The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, but the earth He has given to the sons of men -- Psalm 115:16.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Changes in Weather Patterns – what can farmers do?


Farmers around the world, including those in Ghana, are reporting the seasons are changing – and experts warn the trend may be one of the most significant impacts of climate change for poor farmers.

As weather patterns become erratic, scientists suggest adoption of drought and flood resistant crops and diversification of income sources as protection for smallholder farmers from effects of climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol to prevent climate changes and global warming runs out in 2012, which calls for an urgent need for a new climate protocol to keep the process on the line. Before the climate agreement need to be renewed, parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet for the last time on government level at a conference in Copenhagen 2009.

But as the world seeks a new legally binding climate treaty, what can be done to support local farmers to adapt to changes to achieve food security?

The Ghanaian situation!

Extreme weather conditions result in decreased access to water, high disease risk and damage to agricultural land and crops. The unexpected changes in weather patterns are already affecting crop production in Ghana. George Asamoah Amankwaah is a farmer at Derma in the Bono Ahafo Region. “Where I am farming now, I don’t think we can earn as we earned last two years or last year. The bumper season for maize was not enough. The lean season is also not encouraging, so it’s going to reduce the number of maize or the food that we send to the market” he says.

The poor are apparently vulnerable to climate change. So how does the Ghanaian farmer cope with severe floods, drought and other erratic temperature patterns?
Ashanti Regional Director of Food and Agriculture, George Badu Yeboah says “the technology of zero tillage and also conservative agriculture by not burning but allow the moisture level to retain in the soil and the vegetative land as well as application of farm-yard manure are some of the measures being taken”.
He also says as the weather patterns get unreliable, scientists and researchers are coming out with short variety crops and short-field duration crops as alternatives for farmers.

Scientific interventions needed

Food security would worsen in the next decade if pragmatic measures are not taken to enhance soil productivity by minimizing the effects of changing weather patterns.
Soil Scientist, Dr. Kofi Budu Laryea of the University of Ghana has stated that the current farming practices, involving burning to clear the land, taking away of the top soil, do not encourage environmental sustainability but rather fuel climate change.

So, in the face of these imminent changes, what are scientists suggesting for farmers to do, in order for them to continue cultivating their crops?
Isaac Ansah is with the Crop Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, involved in technology transfer to farmers. He says “scientists are putting up drought-resistant varieties, especially maize and other crops, so that the farmers can benefit from that. Farmers are also advised to go in for long seasons – seasons and crops which can meet specific periods – and then they don’t just go in anytime, anywhere planting”.

Mr. Ansah says farmers have to make sure the rains are well established and if they select, for instance, early maturing varieties, within that short period when it rains, they would get good yield and not lose out completely.

Environmentalists call for Education

The vulnerability of the agric sector to climate change cannot be over-emphasized but agric environmentalists believe farmers have a central role to play in mitigating the impact of erratic changes of the weather.

Samuel Owusu-Takyi of the Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture suggests farmers are encouraged to embark on agro-forestry projects on their farms. He says “when you combine trees with crops or your animals… when you practice agro-forestry, you have better yields because your farm becomes an ecological or biodynamic zone in itself, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and giving you the best of oxygen – this is the best way farmers can get better yields even in this alarming ecological changes”.

Coordinating Director of Resource Link Foundation, Christopher Dapaah and Bernard Adotey who presides over a UNESCO Club at the Kwadaso Agric College say coping with climate change would require change of attitude to the environment. “Helping farmers understand that practices like bush burning, tree cutting without planting among others all affect their livelihoods and if we empower them with this knowledge it will help all of us”, says Bernard.

The rescue

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicated that by 2050, climate change could cause potential crop yields from rain-fed agriculture to decline by 50 per cent in some African countries. This would result in soaring prices for inadequate food which would make most of people hungry. According to a top British scientist, Professor Sir Gordon Conway, African communities, including Ghanaian peasant farmers, need to develop more resilient lifestyles and livelihoods in order to face unpredictable effects and extreme weather events.

Farmers like George want support in areas of accurate predication of the weather patterns and provision of irrigation facilities “to support farming activities and promote crop production”.

It is however apparent that local farmers would need to be conscious about the effects of destroying vast forest areas if they are to be protected against severe floods, droughts and other extreme weather conditions, resulting from climate change.

Story by: Kofi Adu Domfeh
E-mail: adomfeh@yahoo.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bekoro Road Style – who cares?


Bekoro is a predominantly farming community in the Fanteakwa District of the Eastern Region.

At a time when the rains have failed, most farmers are recording failed crops, especially maize and pepper because of drought. Yet tree felling is on the rise, as local communities here burn charcoal as an alternative source of livelihood.

For a driver like Emma, carrying loads of charcoal from the rural area to the district capital is a daily routine.

Today he has 30 sack loads of charcoal on his five-passenger taxi cab – he often carries 40, whilst still leaving space to accommodate his client. Each sack attracts one Ghana Cedi if it arrives safely at final destination.

Observing the driver behind the wheel with the passenger and goods plying the long untarred road is amazing but very sad thinking through the damage to the forest, environment and future livelihoods. And all I could ask myself was for how long...?

© Kofi Adu Domfeh

Living up to the Skuul’s Reunion!

This year’s edition of Luv Fm Skuul’s Reunion in Kumasi drew perhaps the biggest crowd ever seen at a single event in the Garden City.

Over 70 school associations registered to fraternize and engage in fun-filled events that evoke feelings of the school days.

The fifth edition saw more schools from outside the Ashanti Region coming on board and also recorded the highest turnout of true oldies joining the millennium boys and girls to do the school days stuff live on air.

The Skuul’s Reunion creates a large platform for participants to re-establish links with their old friends and explore other great social and business opportunities.

The nostalgic atmosphere reached fever pitch as delegates of schools showcased what makes their alma mater special with exciting studio performances which set the tone for the annual get-together.

And it’s always so exciting to hear antics of the old folks as they sing scintillating fanfare music popularly known as ‘Gyama’. The determination of schools to outdo their counterparts added more fun to the studio shows as healthy rivalry is demonstrated in diverse ways.

But amidst all the bragging, the old skull folks displayed intellectual prowess through the sharp brain contest.

On the D-day, the fun-filled event was preceded by a carnival-like procession through some principal streets in the Garden City. Thousands of old students later converged at the Ridge Park to participate in sporting and other social activities – all for fun, reminiscing the glorious school days.

Some exciting Ghanaian artistes also thrilled patrons with great performances at the event grounds, all to the delight of sponsors and organizers.

I simply do not have any reason to miss out the opportunity to represent T.I. Amass at the skull’s reunion! See you next year!!

© Kofi Adu Domfeh

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Any Hope for the Poor of our Time?


“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”__ Article 25(1), UDHR. These are glorified words, but as the great philosopher, Thoreau, once noted, “the law will never make men free; it is men who have to make the law free”. Governments must therefore not remain adamant in the face of gross injustices perpetuated to other societal elements, because ‘only love can bring about brotherhood on earth’, as Martin Luther King Jr. has said.

A Virginia proverb says that “one cannot think well, love well and sleep well when one has not dinned well”. This is no understatement; it is rather a statement of fact. Poverty is a word no one desires to be associated with in any way due to the fact that it always makes bunkum of human existence. It also possesses the characteristic of slow killing. The word ‘poverty’ is used by different groups of people to mean many things. For instance, the entire universe is divided or referred to in accordance with its level of development, in terms of rich (or powerful) and poor (weak).

The Western countries are known as ‘Developed’ and among them some are ‘Superpowers’ and ‘Big’. Among those in the ‘Developing’ countries, some are tagged ‘Least Developed or Underdeveloped’, while some see themselves as being regionally ‘Big’ (Big Brother you know!). The categorization continues from this level to the State or National level and this is where poverty could be defined in its real terms. Poverty at this stage is broken down to mean ‘having no money or a state of being without enough food’.

Why Africa?

The African continent has been the home to the world’s poorest countries and peoples for many decades. Majority of the world’s Least Developed nations and Heavily Indebted countries can be found on the African continent. Most people suffer from hunger or earn an income of less than one dollar a day – they dwell in slums, mostly uneducated and highly afflicted by diseases. If a billion of the over six billion people in the world currently live in “abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”, what could then be the justification of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which stipulates that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. Freedom and equality in what? Being impoverished renders the reason and conscience of any human being nonsense.

Dehumanization eradicates the existence of any spirit of brotherhood. Do you call me brother when I eat from the garbage of your domestic pet? If the ‘pain’ continuously deteriorates, the ‘gain’ must seriously examine his conscience. An obvious reason why people remain in a state of poverty is lack of social goods; insufficient money to obtain the things they need. The main causes are readily apparent – unemployment and underemployment due to insufficient education and lack of skills required for the growing proportion of technical jobs. Skills that become obsolete because of technological change, discrimination, failure to create sufficient jobs to match population growth, and a slack labour market.

In spite of the long-range trend of wider distribution of social goods, inequities remain; the movement toward equality in income has stopped, and a substantial portion of the world’s population still lives in a state of poverty. The fatal death rates continue to be shockingly high for those at the lower levels. Also, underweight and premature infants are more likely to be born to lower strata mothers. Children from lower strata receive poorer education and they have the highest juvenile delinquency rate; as youths, they are much less likely to complete high school or go to college. Institutional arrangements are such that persons at the lower levels receive inadequate medical care and are at a disadvantage when involved with the police and judicial systems.

Lower strata individuals are more likely to be unemployed, and out of work for longer periods. In conflict situations they are more likely to be drafted, sent to the front, and killed or wounded. There is greater family instability among the lower strata, and their chances for being hospitalized for mental health problems are higher, especially for schizophrenia and total psychosis. They are more likely to have inadequate housing, live in slums, receive fewer public services, and be sold shoddy goods or be taken advantaged of in other ways by unscrupulous merchants. They do not participate in voluntary organizations, nor are they active in politics. Finally, old age is much more trying; not only do the lower strata elderly have greater difficulty in making ends meets, but they are more likely to suffer from social isolation, have a higher incidence of mental and physical disabilities, and a lower life expectancy.

Real Commitments Needed

Until there is a much serious pursuit in eradicating poverty and ensure a sustainable development, the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility would remain nothing but a fleeting illusion. Hear these words: “our vision is a world that is human-centered and genuinely democratic, where all human beings are full participants and determine their own destinies. In our vision we are one human family, in all our diversity, living on one common homeland and sharing a just, sustainable and peaceful world, guided by universal principles of democracy, equality, inclusion, voluntarism, non-discrimination and participation by all persons, men and women, young and old, regardless of race, faith, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality”.

It is very much easy for the leaders of the world to utter such wonderful words. But what is the reality? The expression of hypocrisy and paying of lip service to the general wellbeing of worlds poor by the moneybags cannot be overemphasized. After pronouncing their ‘beautiful’ words, some refuse to vacate their seats through democratic means; others accumulate wealth more than they can achieve for their nations, and yet others refuse to forgive the poor of some meaningless debt burden.

If the 10-year plan of the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries is to really have the targeted impact, the principles of democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be kept mutually reinforcing. “And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore the doing of it; that as there was readiness to will so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye be burdened: But by equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack” (II Corinthians 8:10-15).

Today, globalization is seen as a positive force that presents great opportunities for the poor. But the major challenge that faces the poor of the world is the menace of ignorance, mostly in reading and writing. The attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and other poverty alleviation policies hinge on education. A recent ‘World Employment Report’ by the International Labour Organization (ILO) insists that Information Communication Technology (ICT) can have a far-reaching impact on the quality of life of workers in poorer countries if the right policies and institutions are in order to serve as important spurs to development and job growth. The report notes that through investments in human resources, lower income countries may “leap frog” stages in traditional economic development. But warns that even if access to ICT becomes easier and more widespread, little may be gained from the digital revolution without adequate levels of EDUCATION. “Investment in basic and higher education is the most critical policy tool available to governments to reap the benefits of ICT”, the report says.

Education could be the Key

Investment in education results in economic growth, hence reduction (if eradication is a mirage) of poverty could be achieved. With education, the numerous natural resources could be effectively harnessed and utilized for the benefit of the poor. Poverty is a major crime against humanity. It makes the right to life meaningless and therefore must be rooted out of any human society.

Amy J. Garvey proclaimed that ‘we are all merely human beings; what we do to others affects not only them but ourselves_ our dispositions, our actions, which all leave their impress; these history records’. We must therefore critically analyse the predicaments of some sectors of the human society and “let justice be done to all mankind, realising that if the strong oppresses the weak, confusion and discontent will ever mark the path of man, but with love, faith and charity toward all, the reign of peace and plenty will be heralded into the world and the generations of men shall be called Blessed”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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