Posted by: rumnet | August 11, 2016

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Will Organic Farming Improve Ghana’s Agricultural Sector? 

(Published in the July 2012 edition of the advocate) 

By Katrina A. Charnley 

While driving in the country side of Northern Ghana, one often sees farmers working under the hot sun. For an average of GHc 3.00 a day, farmers endure the heat, exposure to harmful chemicals and dangerous snakes, all to harvest salvageable produce and to prepare for the next crop. This hard work is also done in the face of climate change defined by increasing temperatures, inconsistent rainfall, soil erosion and degradation. 

In her report “Opportunity in Organics”, Lauren Bain comments on the current state of the agriculture sector in Ghana, concluding that the current methods of agro-education being used, essentially a blend of traditional practices such as bush burning and modern practices such as using harmful pesticides and herbicides, are unsustainable. They are also harmful to the environment and not ideal for healthy food production. Although there are many challenges in finding an effective solution, many share her belief that Ghana’s agricultural sector is in dire need of change. 

The Coalition for the Advancement of Organic Farming (CAOF) presents an overview of organic farming in Ghana, specifically in the Northern Sector, as a possible alternative to negative agricultural practices that remain prevalent today. 

To begin, we need to understand clearly what is meant by organic agriculture. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) defines organic agriculture as “. . . a whole system approach based upon a set of processes resulting in a sustainable ecosystem, safe food, good nutrition, animal welfare and social justice. Organic production therefore is more than a system of production that includes or excludes certain inputs.” 

Why should farmers consider going organic? According to the report, organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity while stabilizing returns, as well as incomes, by using local technologies, all without harming the environment. Economically, the local and international market for organic products has significant prospects for growth. This could lead to increased income and improved living conditions for the producers and exporters of organic produce. Other benefits would also include maintenance and building of soil fertility on land that is often threatened by degradation and erosion, as well as putting in place agricultural practices that can contribute to meaningful socio-economic and ecologically sustainable development. In addition to these benefits for the environment and farmers, there are also significant benefits for consumers who buy organic produce. 

Bain’s report mentions the benefits of eating organic food. Limiting your exposure to synthetic insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, as well as limiting your intake of growth hormones and antibiotics are some major benefits to organic produce, meat and dairy products. Certified organic farmers are also unable to produce genetically modified (GM) foods, a controversial subject the world over, due to the unknown long-term affects upon both human health and the environment. 

Other benefits to organic farming is that organic produce tends to have a longer shelf life and is more resilient to pests, diseases and climatic factors, than chemically-grown food. Bain argues that organic farming could revamp produce that is more resilient, creating a more sustainable use of land, more nutritious food, all while maintaining a higher market value. A study by Yaw Bonsi Osei-Asare conducted in 2009 concluded that “consumers are willing to pay a maximum of 20% premium on organic products.” 

There are two significant challenges in developing organic agriculture in Ghana that need to be addressed before all the benefits can be gained. 

One challenge mentioned in the CAOF research report is that although consumers are often willing to pay the extra if the produce is certified organic, the certification costs are very high because certification is often done by foreign organizations, therefore because the produce is not recognized as organic (according to international standards), they do not attract premium prices. 

Another significant challenge is that the majority of the farmers in Ghana have not had any formal education, making their ability to access the best and most up-to-date information on organic agricultural practices difficult. Their ability to communicate and share their knowledge is also limited, especially due to language barriers. 

Some of the major recommendations of the report to the Ghanaian government are to make sure that the processes leading to organic certification are simplified so that organic produce can attract premium prices on the market. The government needs to increase extension services to train and share information about organic farming, its positive effect on the environment, and the fact that it results in healthier foods and farming practices. It would also be of benefit to learn and work closely on all levels with our neighbours in Burkina Faso, who have already had success in promoting and practicing organic agriculture. 

The current research concludes that organic agriculture is crucial for environmental sustainability as well as improving the health of consumers. Other benefits include contributing to employment creation, food security, poverty reduction and health. CAOF call upon the government, the private sector and their development partners to promote the benefits of and strengthen the delivery of organic agriculture.

GEMP Empowers “Overseas” Women To Sustain The Environment

 (Published in the July 2012 edition of the advocate) 

By Alhassan Imoru

EPA Regional Director inspecting beehives

Several decades after Ghana’s independence, the Northern Region is still counted as one of the very deprived regions in the country.

Poverty is still endemic and the vagaries of the weather still pose perennial difficulties for the people and their communities.

Literacy statistics are still depressing, especially for women, and youth unemployment is severe, a perceived source of instability and insecurity in many Northern communities.

This has resulted in the youth, especially girls, migrating to the south in search of greener pastures.

In the “Overseas” community of Tantala located in the West Mamprusi District, however, members of the Tuona Paga (Women) Coalition have not resigned themselves to their fate, but have taken their destiny into their own hands to change their lives for the better.

Tuona, in Mampruli, means people living in remote communities or across rivers.

The (Overseas” area has earned its name because it is cut off from civilization during the rainy season when floods occur.

The 50- member Coalition, which is made up of 25 mothers and their 25 daughters, is undertaking an Environment and Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project, with funding from the Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP).

All the 25 daughters had one time or the other migrated down south to work as head porters, popularly known as “Kayayee.”

The objective of GEMP, a CIDA funded project, is to strengthen Ghanaian institutions and rural communities to enable them reverse land degradation and desertification trends in the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions of Ghana, and also to adopt sustainable land and water management systems that improve food security and reduce poverty.

It was on one early Saturday morning two members of the Northern Regional Environmental Management Committee (REMC), including Chief Alhassan I. Amadu, Regional  Head of the National Population Council (NPC) and this writer, set off from Tamale to the “Overseas” area, with Mr. Abu Iddrisu, Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as our chauffeur.

Our destination was Tantala and our mission, to monitor the activities carried out so far by the Tuona Women’s Coalition, a beneficiary of GEMP funding initiative. The Coalition received a grant of GH¢20,000 from GEMP to implement an Environment and Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project in the Tantala community.

The grant was to support the women members and their daughters to do beekeeping and honey production as well as rearing of  small ruminants (goats, sheep and pigs) as a climate change and desertification impact adaptation.

The journey itself started on a smooth, asphalted road from Tamale to the West Mamprusi District capital, Walewale. Thereafter, we travelled on a dusty, bumpy, undulating road for several hours through relatively green vegetative cover, until we reached Kpasenkpe, one of the largest towns in the area.

From Kpasenkpe onwards, it was visible that some road construction work had started on that stretch, with so many bridges completed but yet to be filled with gravel, making driving very difficult.

On our arrival at Tantala, members of the Coalition were busy producing honey amidst singing. The Project Co-ordinator, Adishetu Ziibu, who is a professional Teacher, welcomed us after the usual courtesies.

Briefing the monitoring team, the Project Co-ordinator disclosed that the Coalition had so far produced 50 beehives and purchased equipment like protective clothing and wellington boots for distribution to its members.

The Co-ordinator later led the team to a grove outside the community to inspect some beehives already installed there from which members had made their first harvest of honey.

In a chat with members of the Coalition, it was disclosed that women in nearby communities had approached the Coalition for assistance to also start a similar venture in their communities, following the success story at Tantala.

This writer observed that in spite of the remoteness of the Tantala community, which is 120 Km away from Walewale, members of the  Tuona Women’s Coalition were evidently cheerful and happy with the livelihood project they were undertaking with support from GEMP.

Some of the daughters of the women members we talked to said now that they were engaged in honey production, they would never think of migrating to the south.

The Project Co-ordinator appealed to the EPA to expedite action on the Coalition’s  application for the release of the next tranche of the GEMP funding to ensure continuity of the project.

According to the Co-ordinator, members of the Coalition who were previously engaged in the sale of fuel wood and charcoal had now diverted their full attention to the alternative livelihood (honey) project, thanks to GEMP.

Peasant Farmers to Draft Farmers’ Manifesto for Political Parties in 2012 Polls

(Published in the July 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Staff Writer

Recent development in Ghana has underscored the importance of political party manifesto in setting national development agenda, as it has become so important after elections that, both opposition parties and citizens in general, make reference to it while demanding accountability from government.

The political party manifesto has now become the watershed of national development policy. It is thus vital to ensure that the development of these manifestoes are inspired to reflect accountable governance and smallholder farmers priorities, if sustainable and inclusive development is to be realized in Ghana.

Participation in political processes such as presidential and parliamentary elections has mainly been led by political parties which have defined and driven agenda based on party ideologies. Citizen influence on political party agendas has often not been systematic, consolidated and sometimes has lacked the necessary pragmatism to ensure that elections are driven by citizens demands.

Due to the lack of systematic engagement between citizen’s and their aspiring leaders, accountability has often been missing in the aftermath of elections. A key observation in most political processes is that, the elected leaders do not work with their constituencies and seldom come back to account for their commitments and actions. Thus, the building of strong and accountable leaders and institutions often lacks the key building blocks, which are active citizenship. In this regard, strong governance institutions that can deliver and secure rights to key services and human needs must start and end with the people. But this is also a process that has significant lessons for both civil society and electoral institutions and the general lack of documented evidence of how civil society engages in electoral processes beyond election monitoring and peace building is a key area for learning and research.

In 2008, the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) in collaboration with the Ghana Federation of Agricultural Producers and the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress held a one-day forum with the then presidential candidates of the main political parties to tell farmers what they had in their manifestoes for small scale farmers. This activity fell short of expectations as the farmers did not make any input into the manifestoes which could serve as a base for holding the government accountable.

Thus, ahead of the 2012 elections, PFAG in collaboration with OXFAM GB, Ghana, is going a step further in consultation with small scale farmers across the country and other stakeholders including civil society organizations and NGOs in the agricultural sector and traditional leaders, to develop a Farmers’ Manifesto that would demand addressing challenges that hamper the development of small scale agriculture and food security, through increased investment in that sector.

The manifesto, according to the National Secretary of PFAG John Akaribo, who was addressing a zonal consultative meeting of farmers in Tamale, would be used to engage key political parties and targets, to ensure that their voices and aspirations are reflected in the parties’ manifestoes and in agricultural policies and programmes that would emerge after elections, thus increasing space for accountability. He said consultations would be held in the three zones of the country namely; the Northern, Middle and Southern zones.

The driving force behind the move taken by the PFAG is the fact that majority of Ghanaians are smallholder agricultural producers that rely on farms less than two acres for their food and income. But in spite of their diverse strategies in creating wealth for themselves and improving their lives, small scale farmers, according to Mr. Akaribo, were the poorest in the country due to challenges that hamper their progress. These include insecure and fragmented land holding, high cost of inputs leading to low input, declining soil fertility, low access to financial services, high interest rates, market liberalization and removal of subsidies which all have led to low productivity.

He said Ghana has made exciting progress on poverty reduction having halved it from 56% in 1990 to 20% by 2006, adding that in 2011 economic growth rate of 12% was recorded. However, 5% (nearly 1.2million) of the population was food insecure,  according to a recent study by the government and the World Food Programme (WFP), and 2million were vulnerable (women and children) and at the brink of becoming food insecure. Most of these were in the highly deprived Northern Regions. Mr. Akaribo also noted that Stark disparities exist regarding the food secure population, citing 34% of the people in Upper East Region who were experiencing food insecurity whilst 1% was in the Greater Accra Region.

This situation the National Secretary of PFAG observed, calls for rigorous investment in smallholder agriculture that would drive economic development, reduce poverty, increase rural incomes and improve wealth creation. The phenomenon of under-investment in smallholder agriculture Mr. John Akaribo indicated was partly explained by the absence of clear, separate and strategic financing scheme for the smallholder agricultural sub-sector. There was, therefore, the need for farmers and political stakeholders to begin discussions on the subject of smallholder agricultural development financing to ensure its effective and sustainable development, he stressed.

The National President of PFAG, Mohammed Adam Nashiru, in a statement expressed pessimism over the successes of government programmes such as fertilizer subsidy, mechanization, buffer stock and youth in agriculture in addressing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

He called for commitment of the country’s politicians to agricultural transformation and improved livelihoods between small scale women and men farmers, stressing that this commitment could only be shown if the farmers manifesto was considered in their manifesto for 2012 elections. The manifesto would be used as bases for accountability on delivery on their promises for the small scale agricultural sector, he hinted.

According to Mr. Nashiru, the meeting was to enable the farmers brainstorm among themselves and decide on what they wanted to see in political parties’ manifestoes for small scale farmers, adding that the outcome would be the farmers’ manifesto which will be launched and presented to political parties for consideration in their manifestoes for 2012 elections.

The National President also used the occasion to call on all citizens of Ghana to cherish and nurture the peace they were enjoying and called on all political parties, party supporters, all tribes and ethnic groups from all regions to exercise restraint before, during and after the elections and avoid counterproductive behaviors.


NOGAID Inaugurates Body to Ensure Peaceful Campaigning, Polls in December

(Published in the July 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Staff Writer

It is almost becoming certain that the use of intemperate language or unguarded statements by activists of the two main political parties – NPP and NDC – in the media are the most likely factors that could eventually lead Ghana to a civil war in this year’s elections if leadership of the two political groupings do not whip their communicators into line.

This belligerent approach to political communication according to media analysts has seeped down to the nooks and crannies of almost all the constituencies in the country in such a way that foot-soldiers, party officials and apparatchiks, at that level, are taking cue and falling over themselves to outdo one another in this despicable quest.

The Northern Region is one area that has numerous hotspots as a result of chieftaincy, land, political and tribal conflicts over the last few decades. More often than not, most of these conflicts which are dormant or rarely resurge, are resurrected by self-seeking individuals or groups believed to be affiliated to the aforementioned political parties in every election year for their own parochial interest.

In order to preempt any unforeseen civil war emerging from Ghana’s December 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections which it escaped from in 2008, Northern Ghana Aid (NORGAID) with financial assistance from STAR-Ghana, DFID, European Union, DANIDA and USAID, has inaugurated a project dubbed “Northern Region 2012 Multi-Party Democratic Governance Support Project.”

According to the Executive Director of Rural Media Network (RUMNET) and Consultant for the project, Abdallah Kassim, it aimed to introduce Political Communication to the various political parties to enable them embark on healthy and focused campaigns that would be issue-based rather than recriminatory and vituperative.

The project he said would do this by setting up a Civic Campaigns Report Council that would deploy trained monitors and observers to various public political party events- rallies and meetings- in 15 constituencies to gather information, especially remarks and comments made therein and report back to the Council.

Explaining further, Mr. Kassim said the Council would analyse the reports, critique the remarks/comments and put it in the public domain through radio and a newsletter. “The critique will serve as a form of feedback to political activists on their comments/remarks from which they could draw lessons”, he stressed.

In addition to the aforesaid, he indicated that the project would also organise a Political Communication workshop for the communication teams and other functionaries of the various political parties saying “It will build their skills in how to persuade an audience to adopt their (political parties) viewpoint and to act on that viewpoint by casting votes or otherwise demonstrating support for their parties.”

Mr. Abdallah Kassim urged all of the various political parties in the Northern Region to relinquish the politics of insults, lies and violence for a more progressive one that would tell how their parties would put food on the tables of Ghanaians enable them live in dignity.

The Executive Chairman of NORGAID, Mustapha Sanah, also observed that the turbulent history of the Northern Region in terms of chieftaincy, political and ethnic conflicts could not be shelved in terms of the collateral damage it had caused the area. “The Dagbon crisis is one key problem that has dragged on for over 10 years to the detriment of peace and development and I believe that no person or organisation interested in the progress of the region will like the situation to remain unresolved” he remarked.

He maintained that it was the collective responsibility of Northerners to take the necessary steps to ensure that the December 7 general elections presented a golden platform to redeem the dented image of the region by ensuring peace during, before and after the presidential and parliamentary polls.

According to him, Northern region has extraordinary security and development challenges and it would be too expensive not to safeguard the relative peace during this political campaigning process.

Mr. Sanah mentioned that members of the Council were to ensure that the political parties did not compromise national unity by shying away from intemperate language that could threaten the fragile peace in the region. Adding that, members would have the platform to counsel, caution or name and shame any political party or parties that sought to sow seed of disunity, conflict and retrogression in a region that deserves only peace and stability and nothing else.

The Executive Chairman of NORGAID therefore urged the political parties to carry out their campaign in line with the political parties’ code of conduct for 2012 in order not to endanger the peace in the Northern Region.

Posted by: rumnet | July 1, 2012

Don’t Rushed Disbandment of Witches Camps

Don’t Rushed Disbandment of Witches Camps

DOVVSU, CSOs Warn Government

(Published in the July edition of the advocoate)

By Joseph Ziem

The Northern Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, ASP Emmanuel Holortu says even though the proposed disbandment of the six alleged witch camps in the region by government and other stakeholders is good, it will be disastrous if it is done in a hasty manner.

Hon. Juliana Azumah-Mensah, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs

According to him, it would be very difficult to ensure the safety of these aged women when they are reintegrated into the communities they originally hailed from, because they are likely to be lynched or killed by the same people who accused and chased them out of the communities.

Speaking at a day’s capacity building workshop in Tamale recently, ASP Holortu said that victims of witchcraft allegations need to be sensitized to understand that they don’t need to go back to their original communities to live normal lives, but could rely on support from government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to live anywhere in Ghana for their own safety and comfort.

Executive Director of Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation, Fati Alhassan, who also joined the call by the DOVVSU Coordinator, said there must be in place pragmatic measures to ensure that any disbandment of the camps become successful and not further worsen the plight of inmates or create problems for the country’s image locally and internationally.

She proposed serious sensitization of the communities, youth, religious and traditional leaders as well as the security agencies to understand that witchcraft allegations or accusations are criminal and anyone or group of persons who accuses someone of witchcraft should be made to face the full rigours of the law.

Madam Fati encouraged the media to join the crusade against witchcraft allegations by constantly reporting on such issues rather than focusing too much on political reporting which often spark insults and vilifications that were likely to jeopardize the peace and stability of the country.

The Gender Advocate and retired journalist also admonished women to be wary of people or in-laws who use witchcraft allegations to disinherit them of their late husband’s property. She advised them to always safeguard their inheritance first whenever such allegations crop up before they even think of clearing their name of the allegations leveled against them.

Under the theme: “Protecting Women Against Witchcraft Is a Civil Responsibility: Witchcraft Allegation Is Criminal”, the workshop was organised by Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) and Grassroots Sisterhood Foundation with funding from the African Women’s Development Fund.

It was organized for members of the Anti-Witchcraft Allegation Campaign Coalition (AWACC) and sought to sensitise the group, strengthen them, give them new dimension of the issues of witchcraft allegations and build cohesion amongst themselves as advocates to be able to reduce the incidence of witchcraft allegations.

It was also to identify ways by which the Coalition could support the alleged witches to make a living by collaborating with any organization, foreign mission or government to provide these women with livelihood support programmes.

AWACC was formed in the year 2000 by a number of local civil society organizations and individuals to contribute towards addressing the issue of witchcraft allegations. The Coalition is a local gender and human rights advocacy initiative made up of forty-three individuals, local NGOs, community based organisations and women groups based in the three regions of the North, Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions.

Its objectives among others, are to stop the false witchcraft accusations and human rights violations of victims, create awareness and sensitise the public at large of the inhuman treatment meted out to women accused of practicing witchcraft, create alliance with human rights and women’s rights organizations, to collate data and other information on the subject of witchcraft accusations, work with collaborators to get outcast women reintegrated into their homes, make witchcraft accusations issues a national issue and get legislators/policymakers to support the campaign and in the long run, abolish the camps/homes gradually.

Undisputedly, majority of Africans have strange beliefs that they associate with witchcraft, wizardry or sorcery. For instance, they belief witches and wizards fly in the night, walk upside down, eat human flesh, torture people out of envy, inflict people with incurable ailments, kill their enemies, turn to vampire bats, spark fire during night out, stall the progress of one’s business or academic performance, cause bareness, impotency, madness, among others.

The belief in witchcraft or wizardry is also widely known to exist in every indigenous Ghanaian community, and particularly deep-rooted in the Northern Region. The abhorrent attitude of most residents toward suspected witches and wizards has led to the creation of what many call witch camps. This is because, victims of witchcraft who are largely elderly women, face penalties such as lynching or banishing from their community members and relatives who out of sheer ignorance and unnecessary anger, accuse them of spiritually killing a relative or causing misfortunes in their families or communities.

Currently, there are six alleged witch camps dotted around remote communities in the Northern Region which serve as habitats or refuge to about four thousand aged women including their children and grandchildren. These camps include Gnani and Kpatinga (Yendi Municipality), Kukuo (Nanumba North District), Gambaga (East Mamprusi District), Bonyase (Central Gonja District) and Nabuli (Gushegu District).

These women and their children live in varying degrees of discomfort and penury. Some do not have access to safe drinking water and are compelled to walk miles in the blistering heat during the harmattan season to fetch water. Others perform hard labour in the fields of nearby villagers in exchange for a bowl of cereal or tubers of yam. Those who are fortunate, have families that cater for them and occasionally send them food. Others are neglected by their families and left to fend for themselves, or rely on the benevolence of neighbours and other NGOs that provide them with aid.

Zangbalun Bomahe-Naa Alhassan Issahaku Amadu – Northern Regional Population Officer, observed that the continuing celebration of witchcraft allegations in poverty-ridden Northern Ghana is further weakening the cohesiveness of social and family networks, increasing the illiteracy and school dropout levels, reducing the social value of grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunties and children. “To whom much is given, much is expected. Our reward for women for us being born by women should be positive, not negative”, he preached.

According to him, more women are accused of witchcraft because they are feeble, deemed unpleasant (awkward in old age), socially less empowered, verbalization of nagging issues, socialized to accept what men decide, over dependency on men for livelihood, low level of education, less assertive, lack of power or ignorant to seek legal redress, among others.

Zangbalun Bomahe-Naa Alhassan proposed fostering quality female education, engaging women in key positions at the Local and Central Government levels, improving livelihood sources of women to reduce their “male dependency syndrome” as well as active involvement of women in other forms of decision making processes so as to deal with the phenomenon. Adding, he said “There must be judicious application of National laws and local traditional norms on witchcraft allegation and related issues whilst abolishing alleged witches’ camps and integrate the in-mates into the larger society.”

He also emphasised on community sensitizations/advocacy, community durbars, radio discussions and jingles, video shows, focus group discussions, media engagement, expanding and supporting existing anti-witchcraft coalitions, integration of issues of witchcraft allegation into the country’s educational curricular among others as a way of educating the populace on the phenomenon.

The Northern Regional Population Officer called on Ghanaians to desist from lynching people most especially women accused of witchcraft. “In fact, don’t accuse them. You have the moral obligation to prevent helpless women from being accused of witchcraft and treated badly”, he maintained.

Posted by: rumnet | May 24, 2012

The story of Dr. Abdulai:

The Mad Doctor from Airtel’s Touching Lives Fame

(Published in the May 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Kwame Gyan

Dr. Abdulai (in smock) receiving the award

Ghanaians are largely perceived as kind and warm people. There are naturally different variations or levels of this kindness. One such level of kindness which may not be too common is the one Dr. David Fuseini Abdulai possesses.  In the latter part of 2009, the entire country woke up to the news of how the exceptional achievements of a rather humble man with the greatest compassion for his fellow man went unrecognized for nearly two decades. That was when the searchlight of the first edition of the TV Reality Show, Touching Lives put together by telecommunications provider Airtel Ghana, travelled up north and settled on the hitherto forgotten hero, Dr. David Fuseini Abdulai, founder of the Shekhinah Clinic (Home of Love) in the Northern Region.

Compelled by the countless nominations he received and his incredible work for the needy around him, Touching Lives unveiled and “sung the hitherto unsung hero” (Dr. Abdulai) for his marvelous work of saving lives and restoring hope to the visibly hopeless “societal outcast”, whom he made kings and queens in his Home of Love. Instantly, The Mad Doctor as he is affectionately called, shot to national fame after the awards and subsequently, the screening of his episode, which happened to be the flagship story of the entire first edition. The show left in its wake the chorus “a well-deserved award” on the lips of many in apparent reference to how deserving The Mad Doctor was of the award. Now a national figure and a hero in the real sense of the word, it was not difficult arriving at the conclusion that more awards were going to rain on him for his great sacrifice to humanity especially considering the exposure he received through the show. It is not as though Dr. Abdulai needs the awards to motivate him any more than he already is.

This year, as the United States of America celebrates the 83rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth, the US Embassy (Ghana) finds no other person better deserving of the prestigious Martin Luther King (MLK), Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice than Dr. Abdulai, seen to have best personified the philosophy and actions of Dr. Luther King, Jr. Noble as the award is, it comes to add to his laurels, pushing him further from the national stage onto a much more coveted international platform. Not only does he join the league of noble past awardees and or recipients of this esteemed award, he brings along his own zest of selflessness and benevolence redefined which stands him in a unique stead among the previous recipients.

What stands him out more?

He has targeted his acts of kindness mainly at the lowly placed in society for which reason he found no better place to practice his much needed medical profession than the Northern Region where it’s most needed. Often a no go area for many such professionals, he planted himself in that part of the country at a place called Gurugu, a remote but vantage location to serve not only the hopeless and destitute in the three northern regions but neighboring Togo and Benin. He houses the homeless, the destitute and the terminally ill, shielding them from the scorns of society and feeding them on a regular cycle of three meals a day. What is more amazing is the additional task of feeding the mentally ill on the streets of Gurugu and the surrounding communities on a daily basis without failure and this he has done since January 1992. As if that is not enough of a burden for one man to shoulder, he has taken unto himself the responsibility of – without ever defaulting – feting during Christmas over 3000 lepers, mentally ill and perceived misfits.

This year, Dr. Abdulai received the award as the 5th recipient since its inception 5 years ago. Started in the year 2008, the maiden annual MLK award was jointly presented to The Right Rev. Vincent Boi Nai, Bishop of Yendi and Alhaji Al-Hussein Zakaria, Director, CODEYAC, Tamale with the second going to Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, Executive Director, Ark Foundation in 2009. Subsequent recipients include Janet Adama Mohammed, Director, West African Human Rights and Democratization Project for IBIS (West Africa) – 2010 and George Archibra, Founder of Partners in Community Development Programme (PACODEP) for 2011.

Posted by: rumnet | May 24, 2012

GDCA grants empowerment for Life

 GDCA Grants Empowerment for Life

(Published in the May 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Joseph Ziem

The first phase of the Empowerment for Life (E4L), a five year programme jointly being implemented by the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) and Youth Empowerment for Life (YEfL) with funding of GH¢5,554,055.28 from the Ghana Venskabsgrupperne (Danish partner) has ended with some appreciable level of successes.

E4L is implemented in 15 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern Region of Ghana. They include Tamale Metroplis, Yendi Municipality, Tolon-Kumbungu, Savelugu-Nanton, Karaga, Gushiegu, Saboba, Chereponi, Nanumba North, Nanumba South, Zabzugu, West Mamprusi, East Gonja, West Gonja and Kpandai Districts.

The programme which was launched on 1st January, 2010 and is expected to end on 31st December, 2014, is aimed at empowering the poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups in the target areas to have the capacity and ability to improve their quality of life through education, employment, local organisation as well as better access to and management of food and water resources through a rights based approach.

The programme is among other things targeting a primary group of 66,545 people and a secondary group of 64,815 people. It has been grouped into two phases with the first phase covering the period from 1st January 2010 to 31st December 2011 whilst the second phase covers the period from 1st January 2012 to 31st December 2014.

The EfL project is relying on strategies that would focus more on advocacy as compared to service delivery and also focuses on tracking all root causes of inequalities and making them known to those who should fulfil those rights.

Whilst supporting the rights holders to demand their rights and giving voice to the voiceless, capacity building is also being organised to help duty-bearers and rights holders with the needed capacity to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively.

The programme would further focus on the advocacy for the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, increment in the number of women at the Assembly level, construction of the Eastern Corridor and Tamale-Nawuni roads, activities of alien Fulani herdsmen, among others.

Achievements of E4L so far

Recounting the achievements chalked so far under the first phase of the E4L programme, the Programmes Advocacy and Communications Officer of GDCA, Mrs. Rosemond Sumaya Kumah, at a media review meeting, said communities in the beneficiary MMDAs were gradually becoming highly aware of their rights and responsibilities and work together on critical issues affecting their progress. “Unions are formed to organise communal labour in support of development in their areas. Established community advocacy groups have received attention from duty bearers through the provision of water facilities and agricultural services, especially in the Karaga District and Yendi Municipality,”    she cited.

According to her, for the first time since 1989, a woman contested for and won the District level election of 2010 in the Nyingali Electoral Area in the Karaga District while the number of female appointees and those elected has increased compared to previous years. This, she observed, was an indication that community people are now softening their stands on discrimination against women and want to include them in decision-making processes.

Mrs Kumah disclosed that under the first phase of the programme, 5,062 out-of-school children became literates in their mother tongue under the School for Life (SfL) model, stressing that out of the figure 4,369 (2,385 males and 1,984 females) graduates were integrated into the formal school system by the end of September 2010. With support from UNICEF, 750 children in 30 communities in the Savelugu-Nanton District were taught in their mother tongue.

She said the government has adopted the SfL model and drafted two important policy documents – the Strategic and Operational Plans- which would lead to the piloting of the Complementary Basic Education (CBE) Policy.

Besides, a functional think-tank made up of the academia, research institutions, government and non-governmental organisations under the Right to Food Security component of the programme, are combining research knowledge and local farmers’ expertise to address local-farmers’ challenges for improved food security. “Farmers are adapting to innovative farming practises in terms of post harvest and crop diversification introduced by the think-tank”, she stressed.

Mrs Kumah added that through the serious advocacy that was done in collaboration with the media, the Eastern Corridor road has been awarded on contract while part of the Nawuni road is being constructed under the Millennium Development Authourity project.

Challenges encountered in the first phase implementation   

The Programmes and Advocacy Officer of GDCA observed that during the implementation of the E4L programme, a number of challenges were encountered some of which had to do with difficulty in getting civil society organizations with funds to replicate the SfL model in other areas and difficulty in getting qualified female instructors to teach children in their mother tongue.

According to her, the MMDAs and other duty bearers also failed to support development advocacy activities during the period under review while at certain times, deliberate attempts were made to escape from advocacy groups and duty bearer engagement programmes.

Under the second phase which spans from 1st January 2012 to December 31, 2014, Project Officers of the various projects under the E4L programme would continue to address some of the issues that came up during the first phase implementation.

They would advocate for the inclusion of community action plans in the Medium Term Development Plans of MMDAs, the share of the MPs Common Fund, the use of the District Development Fund and the District Assembly Common Fund by MMDAs and also for a common yam market in the Eastern part of the Northern Region.

Other advocacy issues to consider include advocating for streamlining of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), sensitization on the possibilities of the NYEP programme and its limitations, work with duty bearers and stakeholders to create trust in the programme by ensuring fair and accurate recruitment, work towards the introduction of pre- and post-recruitment reviews in the programme and advocate for the decentralization of the National Youth Council at the local level.

Also, CBE Policy strategic workshops would be organized to fast track the policy including a national forum as well as organize exhibitions to advertise Learning and Development Centres to the Ghana Education Service and other stakeholders.

Posted by: rumnet | May 24, 2012

UN Reports on Alarming Amounts of e-Waste in Ghana

(Published in the May 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Katrina Charnley

 Growing levels of electronic waste (e-waste) in Ghana is presenting both new opportunities and problems for local communities. With the rising global consumer demand for electronics, both the formal and informal economy in recycling near end-of-life electronic equipment – as well as illegal dumping – is growing fast across West Africa. The result has been an increasing waste stream influx of old and broken electronics, often with short life spans, to West African countries.

A recent publication by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) examines the socio-economic and environmental impacts that the increase in e-waste has created in five West African countries – Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria.

According to the report, recycling and collection of e-waste in Ghana is predominantly carried out by non-registered individuals who collect e-waste as well as other kinds of scrap metal either from household to household, on the street and from dumping sites.  Collectors can be found stripping copper from old wires, and extracting other valuable metals and chemicals (hazardous or not) such as gold, steel, copper, silver, as well as mercury or lead.

Regardless of long hours and most living below the internationally defined poverty line of US$1.25 a day, the study found that most of the collectors and recyclers interviewed were thankful for the source of income these materials provided.  Although it is hard to quantify the value of this informal economy, the informal and formal income generated by the e-waste sector in Ghana, including refurbishing used electronics is estimated to be between US$106 million and $268 million per year.

Despite these financial gains and job creation for some, the influx of e-waste has created significant problems in the recipient countries. Around 171,000 tons of e-waste was found in Ghana according to the report. This e-waste often contains heavy metal chemicals such as lead, cadmin, barium, mercury and arsenic, which can present serious dangers to humans and the environment. Workers that are engaged in collecting and recycling e-waste are exposed to severe health and safety risks, which mainly stem from poor working conditions, notably handling heavy and sometimes sharp wastes material with sharp edges, which has led to spinal injuries, cuts, and infections according to the report. Hazardous substances that are released in the process of dismantling and disposal also pose a significant health concern.

A study by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency released last year writes that by using modern incineration facilities the emissions of harmful compounds can be minimized. The open burning of e-waste, which is practiced in Ghana, releases harmful emissions in substantial quantities in the exhaust gases, as well as pollutants which leach into the soil from the residual ashes.  The health effects of these toxins on humans can include problems related to respiratory, pulmonary, cardiovascular, genotoxic, estrogenic and reproductive problems, to name just a few.

The UNEP’s Basel Convention, which was adopted on March 22nd in 1989 with the objective to “protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes”, has declared their support for the economic opportunities generated by e-waste in West Africa and other parts of the world with the condition that the e-waste is dismantled and recycled safely.

However, the challenges around ensuring e-waste is dismantled and recycled properly has yet to be fully addressed in Ghana. These challenges include the need for a formal collection strategy of these items, and having policies and laws in place to ensure that the high volumes of valuable and non-valuable wastes are collected equally and that all wastes are disposed off in appropriate treatment and disposal facilities.

There is still much room for improving Ghana’s response to these challenges. The report explains that in Ghana, “there are a number of laws and regulations that have some relevance to the control and management of hazardous wastes (including e-waste) but they do not address the dangers posed to humans and the environment from such wastes”.

The Pan-African Forum on E-Waste, which was held on March 14th in Niarobi, Kenya, adopted a “Call to Action” urging all countries to focus efforts on 8 priority areas to improve the management of e-waste in Africa.  These include: The enforcement by African states of the Basel Convention on  the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and the Disposal  and the Bamako Convention (which bans the import of hazardous wastes into Africa); creation of national systems to improve the collection, recycling, transport, storage and disposal of e-waste; National institutions to co-operate with multiple stakeholders (UN, NGOs, private sector and others) in producing e-waste assessment; Recognition that the safe and sustainable recycling of e-waste provides an opportunity for green jobs and poverty reduction; Increasing awareness on environmental and health hazards linked to the poor management of e-waste.

Posted by: rumnet | May 24, 2012

Sexual Reproductive Health Services In Northern Region Beset With Challenges 

(Published in the May 2012 edition of the advocate)

 By Staff Writer

It is left with four years for member countries of the United Nations to attain goals 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are among other eight set targets, but it appears Ghana is not doing well enough to achieve these goals. 

Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions such as poverty and hunger, universal basic education, gender equity, child health, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership. The MDGs 4 and 5 actually aim at reducing by two-thirds the ratio of under-five mortality rate and reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015.

However, government’s budget allocation for contraceptives mostly used by women according to the Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), a non-governmental organization, has dwindled over the years, without government giving any recourse to the consequences or the effects of the non-availability of those commodities. Statistics from the NGO reveal that between 2003 and 2010, government’s contribution towards the purchase of contraceptives was averagely below 25% while huge support from donors’ ranged from 59% to 89%. So, in the event that the donors withdraw their support, what that means is that, Ghana is going to face a very serious challenge with regards to managing reproductive health issues which already is on the negative side.

Other statistics available also estimate that the practice of family planning in the region was 26% in 2008, 28.8% in 2009 and 24.3% in 2010. According to statistics from the Public Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), in 2008, a total of 5,764 men in the region were practicing family planning, whiles in 2009, the figure rose to 10,717 men. In 2010, there was a decline in the number, from over 10,000 to a little over 8,500, which is an indication that less number of men were practicing family planning in that year.

As a result, there is growing uncontrolled child-bearing and sexual habits among the people of the region most especially adults or married couples. According to the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), only 6% of married women in the region between 15 and 49 years used contraceptives. This, coupled with strong sexual desire among adolescents is further contributing to more teenage pregnancies which could have been avoided through the use of condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Besides, the number of children between the ages of one and 15 constitute about 47% of the total population of the whole region, and about 23% of young girls between ages 12 and 19 are already mothers or are currently pregnant. Currently, the average number of children per every single woman in the region is 6.8% representing about seven children per woman as against the maximum national figure of four children per a woman, according to the GDHS.

Ghana Health Service Statistics indicate that in 2009, 96 women died in the region during childbirth, 91 in 2008 and 115 in 2007. So, as the deadline (2015) for the achievement of the MDGs 4 and 5 targets approaches, the situation becomes more worrying to all stakeholders in the health sector.

Health authorities in the Northern Region currently attribute the acute cases of maternal and infant mortality rates to the drastic reduction in the number of midwives and other critical health personnel.

Speaking at a media soiree organized by the Northern Regional Chapter of the Coalition of NGOs in Health in Tamale, Janet Ackon, a Public Health Nurse at the Reproductive and Child Health Unit of the Tamale Sub-Metro Hospital, called on the government to increase the number of midwifery training schools or admission of students to these colleges in the region in order to boost the current number of midwives in the system.

She said at present the region has only one midwifery school (Tamale Nursing and Midwifery Training College), a situation that is negatively affecting child delivery in hospitals across the region.

The programme which was on the theme: “Sexual And Reproductive Health Services And Rights,” was aimed at creating a platform for the media, the coalition and health service providers in the region to work together effectively to bring about enormous improvement in healthcare delivery especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health.

Madam Ackon said most of the midwives currently in active service in the region were old and would soon go on retirement, hence the need for adequate measures to be put in place to replace them. “Ghana faces the danger of not meeting the MDGs on maternal and infant mortality if the leadership fails to address the situation”, she stressed.

Mrs. Ninang Albertina, a Public Health Nurse at the Savelugu/Nanton District Hospital, also observed that the nursing profession was in danger because most of the personnel were practicing out of personal considerations and not the desire to save lives or show love and care to the sick.

According to her, there was the need for intensive education to re-orient parents’ way of thinking and those entering the profession to know that nursing was of service and self sacrifice and not for personal gains.

Mrs. Catherine Mwine of the GHS also encouraged parents to discuss sexual matters with their children to help reduce wrong sexual behaviours among the youth.

She said lack of resources to carry out outreach programs on adolescent health and funds to train health personnel were some of the challenges hindering effective healthcare delivery.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moses Azabu, Regional Chairman of the Coalition said there was the need for adequate funding for NGOs to carry out their work effectively and appealed to donor partners and philanthropists to come to the aid of NGOs in the Northern Region.

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