow, a sober assessment will acknowledge that even in 2014, most African countries are inhabited mainly by unskilled and semi-skilled rural people who are primarily engaged in farming. Their levels of education and skills will prevent this from happening quickly. 

Therefore, if policy neglect or allocating the region’s prime land to outside interests pushed rural people off their land, urban squalor and unemployment would only be intensified – and would risk overwhelming governments’ capacity to cope with it. 

Africa’s transformation from a primarily semi-subsistence, small-scale agrarian economy to a more diversified and productive economy will still require unwavering support to smallholder farmers so that they are able to participate in and contribute to the region’s economic transition rather than be marginalized by it.  

While migration from farm to non-farm sectors, and from rural to urban areas will provide the brightest prospects for the transformation and modernization of Africa’s economies, it will happen only as fast as educational advances and growth in the non-farm job opportunities will allow, which in turn depend on income growth among the millions of families still engaged in agriculture.

Government policies and public investment policies are decisive, as these will determine the incentives and scope for investment by the private sector, and will largely determine whether the region’s economic transformation is a relatively smooth, robust and peaceful process or a painful and protracted one.

It therefore in African leaders’ interests to protect the land rights of rural communities.  Major political risk can be avoided if land is made available for expansion of family farming combined with more public investments and enabling policies. This will determine whether a high proportion of young Africans are gainfully employed in agriculture or join the ranks of the jobless.


End.

Researchers want action stepped up against weeds in crop production

Researchers rising from a two-day meeting at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Ibadan, Nigeria have called for more concerted efforts to tackle the menace of weeds in Africa.

The members of the Steering Committee of the IITA Cassava Weed Management project unanimous stated that unless the problem of weed infestation on farmers’ field is addressed, Africa will not maximize the gains of crop improvement.

The IITA has a new research agenda of investing in weed science and bringing weed science — a very important but often neglected component of agronomy— to the front burner, and also supporting partners in tackling the problem.

“We thank IITA for the equipment given to us under the Cassava Weed Management Project to help find solutions to the problems of weeds,” said Dr J.C. Okonkwo, Executive Director, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, who was also unanimously elected as the Chair of the Steering Committee.
 
The IITA and its partners would work to develop state-of the art weed management practices, by combining improved cassava varieties with proper planting dates, plant populations and plant nutrition options.  

Project Leader, Cassava Weed Management, Dr Alfred Dixon, says the project is also focusing on intercropping and tillage research, as well as testing 21 different pre-emergence and 19 post-emergence herbicides at different application rates to discover the best combinations for sustainable weed control in cassava.

He explained that integrated weed management practices, including the use of herbicides that meet globally accepted conventions and safety thresholds appropriate for smallholders would be crucial in making weed control in cassava more efficient and effective.

The Project Leader decried farmers’ continuous use of obsolete herbicides despite their adverse effects on the environment and health.


Dr. Dixon said the project intended to change the situation by offering farmers evidence-based information that would help them make better choices.

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 

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