Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ghana's youth - the future farmers

Starting next year, a youth in farming project will commence in Ghana by 4-H, which is a youth development programme of the co-operative extension system of the US, with over 6.5 million youth throughout the world and committed towards youth leadership development.

To be implemented in two phases beginning in January 2012, Phase 1 will see the establishment of 60 school gardens and enterprise gardens for youth in school and those out of school respectively in 12 districts in the Eastern and Volta Regions and would be extended to 120 districts in the second year.

Speaking at a meeting of Members of the Board of Directors of 4-H Ghana and members of the 4-H National Council in Koforidua, Mr Kwaku Boateng, the CEO of 4-H Ghana, said in Ghana the project would be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service and other key stakeholders.

A 3.5 million US Dollars fund from the United States (US) has been set up for the training of in and out-of-school youth in farming. DuPoint, a seed production company based in the US, has committed $2,000,000 to the fund. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would also contribute $1,500,000, which would be channeled through 4-H branches in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania for the implementation of the project within the next two years.

In a press release by 4-H Ghana on the launching of the fund at Des Moines in Iowa, USA this year, the Executive Vice-President of DuPoint , Mr James C. Borel, said his company and 4-H shared the belief that youth development was the key to sustainable initiative to address global food security.

He said no single company or organization could solve global food security alone and that DuPoint was committed to being part of the solution.He expressed the hope that others would support the global 4-H network.

Mr Donald T Floyd Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National 4-H Council, said youth development was the world’s best long term solution to ensure food security and global economic stability.
He said 4-H’s 100-year history in agriculture innovation and youth skill-building, combined with an existing infrastructure in more than 70 countries throughout the world , had positioned it to equip millions of young people in developing nations with the skills needed to build a truly sustainable future.

The CEO of 4-H Ghana added that model enterprise shops would be established with cold chain systems to provide sales outlets for 4-H projects and school gardens for products like pork, meat, duck, rabbit and vegetables for sale. 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Farmerline wins third prize in the West Africa Climate Challenge!

This year's Apps4Africa Challenge focuses on climate change. Across 15 countries in West, East, Central and Southern Africa, the challenge is being organised as an avenue for local innovators, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and government officials to brainstorm, identify and discuss approaches to solving climate problems in Africa. There will then be the regional competitions where innovators are to come up with innovative apps that can help tackle climate change. All these discussion points are intended to coincide with the ongoing debates by world leaders at the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) confer­ence in Durban, South Africa.

I attended the brainstorming session in Accra and it could not have happened at a better time in Ghana, when the capital had just witnessed devastating floods which had left about nine people dead, destroyed property worth millions of Cedis, and caused a cholera outbreak. Addressing the participants, the Accra Mayor bemoaned the lack of responsibility of people on waste disposal. He cited instances where people heap piles of domestic waste in containers and polythene bags and wait for rains so they can throw them in. Others have turned open gutters into waste disposal sites. 

At the session, there were a lot of interesting ideas and suggestions that came up - from traffic control apps, own a tree campaign, flood alert apps, to on-the-spot reporting of violators of environmental laws. 

Announced recently at COP17, the West African challenge was won by HospitalManager (Nigeria), a web-based application that helps hospitals and health organizations prepare for disasters such as floods and storms. The second prize went to Eco-fund Forum (Senegal), a web-based community organizer and geo-localized data exchange tool to help individuals and communities working on sustainable resource management throughout Africa to share their own experiences on best practices. 

The third price of $3000 went to Farmerline (Ghana), a mobile and web-based system that furnishes farmers and investors with relevant agricultural information to improve productivity and increase income. According to Alloysius Attah and Emmanuel Owusu Addai, the brains behind Farmerline, lack of information about weather patterns and about which crops grow best in a changing climate hurts rural farmers’ yields. Cell phone use is growing rapidly throughout Ghana, including in rural areas. This mobile tool can help farmers in Ghana to get information about agricultural best practices down to the farm level, including choosing crops best suited for their specific location, and how to prepare for changes in weather patterns (including dry spells, changes in seasonal onset, and extreme events).

Having being in the agric industry for a while now, I know how this is going to be a challenging task and I am happy there is going to be business and technical support for the winners. 

But come to think of this, whenever "something" is advancing we drift towards that in search of solutions for anything. It was the post, telephone, radio, TV, escalated to web and now we are looking for mobile solutions to anything. I definitely root for using modern approaches to solving current problems and I am all for it and will do anything for it. But while we do that there is a fundamental constant, especially for this climate issue: our attitudes. Men in tie drink water and drop the sachets on the streets, governments implement policies that do not take the environment into consideration. If our attitudes do not change, we have a long way to go.

So I say the first solution to climate change is attitude change at all levels. What's your take?
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