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.

Credit: Myjoyonline.com
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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...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm 55 and "brown" - I need to get "green"

Hello my children,

Today is my birthday, and you my children are celebrating me in grand style. I love it. Awww, see the march of the special forces and school children, ain't that awesome?

I have come far oh, 55 solid years. But for some simple reason today I'm not very happy with you my children. I have allowed you to put several people in charge of affairs, but have not been impressed with their output and your contributions as well.

At 55, there are several times you allow me to go dark because you have not handled my power issues well. I have given you abundant supply of sunlight all these years, but you have not converted it to solar energy to power even low-consumption but critical services like traffic lights. Some of your siblings are dead because of this.

I have supplied you with many water bodies, but the best you do with them is dump refuse and toxic waste in it, killing my aquatic plants and animals. Last week, I heard that some of you are using treated mosquito nets (meant for malaria prevention) to go fishing. When I asked some you why you are doing this, you threw a question back at me "Which is better, dying from starvation or dying from malaria"? You are sick!

Every year when I give you rain, it causes floods, destroying peoples' homes and valuable property, and most importantly I lose some of you as well. You keep building on water courses and your agencies responsible for checking these have become toothless bulldogs, collecting bribes and allowing anything to happen. Some of you pile domestic waste and dump them in the rains and open gutters, expecting the rains to carry them away.

Some of you the learned ones are even the worst culprits. You drink water and throw the sachets right onto the streets. You just don't care.

Your poor sanitation costs me $290 million per year! At 55, 4.63 million of you do not have latrines and defecate in the open, while 16.34 million use unsanitary or shared latrines,  costing me over $79 million. Do you know that approximately 13,900 of you adults and 5,100 or your children under five die each year from diarrhoea, out of which nearly 90 per cent is directly attributed to sanitation and water problems?.

Some of you are consuming energy and wasting resources as if I don't suffer to bring them to you. You leave your homes to work without turning off your lights and electrical appliances. You have built terrible houses and offices that have poor ventilation so you always need air conditioners and lights during the day. When brushing your teeth, taking your bath or doing the dishes, you open the taps from the start and leave them running until you are done. You don't care about how much water is used for this or that because you have the money to pay for it.

As Nana Kobina Nketia V of Esikado said at last Saturday's Barcamp, some of you are chopping down all the trees. For whom and for what? In whose interest are you destroying the environment? Between 1990 and 2005, you cut down 4.7 million acres of forest which represents 1.8 percent loss per year, one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Out of 8.3 million hectares of high forest that existed in the past ten years, only about 1.6 million hectares is available now. What developmental projects can you even boast of to warrant this indiscriminate felling of trees?

So with all these you are doing how can I meet my Millennium Development Goals, especially the one on sanitation?.  You stubborn children have turned me brown and it's about time you changed your attitudes and took my environmental concerns seriously.

Today I'm 55 and dirty, and wretched, and my traffic lights are not working, and my power is erratic, many parts of my land is filled with stench, polythene here, polythene bags there, rubbish everywhere, open gutters, open refuse dumps in the markets, people selling foodstuffs at gutter mouths..and...oh..why? ..sob..sob, sob... :(

My birthday wish is simple - change your attitudes and wish me a greener future. Stop doing anything that's destroying the environment. And you people in charge of my children, my land and resources, stop the greed and politicization of every issue and get the job done!

God bless my homeland Ghana, and make my nation green and strong....

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Traffic and street lights in Ghana - time to go solar

So are we letting all this sunlight go waste like we do for the rains? Plenty resources; gold, oil, diamond, bauxite...SUNLIGHT, yes sunlight! Among the many resources that have come to us naturally as a nation and also by virtue of our location on the planet, sunlight is one that's unlimited and constantly in abundant supply. Why haven't we tapped into this and come out with solar this and solar that? Ooops, I forgot, we use the sunlight to dry cassava for Kokonte, lol.  In 2007, this country was plunged into serious power crises arising from inadequate supply of rain to feed our only hydro-electric dam in Akosombo. Five years down the line, we haven't learnt anything. There are many engineers and what-have-you's in this country, but still..... If you can't innovate, can't you copy? Solar technology is not new, abi?

Traffic light
Living in the capital city of Accra comes with the annoying opportunity to experience all the crazy little hassles you can ever go through in Ghana; from long queues at dawn to board a trotro, to the never-ending vehicular traffic, the waist-breaking pot-holes, the filth, oh yes "efi paa", to systems that are simply broken down. There are some specific traffic lights in Accra that are constantly broken down. One of such is the one at 'Spanner junction, Tetteh Quarshie, the Accra Mall stop off the Madina Road. I have personally witnessed a situation where the traffic lights were not working. So we (pedestrians) had to group ourselves and attempt crossing the road with our hands raised, going up and down, signalling speeding on-coming vehicles to stop for us. Are we policemen or traffic assistants? While watching from the other side of the road at another time, I saw the driver of a new Toyota Corolla trying to slow down for people to cross the road. The driver of the truck behind him couldn't apply his brakes and rammed into the car. So at such traffic lights, you either help a pedestrian or get your car rammed into.

For the past two weeks, power supply has been very erratic in Accra, why? We don't know. In the past eight days, I have had power for just one day!. ECG always tells me their usual crappy "we are working on it" shit, working on it my foot. In the evenings roads are dark and scary. No, street lights, no traffic lights. Just yesternight on the Abeka Lapaz section of the newly constructed MiDA N1 Highway, an articulated driver skidded off the road, turned and fell on the two commercial vehicles. Myjoyonline reported that according to an eyewitness the traffic light was not functioning apparently because the light was off and that he suspects partly contributed to the accident.

Simple question; why can't we have solar traffic lights? Is the implementation too expensive? No, it's proven to be less expensive and cost effective, even if it were, we had money for Woyome, so money no be problem! Is the technology futuristic? Nope, we have the know-how, this is proven and abundant mehn, even individuals have it in their homes. Maybe it's not the priority of the government. Maybe, we don't have a green and environmentally conscious government. Having tree-planting programmes alone doesn't turn you into an environmentally friendly being. Leadership. Leadership. Leadership.

My friend, Kwasi Yankera, wrote on Facebook this morning "In a country where solar energy is available almost 8hours a day, we still depend on unreliable external power to operate basic but important life saving equipment like a traffic light....why do we pay all these so-called Engineers for? why cant they be innovative??...how r they appraised each year and how they do get promoted?". Right on the head.

The advantages in using solar lights far outweigh that of normal compact flourcescent lamps or lights. Most solar traffic lights use LED lamps as they are more reliable, more energy efficient, have a longer life span and turn on and turn off quickly. We don't need to care about inadequate rainfall, we are assured of power all year round. What more do we want than a system that's environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Somebody send this post to the president. Have a green sunny day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Growing crops with waste water

Nuuna irrigating his vegetable farm
Where the water flows, 37 Military Hospital’s toxic run-off - Danny Kresnyak

Nuuna, works in one of the vegetable gardens growing in the shadow of the 37 Military Hospital. 

The tall, bearded, 24-year-old is the eldest of five children living in his mother’s house. He works hard to maintain a balance between family obligations, time in the field and pursuit of an education. 

He and his siblings struggle together earning their pay with the cuts and calluses tempering their hands. Each day, they pick, trim and prepare assorted greens for sale. They pluck crops from the soil, remove the small leaves, sever the stock and bind the individual sprigs together with lashings cut from the discarded end pieces. The bundles are put into corrugated boxes bound for markets both local and international. 

“Some stays here, but almost everything we pull up gets sent to the UK or Europe,” Nuuna explained, while slicing a fibrous strip from a handful of leaves. 

The land is irrigated with water drawn from both a well and a stream fed by run-off from city sewers. He said the property is government owned, but not on the supply grid. 

“I went to see them (the water and housing ministry) about pipes many times. They would never talk to me, always said to go and come (back later). I think they wanted a bribe or something. ” 

Without fresh water, farmers like Nuuna are forced to grow crops using the sources available. 

Accra's 37 Military Hospital was built during the Second World War and its obsolescence is becoming evident. About a year ago, the pipe carrying raw medical waste from the mortuary, maternity and surgical theaters to the treatment tank was damaged. 

Unable to fix the line, the hospital began dumping bio-hazardous material into the city’s open-gutters. Now, the sewers are overflowing and downstream the stench of contamination and concern is growing thick. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

CLIMATE CHANGE- GLOBAL WARMING - Ghana's inability to prevent increase in her environmental degradation - Samuel Donkor

Scientists and government officials around the world are now reporting, that the Earth's environment is changing in many dramatic and unexpected ways. Global warming, Climate Change, acidification of the Ocean and a growing scarcity of fresh water and the melting of the artiic icebergs are some of the problems being experienced and discussed in the news the world over.

Climate Change is the over all changes in the normal pattern of weather conditions , caused by Global warming, which is giving negative effects to the environment. And Global warming, which is man made is caused by environmental degradation, environmental pollution through the reckless use of natural resources and technological advancement.

Climate change effects are due to an increase in green house gases in the atmosphere. The main gases emitted are Carbon dioxide(co2), Methane and Nitrous oxide. The increase in Co2 is largely due to the burning of harmful Gases, Oil and Gas over the last two Centuries.

Today the Planet Earth is experiencing the serious effect of Climate Change caused by Humanity over the period of two Centuries. From the present weather disasters around the world , no country on this planet is spared. For the last three years, we hear of Tsuname here, Hurricane Cathrina there, Volcanic eruption here, Floods there, Floods everywhere and Heatwave everywhere.This Heatwave has caused vast tract of forest fires across the world.The ice berg in the Artic has also melted and is causing tidal waves of the Oceans, which in turn causes flooding after the least torrential rains anywhere.

God created the world, yet activities of humanity is making it deplorable to live in, hence the need for all governments, Civil society organizations and every human being to protect the environment. We are all part of the problem, therefore we we must all be part of the solution.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ghana hosts confab on reshaping agricultural research in Africa

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - UK parliamentarians and civil servants will this week join African farmers, international donors and scientists in a policy dialogue that aims to reshape agricultural research to serve development goals and the public good.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, and the executive director of Oxfam-Novib, Farah Karimi, will chair the event, which the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is organising from 1-3 February in Ghana.

In a statement Monday, IIED said UK-based parliamentarians, the media and members of the international development community would participate through a live video link hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Agroecology in Westminster.

Baroness Miller, the Group’s co-chair said: “This is a unique event in that it will allow farmers from across West Africa direct access to the organisations which direct and fund research into the development of agriculture.

“We very much hope it will be productive and change the way in which research priorities are decided and implemented so that farmers become directly involved in the governance of agricultural research and development which affects them”.

Meanwhile, IIED Director Camilla Toulmin, said: “This is a valuable platform for smallholder farmers to get their voices heard. We’d like to see this constructive dialogue setting an agenda for future research priorities across the region.”

The meeting will bring staff from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) together with small-scale farmers and food processors from Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal, as well as from East Africa, Asia and Latin America.

With a total budget of nearly US$ 400 million, AGRA is a major funder of agricultural research in Africa. The meeting will allow senior staff from the alliance to hear what small-scale farmers and food producers from a number of West African countries think agricultural research should focus on.

“Publicly funded research can make a huge contribution to eradicating hunger and poverty. But the way it is designed, managed and implemented rarely involves the people who produce, process and consume agricultural produce,” said Michel Pimbert of IIED.

“The lack of democracy in setting strategic priorities for research is not only unjust. It stifles the collective intelligence and abilities of farmers and scientists to solve the social and environmental crisis that undermines the right to food and human well-being,” he added.

In a briefing paper published for the meeting, Pimbert describes a series of “citizens’ juries” at which farmers in West Africa have called for changes to agricultural research in recent years.

The meeting in Ghana will enable such farmers, donors and senior scientists to identify areas of agreement and difference on what is needed in Africa to alleviate poverty and eradicate hunger.

Specific issues on the agenda include priorities for plant breeding and seed selection; options for managing soil fertility; options for developing accessible markets; ways of governing, organising, funding and practising research; and the types of policies needed to transform Africa’s agriculture, including changes to tenure, subsidies and investment.

“Mainstream agricultural research informs and influences food and agricultural policies, funding allocations and food security interventions of governments and donors,” said Farah Karimi, executive director of Oxfam-Novib.  

“As a rights-based organisation working against poverty, Oxfam-Novib supports the move to democratise agricultural research and let the voices of farmers be heard.  With the food crisis, now more than ever, we need to recognise and act with small-holder farming communities, as they are decisive actors in the local to global responses to the food and climate crisis.

“Agricultural research must respond to the needs and build on the knowledge and resilience of men and women farmers. Their right to food and land must steer the agenda of agricultural research.”

In the view of Toulmin, the challenges ahead are huge, if food security is to be achieved in a context of growing climate impacts, scarce water and increasing competition for land.

“Africa’s farmers bring much knowledge and many insights of great value to finding effective answers to these problems. Let’s find a better way of hearing from them in helping craft practical solutions,” Toulmin suggested.

The meeting in Ghana has been funded by Oxfam-Novib, The Christensen Fund, New Field Foundation, Biovision Foundation, and by IIED’s Joint Framework donors — Department for International Development, Danida, SIDA, NORAD and Irish Aid.

Pana 30/01/2012
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