Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Author: Alain Gbeasor

I will start off by saying that in writing this piece, I’m a bit disturbed at the direction our country is taking in national debates. Where those who scream loudest are given priority over those who have the knowhow.

I’m a Biochemist by training and I have done research and a serial biotechnology entrepreneur. In my early years I was so fascinated by DOLLY the cloned sheep and the opportunities genetic research had for disease eradication.
My opprobrium comes from the fact that as a Christian, I found it increasingly difficult to allow humans to play GOD with our finite knowledge and insight into the future.

In the past our farmers, researchers and nature have developed a system where crops and animals were selected on favorable traits which they showed such as resistance to pests, high yielding, diary producing , egg producing or meat producing among others. These are generally the research being done by the Centre for Scientific and industrial Research be it into crops or animals.

Today the new avenues are into BIOTECHNOLOGY which is based on biologic action or intrusion - biotechnology harnesses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. We have used the biological processes of microorganisms for more than 6,000 years to make useful food products, such as bread, apio, akpeteshie, wine, Kenkey, Banku Wagashie and cheese, and to preserve dairy products.

Modern biotechnology provides breakthrough products and technologies to combat debilitating and rare diseases, reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, and use less and cleaner energy, and have safer, cleaner and more efficient industrial manufacturing processes.
The intent of Genetic Modification is not always wrong and evil but the issues that arise are matters of ethics, who determines how far on can go with the genetic manipulation? In the news this week we hear of dark skinned parents opting for fair skinned ones. Can the technology be used to eradicate the traits that will affect a major change in the population? Can some ‘crazed’ scientist create a carnivorous fly that will attack us or giant spiders, well these are issues we will leave to Kumawood, Ghalliwood and Nollywood to salivate on.

I believe the essence of the plant breeder’s bill is intended as a copyright bill to aid and provide some royalties to the scientists who research into seeds and animals to produce the best traits with an aim of eradicating food insufficiency and hunger among others.

I say categorical NO to the bill NOW because we have not expended all avenues currently available in solving these problems and most if the research being done currently if anything is publicly funded so its not a life and death situation yet if extra funding is not sought.

In a country where majority of our populace is into farming (bear in mind not huge commercial farms) it is difficult to accept a bill which is intended to make our farmers pay for seeds they use and cannot reuse by the law. In effect a farmer can no longer preserve seeds from his prior harvest for utilization in the next season to save on cost of seedlings.

This is because the new BILL gives the right to test his crops for the presence of such markers that are introduced into the Genetically Modified one, it will become more and more expensive for our farmers to grow their crops. Also considering that this new bill gives the opportunity for large seed companies and consortiums to enter our market by virtue of the bill, we are basically offering our FOOD sovereignty to external players who can decide at any one time to alter or punish us if we failed to pay up for the seedling or took a stand against an issue that they had reservations about. What are the regulations in place controlling ethics and how far one can go in the modification sought, who determines what is a desired crop trait and how far can that researcher go to protect his creation if you like.

Stretching my imagination imagine a consortium on whose seeds we have become addicted to, coerces us into passing laws favorable to them but alien to our culture because they hold unto our food bank and security.

Genetically Modified foods are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops and I would not advice playing GOD without knowing the effects of such modifications in the near future.

We need not rush into such a bill because It’s is common knowledge that GMOs

  • Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts 
  • Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety 
  • Do not necessarily increase yield potential 
  • Do not reduce pesticide use but increase its 
  • Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant "superweeds", compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops 
  • Have mixed economic effects 
  • Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity 
  • Do not offer effective solutions to climate change 
  • Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops 
  • Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes - poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on. 
Based on the above I plead as a GHANAIAN and a BIOCHEMIST for that matter that there is no real pressing need to rush and take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist.

Let’s us not demonize the technology yet , but allow others who are better in place to handle the research and not use our lands as a dumping and testing ground for possibly unfavorable technology. Let us address post-harvest losses, stock durables like grains and process perishables like tomatoes. Reduce food wastage, eat what we can and CAN what we cannot. We can institute Ghanaian Scientists to effect research into GMOs that are tailor made to solve indigenous agricultural problems to Ghana. Let’s us remember to replicate the Story of the Ghana COCOA, which has been developed over the years through our local scientist and has the world class standing it has today.

In reading the BILL, I ask myself these questions....Who wrote the BILL and what is the true intentions of it and possibly who are behind it? I rest my case.

Alain Gbeasor

 The Author ALAIN GBEASOR is a Biochemist, a serial Biotech entrepreneur and fellow of the African Good Governance Institute.

Monday, August 19, 2013

‎Taarifa:‬ Using smartphones & ICT to improve water and sanitation services in Ghana

NGOs in Ghana are using smartphones and an ICT platform called Taarifa to help citizens report lags in water and sanitation services to municipalities.

- World Bank

Thursday, August 1, 2013

VIVO Energy acquires majority shareholding in Shell Ghana

Accra, 1st August 2013 --- Vivo Energy, the company formed by Vitol, Helios Investment Partners and Shell to distribute and market Shell-branded fuels and lubricants across Africa, has acquired a majority shareholding in Shell Ghana Limited.

The company, which will be renamed Vivo Energy Ghana, will be headed up by Fred Osoro as Managing Director. He will take over from Vincent Richter, the former acting Managing Director. Mr Osoro has twenty years’ experience in the energy industry during which he has held various management and marketing positions for Esso, Mobil and Engen, including Managing Director for Engen Ghana and Nigeria. His appointment to the Board will be formalised at the next Board meeting.

Christian Chammas, CEO of Vivo Energy, said: “Ghana is an important market and a growing economy which is set to benefit from significant developments in the energy sector. We are acquiring a business with great potential; a long history in Ghana, a high calibre workforce and a large and diversified customer base. Vivo Energy is looking forward to serving our Ghanaian customers and investing in the business, to ensure it realises its full potential under Fred Osoro’s leadership.”

The Shell brand has been in Ghana for 85 years and Shell has been the leading marketer of fuels and lubricants. Vivo Energy Ghana has a storage capacity of 8,300m³ and 124 retail stations with the majority offering Shell Cards and convenience retail stores. Over the years, the company expanded its portfolio by acquiring Texaco in 1988. Vivo Energy Ghana employs 134 people but the business provides indirect employment to over 1,000 people. The company is recognised as the leader in the oil industry especially championing and setting standards for safety in sales and distribution.

This is the latest development in a venture initially announced in February 2011. It brings to fifteen the number of African markets in which Vivo Energy has a presence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ghana loses GhC 420 million annually to poor sanitation

Another World Bank study (2010) - about how we take care of our environment. And of course, it says things are bad, because THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS. Period. 

At least we have started 2013 on a good note, (paper-top and cheap talk anyway) -  holding this year's Annual New Year School and Conference under the theme, "The Key to Future Health of our Nation: Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. At the opening of the 64th edition, Professor Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, Director of the Institute of Continuing and Distance Education, disclosed that according to the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank, Ghana loses 420 million Ghana cedis yearly due to poor sanitation.He said the "enormous" challenge posed by rapid urbanization, coupled with institutional weakness in physical planning policies, had led to the growth of slums which had no access to safe drinking water and good sanitary practices.

Do you remember what former President J.J. Rawlings said at the celebration of last year's 31st December Revolution? He said typhoid is too rampant in this country because of unhygienic conditions on the country. Prof Oheneba-Sakyi shared similar sentiments - "Incidence and daily reporting of diarrhoea and malaria cases in our poor and rural communities are pointers to the fact that there are poor sanitation practices and the absence of hygiene education, which depletes the human resource needed for national development." He added that effective delivery of environmental sanitation services, remained one of the huge challenges of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.

So what's the way forward?
Prof. Sakyi suggested a national crusade on sanitation to effect a drastic change "in our behaviour and attitude towards all waste issues and it should include advocacy at the highest level of government, effective implementation of policies and rigorous sanitation and hygiene education as well as enforcement management. Bang! Well said, but this is the music we have been singing all this while. Two people need to make this happen. You and I on one side - our job is to change our behaviour and attitudes towards the environment. And the government on the other side - effective implementation of policies. Come on, why do we keep saying this over and over again?

Prof Oheneba-Sakyi said "failure to do so would mean Ghana could miss the Millennium Development Goal target for improved basic sanitation by 2015.

Also speaking at the conference, Justice (Prof) Samuel Date-Bah, Chairman of the Council, University of Ghana, Legon, said "water, sanitation and hygiene are key to our survival and should not be left to government alone."He said with 1.6 million people dying from cholera and other sanitation related diseases every year all over the world, it was clear that the problem of sanitation needed to be tackled seriously.

Then the one I didn't want to hear also came in. Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, Caretaker Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing. He said the country faced challenges in the area of water sanitation, adding that apart from poor sanitary practices that had adverse effects on water bodies, activities such as mining affected river bodies. Don't we know this already? Mr. Mensah, when you are in power and have sat down, with all our army here, and left heavily armed local and foreign civilians to invade the country and operate galamsay mines, why won't this happen? People have even invaded the Bui National Park, an area supposed to be reserved and protected. Ridiculous. Stop all this paper work and cheap talk and act.

Let's all stop killing the environment before it kills us. Go and stay green

Courtesy: GNA

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pictures: NPP supporters protest against election results

There is heavy police presence at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, where supporters of the opposition New Patriotic party (NPP) have gathered in a peaceful protest against the December 7 election results.

The gathering at the Maame Dokono Park

Protesters on the streets

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Enhancing the Adaptation of Smallholder Farmers to Climate Change

Sometime this year I interviewed some rice farmers in the Volta Region of Ghana to ask of their information needs as far as their rice production was concerned. Among all the responses I got there was one that was very interesting. A farmer said "You see, in the past, we could predict when the rains will come and when they will stop so we can plan our planting well. But now, we don't know, it changes every year; there can even be floods during harmattan." - CLIMATE CHANGE. You got it. But does the smallholder farmer in the village understand what in the world that is? 

Image source: Wikipedia
Smallholder farmers have been experiencing the negative impacts of this weather variability without knowing what is really behind their low yields, crop failures and other impacts. Obviously, livelihoods have been affected but little is being done to protect smallholder farmers. 

While current research indicates that average temperature increases over the past 20 years in Ghana have adversely affected the production of maize, millet, rice and other foodstuffs, there is even a greater need to ascertain the direct impacts of climate change on smallholder agricultural productivity and find sustainable solutions to mitigate the adverse effects. In this light, the Alliance for Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), together with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) has launched a research project into the impact of climate change on smallholder agricultural productivity in Ghana.

The project entitled: Enhancing the Adaptation of Smallholder Farmers, Especially Women, to Climate Change for Improved Agricultural Production in Ghana, is expected to last for two years. Among other things it will seek to increase understanding among policy makers in Ghana on the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity in the breadbasket regions of Ghana.

According to Dr Nelson Obiri-Prempeh, the National Policy Hub Coordinator of AGRA, the impact of climate change has been exacerbated due to policy gaps and low level of awareness by stakeholders including government, policy makers and the farmers themselves.

Though government is touted for taking steps to develop two draft policies on climate Change – the National Climate Change Policy Framework (NCCPF) which provides strategic direction for coordinating issues relating to climate change, and seeks to ensure that Ghana pursues a development path that is attuned to climate change; and National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) which also strives to enhance the country’s current and future response to climate change impacts by strengthening its adaptive capacity and improving social and ecosystem resilience – these policies do not adequately address the specific vulnerability of smallholder farmers. Government’s strategies have so far failed to set priorities, interventions and targets to appropriately respond to climate change, he added.

AGRA expects the research to contribute to the development and adoption of policies or their revisions for addressing the impacts of climate on smallholder farmers.

The project is also expected to enhance understanding of best practices in climate change adaptation and resilience in the breadbasket regions of Ghana, as well as to strengthen capacity of institutions which are part of the Environmental Policy Action Node to advocate for policy changes to reduce the impacts of climate change on smallholder farmers.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Zooming in on Madina

If you asked me to name places in Accra with poor sanitation Madina will definitely slip out of my mouth. The gutters by the street dividing the market and the police station are properly choked. It's so bad that even lunatics hate it; one day one of them got down into the gutter and was scooping things out with his bare hands (eeew 'something was doing me' too).

Occasionally the gutters are cleared up, but where do they leave the waste? Right at the mouth of the gutter. So within days, while unscrupulous dudes drop all sorts of new matter, the old ones join them back in.
So these things go on and people with 'green' minds are not moved when EPA or Ministry of Environment is mentioned. A recent National Sanitation Taskforce Program (NSTP) put in place has even attracted more questions about it's necessity and people are casting doubts about its impact.

To start with, NSTP and Zoomliom Waste Management have partnered to form Zoom Alliance. Among things they are doing such as making radio announcements calling on all of us to desist from indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste, they are also organising clean-up exercises.

Last Saturday as I passed through Madina I witnessed one of the clean-ups. Men and women in blue (Zoomlion) and yellow (NSTP) had thronged that famous street, desilting the heavily choked open gutters - and I don't need to tell you where they were dumping their collection. But there was something different this time - behind them was another group scooping the waste into one of the popular Zoomlion trucks. At that volume, I bet there would have been a cholera outbreak at Madina by now if they had not collected the waste. This is the second time I'm seeing this at Madina and I think they have started on a good note, I hope it's not a nine days' wonder.

While we commend Zoom Alliance for the positive beginnings we still need to ask more questions. Where are they dumping the waste? Are there any plans to recycle those can be recycled? When will we citizens change our attitudes towards the environment? How are we, as individuals,  empowered to check our fellow citizens who dump waste anywhere and anyhow? When will our political leaders and government stop paying lip service, see sanitation as a priority and rise up to the task?

We"ll not stop talking until we see a change, and we'll act where we can.

Keep talking about sanitation and the environment, keep Ghana clean.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

World Malaria Day 2012

News release from the World Health Organisation (WHO)

Test, Treat, Track: scaling up the fight against malaria

 WHO hails global progress in combating malaria but highlights the need to further reinforce the fight. WHO’s new initiative, T3: Test, Treat, Track, urges malaria-endemic countries and donors to move towards universal access to diagnostic testing and antimalarial treatment, and to build robust malaria surveillance systems.

A million lives saved

“In the past ten years, increased investment in malaria prevention and control has saved more than a million lives,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “This is a tremendous achievement. But we are still far from achieving universal access to life-saving malaria interventions.”

Progress not enough to meet target

A massive acceleration in the global distribution of mosquito nets, the expansion of programmes to spray the insides of buildings with insecticides, and an increase in access to prompt antimalarial treatment has brought down malaria mortality rates by more than a quarter worldwide, and by one third in Africa since 2000. But simply maintaining current rates of progress will not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control.

T3: Test, Treat, Track

WHO therefore urges the global health community to further scale up investments in diagnostic testing, treatment, and surveillance for malaria in order to save more lives and to make a major push towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
Endemic countries should be able to ensure that every suspected malaria case is tested, that every confirmed case is treated with a quality-assured antimalarial medicine, and that the disease is tracked through timely and accurate surveillance systems.
WHO has published technical guidance for all three pillars of T3: Test, Treat, Track – releasing the final two documents of the package, Disease Surveillance for Malaria Control, and Disease Surveillance for Malaria Elimination, today.
“Until countries are able to test, treat, and report every malaria case, we will never defeat this disease,” says Dr Margaret Chan, who is in Namibia for World Malaria Day this year. "We need strong and sustained political commitment from all countries where malaria is endemic, and from the global health community, to see this fight through to the end.”
  • In half of all malaria-endemic countries in Africa, over 80% of cases are still being treated without diagnostic testing. Universal diagnostic testing will ensure that patients with fever receive the most appropriate treatment, and that antimalarial medicines are used rationally and correctly. Countries that have already scaled up diagnostic testing (such as Senegal) are saving hundreds of thousands of treatment courses every year.
  • Many countries have made significant progress in improving access to antimalarials. In 2010, 60 governments were providing artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) free of charge to all age groups. But millions of people still lack ready access to appropriate treatment. The effort must be scaled up to ensure that every confirmed malaria case gets treated.
  • Improved surveillance for malaria cases and deaths will help countries determine which areas or population groups are most affected. It will also help ministries of health to identify resurgences and map new trends - thus maximizing the efficiency of prevention and control programmes. Better surveillance will also allow for a more effective delivery of international aid programmes.
“T3: Test, Treat, Track aims to galvanize endemic countries and their partners to build on the success of malaria prevention efforts over the past decade,” says Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. “In recent years, there has been major progress in the development of new diagnostic tools and highly effective antimalarial medicines. The challenge now is to ensure these tools get used, and that countries accurately measure their public health impact.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Here we go again - Flood in Circle after this morning's rains

So the real rains haven't even started yet, this is just a warning and Circle is already flooded. Your self-styled green enthusiast and journalist, as usual, got you some first hand pictures. I couldn't get near for obvious reasons (before they announce on Peace FM later today that the rains have carried me away), so please pardon image quality, courtesy my phone friend. Well the question: When will we ever learn? Don't forget that Accra already has a cholera outbreak: 13 people have been confirmed dead and 600 hospitalised? What measures are being put in place by the AMA pending the actual rains?

Yes, those are human beings in the water - behind Provident Towers

Video to follow soon...