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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weblinks November 2011






















Reports from Reuters Training in South Africa












Monday, November 28, 2011

Changing our ways before we’re changed by the climate

The hilly slope of South Africa’s Institute for the Advancement of Journalism offers a perfect bird’s eye view of the City of Gold’s rich ornamental environment.

Johannesburg is one of the world’s greenest cities and part of the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group. Home to some 10 million trees, the city boasts the largest man-made urban forest.

Fascinatingly, about 7.5 million of the planted trees are private properties, whilst the other 2.5 million are in parks. In 2010, the city planted 200,000 street trees and an additional 20,000 for 2011.

These figures should get everyone thinking about what other cities on the continent can do and should be doing, as the world’s biggest summit on climate change holds in Durban, South Africa.
So what are some of the little and big things everyone needs to be doing to dodge the damning impact of a changing climate, especially in Africa, where already the changing weather and rainfall patterns are having a major impact?

According to Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the youth are critical to global efforts to combat deforestation and natural resource degradation.

Getting the youth involved in conservation, he believes, could help preserve the African forests, sustain efforts on reforestation, and slow down the alarming rate of deforestation and natural resource degradation.

Between 1990 and 2005 alone, the world lost 3.3% of its forests.
Ghana lost 33.7 percent of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010, an average of 125,400 ha or 1.68 percent per year. 

“The consequence of this situation has led to global warming and climate change that is now affecting agricultural production,” says Dr. Sanginga.

A recent study by the World Bank said Sub-Saharan Africa alone will need to find another $14-17 billion a year between now and 2050, with the cost of adapting to climate change added to the mix.

The Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, says climate change is adding to an already tough set of development challenges for the continent.

The World Bank Group has about $7 billion in planned investments to help Africa deal with climate change – ranging from helping countries come to terms with climate risks and vulnerabilities to designing new climate-friendly policies to making the shift to renewable forms of energy.

These investments must however be driven by individual and collective commitment to mitigate the changing climate.

The Nigerian Field Society for instance, wants to recruit youths who are committed to the cause of environmental protection and raise awareness on the negative effects of deforestation, as a response in curbing forest loss.

The gathering of the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would attempt to find a common solution to secure a future for generations to come.

But it is hoped that cities in Africa will not just be caught in the debate of a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emission.
The Johannesburg green credentials should be inspiring enough for Africa to start walking the talk of mitigating climate change.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Harnessing agricultural research for national development

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has the research capacity to drastically reduce the huge annual import bill for rice and yellow maize, says Kwesi Ahwoi, Minster of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

He has however acknowledged the need for Ghana’s policy environment to be put right to increase the production of cereals from the current 51 percent.
“How to fund research in a focused manner”, he noted, is one key challenge for Ghana’s agric modernization and commercialization.

Mr. Ahwoi says it is his “avowed desire and commitment” for MOFA to work in unison with the Ministries of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) and Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) to “significantly increase the funding of our research institutions to enhance the status of research and researchers and scientist so that Ghanaian farmers can get the best out of them through enhanced research-extension linkages”.
The Minister was speaking at the CSIR-Crops Research Institute (CRI) Open Day in Kumasi, under the theme: “Harnessing Agricultural Research for National Development”.

The Institute opened its doors to farmers, industrialists, students and general public to visit its research fields and laboratories as well as showcased improved technologies developed to increase agricultural production.
Citing the cocoa sector as a success story, Mr. Ahwoi challenged the CSIR and other research institutions to put up a strategic proposal to apply similar methodology to two or three other crops.

“Agriculture is not natural, it is a human invention based on the efficient and cost effective application of science and technology to nature through research and to make the research results readily available and affordable to farmers to increase agricultural productivity, ra
ise farm incomes, reduce rural poverty, improve food security and accelerate the rate of economic development”, stated the Agric Minister.

He lauded the contribution of CRI mandated crops to the national economy.

The CSIR-CRI, established in 1964, has been developing and disseminating environmentally sound technologies for high and sustainable food and industrial crops – grains, roots and tubers, horticultural and vegetables.
Crop varieties released for Ghanaian farmers and consumers include 25 maize (most popular is ‘Obaatanpa’ used across the Africa region), 11 cassava, 10 cowpea, 8 sweet potato, 7 rice, 4 soybean and 4 groundnut. There are also 3 yam, 2 pepper, 1 plantain and 1 banana varieties.
Deputy Director-General of the CSIR, Dr. Rose Emma Mamaa Entsua Mensah said the scientists have also introduced to rice farmers the ‘Sawah Technology’ for rice production in the inland valleys.
“Some of you may not be aware that some market women buy our improved rice varieties and bag them as imported American grain and consumers eat them without knowing the difference. This is because the Crops Research Institute and its sister institute, the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute have out with rice varieties comparable to refined rice such as Gbewaa rice, sika mo and ‘efie ne fie’”, she stated.

Dr. Entsua Mensah added the return of maize research in Ghana since 2005 stands at 79 percent.
She has however bemoaned the low staff salary compared with analogues institutions. This, according to her, has resulted in low staff morale resulting in high attrition, as most of the Council’s experienced research scientists leave for the universities and other institutions which offer better conditions of service.

The government has asked the CSIR to commercialize their research activities to generate internal funds.

The CSIR-CRI for instance is collaborating with some processing companies to add-value to varieties released by the Institute. These include the Premium Foods Limited – maize-based food products; Masig Natural Fruits Industries – banana variety into juice; JOSMAC Agro
Industries – cassava varieties into gari and other products for export and local consumption; and Panford & Sons Limited – pepper Shito Adope into pepper paste.

But according to the Deputy Director-General, though the CSIR is doing its best, it is constrained because “in the area of agriculture, our clients are mostly the resource-poor farmers most of who cannot afford to buy certified seeds for their own small farms, let alone pay for consultancy services from our research scientists”.

Dr. Hans Adu-Dapaah, Director of the CRI, observed climate change poses a major threat to agricultural production.
He however says the Institute has taken prudent measures to mitigate its effect including development of drought and flood tolerant crop varieties, early and extra maturing crop varieties to escape drought.

“The Millennium Development Goals are high on our priority list and the CSIR-CRI would continue to develop high yielding and quality crops in nutrients to reduce poverty, hunger, child mortality and improve maternal health”, stated Dr. Adu-Dapaah.

The Institute is currently collaborating with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and international research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to address various challenges in agriculture.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh


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