Parliament expresses concern over outbreak of CSM

By: Benjamin Mensah, GNA

 

Accra, April 6, GNA – Parliament on Thursday underlined urgent and pragmatic measures for effective check on Cerebral Spinal Meningitis (CSM) that has hit parts of the country.

A number of people are reported dead from the disease, which often strikes more in the Northern Belt, usually when the weather is very warm.

Two students were reported to have died in Bawku in the Upper East Region, while 11 have been admitted to hospital.

The two deceased were second-year science students of the Bawku Senior High School, and the Bawku Senior High Technical School.

In Kumasi, the autopsy reports have shown the cause of the ‘mysterious’ deaths of four students at the Kumasi Academy Senior High School at Asokore Mampong in the Ashanti Region has been found to be Meningitis.

Students of the school demonstrated against the school authorities demanding to go home following the deaths and almost clashed with police officers maintaining law order.

It is estimated that 62 people have died in parts of northern Ghana when the disease, that rages from November to April resurfaced.

Dr Mark Kurt Naawane, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nabdam, in a statement on the floor of the House, cited fever, headache and malaria as some of the symptoms.

He said the disease was caused by viral, fungal or bacterial infections.

He cautioned the public not to gather at densely populated areas as that could generate heat, which attracted the disease.

In a contribution, Dr Bernard Okoe Boye, MP for Ledzokuku, a physician, noted that the infectious disease was found in Ghana and other parts of Africa, but early diagnosis was needed to put the illness in check.

He said CSM could be cured, but the late arrival of cases at the health institutions had been the cause death.

He said: ‘Doctors are there to cure diseases and not to raise the dead.’

Dr Boye said there was the need to make more vaccines available and make them more available to prevent the disease.

Other contributions recognised the need to enhance education on the disease in order to prevent it.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Galamsey: Fighting The Undying Witch

By: Gordon Offin-Amaniampong

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong examines
What did our governments clamp down in the past and were able to sustain it?

Is it illegal logging by loggers? Is it squatters at Sodom and Gomorrah or those around Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra? Is it power cheaters who indulge in illegal power connection? Is it cocoa smuggling in our country’s borders by smugglers? Is it vigilante groups who’re constantly terrorising people? Is it the activities of land guards? Or is it middle-men who swindle prospective travelers trying to obtain passports?

The irony is that all of them have bounced back—operating vigorously. Their activities seemed emboldened! Inhabitants of Ghana’s biggest slum, Sodom and Gomorrah are back: They’re back to where city authorities evicted them from, less than two years ago. The squatters and hawkers are also back in the streets.

And the key argument hasn’t changed: they must earn their daily bread. The Kwame Nkrumah Interchange Area which not too long ago had a make-over is relapsing —going back to its ugly and insane state. In fact, on Wednesday some hawkers held placards amidst inscriptions like this: “We won’t leave this area today or tomorrow.”

The stubborn amongst them all is illegal mining operators also known as ‘Galamsey ‘in Ghana. Their activities in recent times have reached an alarming proportion. No doubt about that, they’ve stepped up their game. This followed the influx of the Chinese. I recall awhile back government deported number Chinese citizens who were in the country illegally.

Today, they’re back in their numbers. And together with Ghanaians they’re degrading and destroying our ecosystem. They’re poisoning and exterminating our water bodies. Our vegetation covers have been laid bare—raped and left naked.

They’re creating man-holes, producing sinkholes and setting up deathtraps. They’re as dangerous as explosive mines. Over the last 10 years it appears the operators have sworn an oath– basically to launch a deadly onslaught to our very existence.

Is this the land of our birth? Is this the land we swore to protect? Is this the land (the greenbelt) our forebears bequeathed us? Where did our leaders go? Where are they?

And whether it’s legal or illegal Galamsey has come to stay. That sounds crude or rather rude. But it’s the hard truth. Galamsey isn’t going anywhere at least not for now. Maybe not until the lands have run out of those much-sought-after minerals. Until the gourd is down empty or tanked the drunk knows no stop.

Backed by invisible hands they have succeeded in growing not an ordinary roots but giant roots, making it hard for authorities to deal with them.

But what is Illegal mining?
Writer Phillipe Dozolme defines illegal mining as: “The absence of land rights, mining licence, exploration or mineral transportation permit or of any document that could legitimise the on-going operations.”

It can be operated on the surface (open cast) or underground. It’s illegal because in most countries underground mineral resources belong to the state. The latter applies to Ghana too, but Galamsey has trespassed that. I must note there’d been crack downs on illegal mining in the past but all to no avail.

Question is: Are we at our wit end?
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources John Peter Amewu announced recently that he’d placed a moratorium on licences for small-scale mining. This is part of activities to halt illegal mining operation in the country. The move, the sector minister also indicated was to help ensure saneness in the environment.

”I have not signed a single small-scale-mining licence, since I assumed office. This is an attempt to sanitise the system,” Mr. Amewu said.

Indeed Ghana is fighting an undying witch. We‘ve picked up a fight which portends to be a lifetime battle. You may not like the way I’ve put it but that’s the reality on the ground. I normally don’t say things like that. I am a man full of hope, full of aspiration. I am an optimist and not pessimist.

Obviously, the conditions on the ground leaves one to wonder whether our governments had been waging these fights with kid’s gloves or they’d condoned and connived with the operators or they didn’t have long-term strategies or plans to do so. It could be that we’re at our wit end.

Remember the father who brought his demon-possessed son (Mark 9:14-29) to Jesus’ disciples to be healed? They’d no idea what to do and how to fight the demon. They lacked the firepower. Bottom-line they couldn’t do it. Jesus rebuked them after healing the boy.

I felt I had been wounded twice or three times this past few days. The images I saw—the photos and the videos on social media platforms grieved my heart. I couldn’t understand what’s going on. I struggled to make sense out of all that–the degrading state of our ecosystem is so graphic. It looks so atrocious so horrible and so terrible.

The activities of these miners are out of hand. Sad though, we have to come this far to realise that we’re losing or have lost something that is so precious. It’s so sad our leaders couldn’t stop it at its nascent stage. It seems to me it was business as usual and politics at its best. It seems to me they went to sleep whilst the busy bees got busy to degrade, to destroy tad to pillage that which our forebears fought graciously to possess and passed it on. And perhaps what‘s left now is misery and hopelessness.

World Bank report on Ghana had indicated, by the end of 1995 the total hectares of the land destroyed through the activities of Galamsey were approximately 150,000 hectares. That was then, over 20 years on the acclivities of illegal mining have picked up like never before .Thus your guess could be my best bet.

Between 1994 and 2001 a study discovered that there were five major cyanide spillages and leakages. Five rivers in the Prestea area in the western region of Ghana suffered greatly’.

Last March, Minister of Environment Science and Technology Dr. Frimpong Boateng kind of raised the threat level. Whilst meeting staff of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) during a working a visit in Accra Dr. Boateng hinted that our water bodies were under siege. He said the country risk losing the very existence of these precious water bodies if radical steps are not taken to resuscitate their lives.

“We know that our rivers are dead, some of them …Some of the rivers are dead—Offin, Ankobra, Pra, Oda, there’s no fish in them, in most part of the rivers. And when you find animals and fish dying from our empty forests and dead rivers it is only a question of time that it will reach the human beings,” Dr. Boateng said.

According to the sector minister if we don’t change our negative practices we would literally kill these rivers prematurely. “We have to change our attitudes there must be a change like President Akufo-Addo said. We should not be spectators but be active participants.”

“If you look at what is happening to the environment, it is something like a self-inflicted injury

Certainly the danger has become imminent, so disturbing that if stringent measures are not taken we would end up as sore losers. The country that once boasted of its virgin forests, safe water bodies, rich soils, beautiful vegetation, and the picturesque landscape is gradually losing it all by the day. The ecological damage has been great.

Bittersweet
In Africa, Ghana is the second largest gold producer contributing to about 5.7 per cent of the country’s GDP. And the activities of illegal mining have tremendously contributed to the growth of the economy. The jobless youth have found jobs, crime rate has gone down. However the environmental impact of their activities is unparalleled. Galamsey depletes environmental resources such as water; soil, landscape, vegetation, the ecosystem among others.

Also lives had been lost over the period and we’re still losing lives. In November 2009 a collapsed occurred in an illegal mine in Dompoase in either Ashanti/Western region. At least 18 workers were killed including 13 women who worked as porters for the miners. A similar incident occurred at Kyekyewere near Dunkwa-on-Offin in the Central region.

Solution
Perhaps the solution to this cancerous problem rests in the bosom of the new administration’s ‘One-District-One-Factory across country mantra. It’s a long term project, but if implemented they would go a long to help bring the activities of illegal mining down. Remember, when there was Aboso Glass Factory, when there was Kumasi Jute Factory there was no Galamsey but there was gold. When there was Nsawam Cannery Factory, the Komenda Sugar Factory there was no Galamsey gold was there. When there was the Bonsa Tyre Factory, the Bolga Meat Factory and the Tomato Factory at Wenchi there was no Galamsey but there was gold.

As a people our problem has always been not providing alternative measures. And not being proactive but reactive. You don’t evict the Sodomites and the Gomorrahites if you haven’t made any provisions for them. Then when you provide the alternative, ensure the laws are implemented to the letter. That’s the way to go…Don’t blame me, if you can’t make the dogs bark and bite.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Galamsey operators support measures to address menace

By Lydia Asamoah, GNA
Accra, April 7, GNA – A group of Illegal miners (galamsey operators) from the Western Region have called on Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, to express their readiness to assist government in addressing the menace of galamsey.

The group, who were made up of members from Amanfi East, Amanfi West, Amanfi Central and Prestea Huni- Valley districts, mining operators, was led by Nana Ntori Bonkyi Akomea and Nana Asafotse Badu both from Amanfi East District.

The Group said they were also concerned about the devastation to water bodies and the forest lands as well as appreciated the public outcry over the situation and therefore supported efforts at finding solutions.

Nana Akomea on behalf of the group said they were ready to collaborate with government to regulate activities of small-scale miners and illegal operators and to ensure that they operated within the confines of the law.

He said they supported the idea of a moratorium, a period of time where everybody would be made to lay down their mining tools and to be made part of addressing the menace.

‘We are ready to halt all activities of mining in the communities, to allow all stakeholders to come together to repair the damages by covering abandoned pits left uncovered whilst reclaiming the land through afforestation and tree planting,’ he said.

Nana Akomea suggested that all those who mined in the rivers and along the river banks should be stopped but those who operated on the land within the confines of the law should be supported and their capacities be built to enable them operate in the right way.

‘We all know that gold cannot be left under the ground, it needs to be mined so we are pleading that we should be helped to do it in the right way,’ he said.

Nana Badu on his part called on government to look at the licensing regime in granting mining concession to individuals and organisations and decentralised it at the district levels to ensure that all operators were granted appropriate licenses, and were monitored to see that they operated under the rules of engagements.

He said indeed there were about some four million people in the country who benefited from galamsey operations both directly and indirectly, and that it should not be disregarded at all but that they should be assisted to do the right things in the right ways.

The group also appealed to government to assist them form taskforces to monitor their colleagues in doing the rights things in the mining sector.

Prof Frimpong-Boateng appreciated the efforts by the operators in helping find solutions to the menace, saying, that it was critical to protect and preserve the water bodies and to recover the lands.

He said he would send their concerns and appeals to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to take a decision on the way forward.

He said the government would also collaborate with the local communities to recover the lands through tree planting exercises after the land had been recovered.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Chinese Galamsey Operators Caged

The structure which housed the Chinese on the river. INSET: The suspects

The structure which housed the Chinese on the river. INSET: The suspects

A Sekondi high court has remanded the five Chinese and five Ghanaians who were arrested last Friday by the police in the Western Region for reportedly mining gold in River Ankobra, as their lawyer, Stephen Alawabah, wants them freed.

“I want them to be set free because they are human beings. They have rights and I think once they have been here (court) they need someone to defend them in order to be able to prove the case,” he stressed.

The Chinese and their Ghanaian counterparts were reportedly seen mining in the river in two communities – Bamiankor and Duwale – last week Friday.

The Chinese suspects are Dong Cheng, 30; Hung Jian, 51; Ning Guorui, 42; Yin Biquiang, 46 and Li Zilong, 44.

The Ghanaians are Eric Owusu, 28; Kwabena Adjei, 50; Nana Adu, 42; Kwasi Owusu, 28 and Kofi Darko, 21. The police were said to have seized mining equipment from the suspects and were put before court yesterday.

Speaking to journalists at the Sekondi magistrate court after brief proceedings, the lawyer for the suspects remarked that the truth of the matter would be uncovered in the course of the trial.

“The onus lies on the prosecution to prove their case better. What the prosecution is saying might not be necessarily the truth and at the end of the trial people will appreciate the fact that may be the police did not do well for bringing up the case.”

When pushed further, he added, “Not necessarily do I want the suspects to be set free. In fact, we want justice to be delivered – the type of justice that everybody will appreciate.”

Drama
Drama unfolded when the ten suspects were initially hauled before a Sekondi magistrate court yesterday.

The expectations of the audience and journalists who trooped to the court premises in their numbers were not met as the proceedings did not last long.

According to the prosecutor, Sgt Francisca Nyarko, the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case, considering the nature of the offence and the punishment assigned to it.

She then prayed the court to refer the case to the circuit court in Takoradi.

The magistrate, Susana Eduful, then discharged the suspects but they were rearrested and sent to the circuit court for hearing.

Immediately the judge made the pronouncement, the journalists and some of the residents who were in the court room quickly moved out and joined available vehicles straight to the Takoradi circuit court.

However, to the disappointment of the numerous journalists, they realized that the circuit court did not sit when the suspects were brought to the court premises.

The suspects then had to be taken back to Sekondi and this time, to the high court.

The suspects were put before a Sekondi high court presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante.

Their pleas were taken and the court remanded them into police custody to reappear before it on Monday, April 10, 2017.

That was after a state prosecutor, George Sackey, had prayed the court to give the prosecution some time to further investigate the case.

“We want to find out whether they (suspects) are conducting their mining activities with licence from the relevant authorities and so the police should be given adequate time to investigate,” he told journalists.

He continued, “If the suspects are granted bail, they are likely to interfere with witnesses desiring to testify in the case.”

Counsel for the suspects told the court that his clients were entitled to bail, looking at the offences preferred against them.

The court however, refused to grant the alleged galamsey operators the bail and remanded them.

Water Bed
The Chinese were arrested in the well-built ‘water-homes’ on River Ankobra covered with tents and mosquito nettings. They had also built a toilet on the river, surrounded by their mining equipment.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Let’s protect public lands for national use – Prof Frimpong-Boateng

By Lydia Asamoah, GNA
Accra, March 28, GNA – Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, has appealed to state authorities, chiefs and individuals to desist from encroaching on public lands to preserve them for their intended purposes.

He stated:’This is a very bad thing that I am noticing everywhere, university lands are being encroached upon, CSIR lands in Farrakhan, in the Airport Residential area, in Fomesua, Kwadaso and here at the( Regional Maritime University(RMU) in Nungua, there is so much encroachment.

‘I will beg and appeal to the authorities involved, our chiefs, the Tema Development Corporation and all the municipal authorities just to leave these lands alone because we need them to develop our nation. Our universities need land to expand.

‘Please these encroachments must stop.’
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said these in response to an appeal by authorities of the RMU to the Government to intervene in saving their land, which had been heavily encroached upon.

The Vice Chancellor of the RMU, Prof. Elvis Nyarko, who briefed the Minister during a working tour of the University, said most of the institution’s land, had been taken over by encroachers, including a religious organisation.

He said the encroachment was impeding the expansion of the facilities of the School, which played a critical role in the maritime industry.

Commenting on the importance of the Maritime University, the Minister described the RMU ‘as a very important facility to the nation that could help the country in the promotion of the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), with a specialty in the area of Marine Engineering and Transportation.’

He said the Government was very much interested in the School because it was offering STEM programmes.

‘Even though RMU is under Ministry of Transport, we are here because we are promoting the study of Science, Technology and Engineering and Mathematics,’ he explained.

‘As we went around, we could see that this is a technical university that has specialised in Marine Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics, Refrigeration and Welding, and indeed some Junior High School students can come here and study proper welding so that they can work in merchant ships.

‘The university is also training people working in Oil and Gas, and Safety Measures. We have a lot of things in this country and so if we are able to gather ourselves and focus to put things together, the sky will be our limit.’

He explained that the Government intended to make the teaching of the STEM subjects interesting to children all the way from the primary school to the university level to whip-up and sustain their interest.

The RMU’s mandate is to train personnel for the Maritime, Oil and Gas and ancillary industries to acquire knowledge, excellence and discipline in academic, professional, vocational and research work. It also runs the International Maritime Organisation’s mandatory and other short courses and seminars.

It currently has 90 per cent of its students as Ghanaians and 10 per cent from the four other partner African countries, with 95 per cent of its staff being Ghanaians.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Gov’t to distribute 180,000 tonnes of fertilizer to farmers in 2017

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta has said that as part of measures to modernise and transform the agricultural sector, government will continue with the fertilizer subsidy programme.

The programme, he said, will improve productivity, help achieve food security and crop profitability for farmers.

Speaking at his first budget presentation in Parliament, the Minister said “In 2017, the ministry will continue the fertilizer subsidy programme to help increase the productivity of farmers.

“To this effect, we intend to distribute nationwide, an expected 180,000 metric tonnes of subsidized fertilizer [to farmers].”

The fertilizer subsidy programme was first introduced in June 2008 by the John Kufuor government, covering three types of inorganic fertilizer, Sulphate of Ammonia, Urea and Compound fertilizer.

The programme was designed as in intervention meant to help increase food production at the peak of the global financial, food and energy crisis that was adversely affecting poor countries.

However, this programme, together with the many others introduced to boost the agric sector have not exactly achieved expected results.

FARMER NEW

The sector has witnessed a steady decline and production levels have fallen consistently over the years.

Mr Ofori-Atta said the Akufo-Addo-led administration will, in the medium term, put measures in place to ensure that the sector bounces back.

This will begin with the launch of the planting for food and jobs campaign. The campaign is designed to encourage all citizens, both urban and rural, to take up farming as a full or part-time activity.

It is intended to be structured along the lines of the erstwhile ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ programme in the 1970s.

The campaign will involve the production of maize, rice, soya beans, sorghum and vegetables, other crops will be adopted in subsequent years.

The Minister said it will be anchored on five pillars; provision of improved seeds, supply of fertilizers, provision of dedicated extension services, marketing and e-agriculture and monitoring.

He added that the initiative is “expected to increase the production of maize by 30 percent from the current production levels, rice by 49 percent, soya beans by 25 percent and sorghum  by 28 percent. This will create 750,000 both jobs direct and indirect employment.”

He indicated that the agriculture ministry will provide improved seeds to augment any shortfall for the planting for food and jobs campaign.

Fishermen

Fisheries sector

On fisheries, Mr Ofori-Atta said efforts have been made over the years to boost both marine and inland fishing and support aquaculture development and government intends to do more.

It will begin with the modernization of fishing methods to ensure sustainable fishing and also improve production levels.

“To modernise and transform the industry, the ministry will complete the first phase of the Anomabo fisheries college to enhance research and knowledge base in fisheries technology for all operators.

“It will also collaborate with relevant institutions and the private sector to develop modern landing sites and storage facilities at Cape Coast, Jamestown and Axim,” he said.

 

Source: myjoyonline.com

Agriculture Analysis On The 2017 Budget – Ilapi – Ghana

By:  Peter Bismark Kwofie

Agric Minister Dr. Akoto Osei

 

The solution of the NPP’s government to a seeming declining agricultural sector in the #Budget2017 is to modernize the sector and to improve productivity. Measures outlined, inter alia include: Provision of improved seeds; supply of fertilizers; provision of dedicated extension services; marketing and E-agriculture; and monitoring.

Concerns:
The measures indicated how much fertilizer will be supplied to achieve this objective, 180,000 metric tonnes for the year. It also indicated it will import improved seeds to augment the program. However,

1. One question here is why import improved seeds to augment? Improved and certified seeds could be obtained from MoFA, our universities and other research institutions like the CSIR.

2. No specifics were provided as to how much of these seeds will be supplied? How many Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) will be trained, recruited or deployed to various stations across the country for this program?

3. How are the goods in question going to be marketed, by which means, is it that government itself will deploy buyers at farm gate to buy these goods? Are the produce going to be sold processed or in raw form?

4. Any plans in place to arrest postharvest losses, which is one major challenge for farmers, especially those producing cereals? What of packaging?

5. In terms of monitoring, how is it going to be done/achieved? How is progress going to be measured and evaluated?

6. Most importantly, the budget did not indicate how much it will cost to achieve each of these objectives. No detail information and specifics were shared on this.

7. The budget also did not provide specific timelines to achieve each of these objectives.

Main Focus: The Planting for Food and Jobs Program.

This is to encourage all citizens (both urban and rural) to take up farming as a full or part-time activity. It is intended to structure it along the lines of the erstwhile “Operation Feed Yourself”(OFY) programme in the 1970s under Acheampong’s regime. The program is envisaged to provide jobs to about 750,000 people. This is laudable initiative.

This program will ensure all year food production, improves food security, curb food shortage, provide jobs, improve family income, improve livelihoods, ensures judicious use of land resources, etc. This program is similar to that used in urban agriculture. Countries such as Cuba, for example, successfully used urban agriculture as a means to evade food shortages (See Murphy, 2004), while many developing countries have long been farming within cities and towns for income and subsistence (See Nugent, 2001). Strong institutional efforts and technical assistance will be needed to achieve this.

Concerns:
1. Cost details were not provided.
2. How did they arrive at conclusion of 750,000 jobs?

3. The other projection of 30 percent from current production levels, rice by 49 %, soybean by 25 % and sorghum by 28 %.

4. How did these projections come about when there was no mentioning of the costs involved?

5. No investments plans made for the livestock sector?

6. No plans of irrigation facilities and investments to increase acreage of farmlands?

7. No allocation made for climate smart agriculture initiatives and investments to boost production for farmers especially in the face of climate change? This is another external shock facing the agricultural sector. Climate change, leading to delayed and erratic rain pattern in some parts of our agricultural industrial areas, and this natural phenomenon has affected agricultural output drastically.

8. Access to credits by farmers? This is a major issue facing farmers. The budget failed to elaborate on that but still seeking to subsidize farm inputs in the short term.

9. How much allocation made for research initiatives towards achieving these objectives?

10. Introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The budget failed to tackle the GMO situation and its commercialization in the country. One major concern is that the importation of the said improved seeds would lead to introduction of GMOs into the country. Farmers and the general public are ignorant of these GMOs and would there be public education on this mystery seeds before it implementation?

The Ghana National Biosafety Authority has issued Guidelines on handling requests for the use of GMOs in Ghana. This is in accordance with Section 40(3) of the Biosafety Act, which mandates the Authority to issue guidelines on its operations. This was not captured in the budget as to how the regulation would be carried with cost and evaluation tendencies. The plant breeder bill has faced a lot of heckles in the years with civil societies asking for further amendments to avert certain uncertainties. The procedures that any individual or entity need to go through in requesting approval to undertake confined field trials, commercialise, import and export GMOs out of the country needs a better education to sensitize the populace. This obviously denotes that, no matter how the agitation to GMOs in the country, the government would still legalize it use.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is currently undertaking field trials of GMO cotton, cowpea and rice as part of approval procedures before they could be released onto the market. However, information getting to the desk of the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation is alleged that there are cabalistic distributions of GMO seeds to farmers in some parts of the country even though commercialization has not begun.

STATISTICS
Agriculture has been the principal sector for the development and growth of the economy in the past years. The contribution of agriculture to GDP in the other years is: 2010 – 29.8%, 2011 – 25.3%, 2012 – 22.9%, 2013 – 22.4%, 2014 – 21.5%. It dropped from 31.8% in 2009 to 29.8% in 2010, representing 2% GDP contribution lost. In 2011, agriculture’s contribution dropped by 4.5% to 25.3% while 2012 recorded a 2.4%.

The year 2013 recorded a 0.5% drop in the contribution of agriculture from 22.9% in 2012 to 22.4% in 2013. Total spending on Agriculture Modernisation in 2015 amounted to GH¢27.04 million against a budget of GH¢30.57 million. Of this amount, spending on Food and Agriculture infrastructure amounted to GH¢26.24 million. This was particularly for the construction and rehabilitation of dams and irrigation infrastructure and fertiliser subsidy.

Additionally, GH¢0.80 million was advanced towards the construction of the Fisheries College and aquaculture development. On the food, which food programs were carried out? Are there any national food storage facilities? NO! We stand to be corrected. Subsidies are medieval, a negative sum transaction and enables government spending and corruption. It would be good to bring into light the allocated amount for fertilizer subsidies, including how many farmers benefited and the outcome of this welfare practice.

The Agriculture Sector is expected to record an average growth rate of 3.3% in the medium term from the 2017 Budget. The Sector is expected to record a growth of 3.5% for both 2016 and 2017, declining to 3.0% in 2018. This may not be able to accounts for about 40% of GDP and generates 60% of foreign exchange earnings in the medium term. What we produce may feed the one-district-one-factory projects and the quality of the finished produce may or may not attract export. Government cut its 2016 expenditure on the sector by GHC40 million despite growth in the sector stalling to 0.04%.

In 2015 government’s budgeted expenditure on the agricultural sector is GHC395.19 million while for 2016, GHC355.14 million was been budgeted, indicating a 10.1% decrease. By the end of September 2015, GHC91.54 million had been spent out of the GHs395.19 million budgeted. Out of the GHC91.54 million spent, about GHs82.57 million of this actual sector expenditure, representing 90.21%, was spent on poverty-focused expenditures and still there is poverty.

There are lots of activities that go on in the service sector better and more than the agricultural sector shifting the goal post to the former. Agriculture was the main source of growth and foreign exchange until when oil production replaced it as the cornerstone of growth for the formal economy. In 2015 the GDP growth of the service sector accrued GHs17,470.0 million and agriculture once the backbone and mainstay of Ghana’s economy made GHs 7,365.o million.

The Industry Sector is projected to record an average growth rate of 13.2% in the medium-term, the highest rate among the sectors. The Sector is expected to grow by 17% in 2016, 18.3% in 2017, and 14.3% in 2018. If the growth of industries demand exceeds the productions of raw materials from the agricultural sector, local industries would have no option than to import raw materials to meet the deficits.

In 2015, GDP from Manufacturing in Ghana was GH¢ 2,288.0 million which is far below that of agriculture GH¢7,365.0 million. However, industrialization is expected to increase and would put pressure on raw materials from our farms. We export more of our raw materials than we import and this may intern lead to the importation of raw materials for our industries. Care must be taken not to get it twisted. Switzerland exports finished products such as pharmaceutical products, tools and equipment and vehicles to Ghana whiles we export raw materials such as Gold, cocoa and Cashew nuts. To digress, in 2014 alone, the volume of trade between Switzerland and Ghana hit $1.8 billion and has since been rising every year. Within the same period, Ghana imported $14.8 billion, making it the 87th largest importer in the world. Ghana imports tones of snails, and fresh vegetables from its regional neighbours. The budget failed to address importation except that of fingerlings.

Over the last five years, the imports of Ghana have increased at an annualized rate of 13.7% from $7.8 billion in 2009 to $14.8 billion in 2014 and about 70% are finished goods. Switzerland imported over $2 billion worth of gold from Ghana in 2016 alone for conversion to finished products for the world market. This shows an overwhelming increase of about $90 million dollars over the 2015 figure of $1 billion. The new government must endeavour to stabilising the economy and laying the best foundation for a sustainable, accelerated and job creating agro-based industrial growth.

COMMENTARY
In Ghana, the Government’s role in agriculture over the years has been extensive as reflected in the public expenditures and programmes until the adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme in 1983. During that period, prior to the Sector Agricultural Policy (SAP), the BOG initiated a number of projects in line with the intervention policies of the day, intended to boost the agricultural sector of the economy. These policies led to the implementation of agricultural development schemes such as the Cocoa Bill Financing Scheme, Grains Bill Financing Scheme, Grains Warehousing Company. Other Bank of Ghana Agricultural projects include, Shai Hills Cattle Ranch, Agricultural Development Company (ADC), Wulugu Livestock Company, and the Jukwa, Okumanin, Fosu and Akwamsrerm (JoFA) Project. With the exception of the JOFA project, which was partially successful, the other projects did not achieve their set objectives due to inappropriate policies adopted by their managements. (Agriculture Sector policy-BOG, 2003)

For the implementation of programmes and activities in the cocoa, livestock and the plant ecology in 2017, an amount of GH₵501,501,708.00 has been allocated. Out of this, GH₵322,094,227.00 is from the government of Ghana, GH₵4,065,650.00 is internally generated fund and GH₵175,341,831.00 is from Development Partners. Local Poultry production to meet domestic demand as against high imports of frozen chicken was silent in the budget. There were no estimated outturns on expenditure in the sub-sector. The Savannah Accelerated Development Agency (SADA) also failed to be mentioned as an agency to see to the implementation of major agricultural programmes in the Northern Sector. SADA is heavily donor funded as an autonomous agency to boost development with its action plan but their needs were absent to be addressed.

Most agricultural projects depended heavily on the Ministry of Agriculture mediatorships resulting in top-down planning and implementation, less satisfactory relevance and cost-effectiveness and poor ownership of the programmes by the beneficiaries. These ‘’monocultural’’ government interventions have taken place year after year and the 2017 budget failed to give meaningful structural operational system to avert the ulcerations. From the 2017 Budget, GH₵52,706,712.00 has been allocated for the fishery sector of which GH₵28,857,495.00 is from the Government of Ghana, GH₵11,875,210.00 is internally generated funds (IGF), and GH₵11,974,008.00 is from Development Partners. With this, an amount of $500 million is expected from the shrimps, Mollusca, clams and tilapia earnings and estimated amount of $42 million net savings in the aquaculture production. The central government is funding more than 50% of the allocated money to the ministry and about 26% from donors and 24% from IGF.

To ensure a lasting sustainability of new projects in a decentralized manner, with most of the planning, implementation and decision-making taking place at the district level, the private sector must be allowed to play a major role to squeezing out the best tasteful liquid from the rock.

‘’In 2016, the Ministry will rehabilitate public laboratories at Koforidua, Kumasi, Tamale and Ho’’. This is a 2017 budget and not 2016 and that care must be taken with what is written to allow for accountability. Fish extension service delivery will focus on disease detection, prevention and control particularly in the Aquaculture sub-sector. Setting a fishery laboratory in Koforidua is a misplaced priority. No fishing activities go on in the Eastern capital to have such facility. The Afram Plains and akosombo are where active fishing activities takes place. Why in Koforidua?

Agricultural growth might be slow this year due to the prevailing adverse macroeconomic conditions and the IMF conditionalities unless otherwise there is production incentives induced by the economic reforms, in the medium Term. The agriculture sector should not be used as means for poverty reduction strategy done in the past but Modernization of agriculture based on rural development, agribusiness focussing on domestic consumption and export , easy access to lands as in property rights, assisting the private sector to increase food production through facilitating extensions, research and financial services, and irrigation facilities and improving on the use of technology in giving soil, soil fertility, improved seeds and weather information and communication and means to economic freedom in the long term. A national land policy is needed to demarcate lands for agriculture and real estate developments.

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INSTITUTE FOR LIBERTY & POLICY INNOVATION (ILAPI-GHANA)

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Source: modernghana.com

Environment Minister visits Atomic Energy Commission

By: Christabel Addo, GNA


Accra, March 2, GNA –

Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), has paid a working visit to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).

He called for closer cooperation with the Ministry in finding sustainable solutions to the challenges within the institution, in order to enhance their work, particularly in the area of research and innovation.

Prof. Frimpong Boateng was accompanied by Mr Alex Quainoo, the Director of Finance, MESTI and other Directors of the Ministry as well as Mr Oliver Boakye, a Special Assistant to the Minister.

The Minister said he was already familiar with the numerous challenges confronting the Commission citing the issue of sustainable research funding, the current massive encroachment on their lands, sustainable electricity supply, as very disturbing as these stifle the smooth operation of the institution.

He however commended the staff and management for working hard over the years to keep the Commission on its toes, and also for effectively and safely managing all radioactive sources in the country so that they did not get into wrong hands.

Prof. Frimpong Boateng said government has promised to enhance science and technology, making it part of its improved education priority, and as such would increase research funding from the current 0.25 per cent to 1.0 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, to encourage quality outputs.

He said it was an irony that in spite of the cravings that research institutions including GAEC, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, to go commercial, they were not supported in terms of local funding to do so.

He explained that since most of their funding often came from foreign sponsors, the institutions were obliged to hand over their findings to their benefactors who became the beneficiaries.

The Minister encouraged researcher scientists to develop innovative ways of attracting local funding to expand their work, so that their findings would be owned locally for sustainable development.

On the issue of stable electricity supply, Prof. Frimpong Boateng said he intended to initiate a discussion with the Energy Sector Ministry, to ensure a viable option from the current prepaid billing for sensitive research laboratories across the country, in order to save delicate and historical samples from irreparable damages.

Prof. Frimpong Boateng stated that all was set to inaugurate the Ghana National Space Science Institute at Kuntunse in the Greater Accra Region in May 2017, to provide spatial education, and secure Ghana’s cosmic environment among other things.

The success of these and other government projects, he said would require land for expansion, and appealed to traditional authorities as well as district assembles nationwide, to desist from the indiscriminate sale of state reserved lands, leaving no space for future national developments for the benefit of all Ghanaians.

He said research Institutions have lost nearly 80 per cent of their reserved research lands to encroachers, but gave the assurance that the Ministry was currently engaging with the Ministry of the Interior and the Inspector General of Police, to investigate what was happening to salvage the situation, ‘hoping there are no forces within to distract the process’.

Prof. Frimpong Boateng also gave the staff the opportunity to voice their concerns, and entertained suggestions on ways in which the overall management and functioning of the Agency could be improved.

Prof. Benjamin Jabez Nyarko, GAEC Director-General, pledged the commitment of management and staff to work harder towards achieving all the objects of the Institution in the years ahead.

 

Source: modernghana.com

Sadly, The 2017 Budget Statement Didn’t Mention Galamsey Even Once!

 

 

By: Cameron Duodu

The 2017 budget statement read to Parliament and the nation by the Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori Atta, on 02 March 2017 can be described as a a very competent and optimistic one.

It was also very transparent. It gave a clear balance of payments position, without obliging us to go through many Tables to find it. The balance of payments is in this state (the Minister said):

QUOTE: “The balance of payments (BOP) turned surplus for the first time since 2011, due to [an] improved current account balance. Accordingly, there was a build-up in gross foreign assets, which supported the relative stability in the exchange rate.

The BOP surplus was US$247 million, compared to a deficit of US$129 million in 2015. The trade balance improved from a deficit of US$3.1bn in 2015 to a deficit of US$1.7bn in 2016, due to increased export receipts (by 7.2 percent) and a decline in imports (by 5.3 percent.)

The gross foreign assets at the end of December was estimated at US$6,161.80 million, from US$5,884.70 million at the end of December 2015, representing a build-up of US$277.07 million. This was sufficient to provide cover for 3.5 months of imports of goods and services, same as in December 2015.” UNQUOTE

I am impressed that the Minister did not seek to hide our relatively good external account situation in Tables in the appendix to the Budget Statement (since the figures reflect rather well on the John Mahama administration’s effort to bring the economy under control in 2016.) I hope the Minister will continue with this policy of being honest about the economy. You can’t quite hide an economy, yet some Finance Ministers foolishly pretend that they can “talk up” an economy even as it totters to the ground.

The Minister’s tax reductions were also a good sign that he has his ears to the ground. No wonder he is being serenaded in the markets by the Kayayei. I wouldn’t like to be in the position of his wife, at this rate!)

I was also impressed by the Minister’s willingness to share with the nation, certain figures that, hitherto, have tended to reside mainly in the vaults of the finance ministry and the Bank of Ghana.

The Minister revealed that:
QUOTE: “In 2016, GNPC lifted …. 5,856,921 barrels of oil (4,860,462 barrels of Jubilee oil and 996,459 barrels of TEN oil). Receipts from crude oil liftings ….amounted to US$207.79 million (GHȻ811.68 million). The proceeds from the 35th Jubilee and 1st TEN liftings in December 2016 were received in the first quarter of 2017. …. [However] actual petroleum receipts for 2016 fell short of the 2015 performance by 29.1 percent.” UNQUOTE

Figures of this nature should help to create optimism in the populace. We are getting this oil money at a time when oil prices are low on the international market. If and when oil prices improve, we most certainly can look forward to walking tall again. Even if we are only able to produce enough petroleum to meet our local needs, we should count ourselves lucky, for expenditure on petroleum imports is one of the driving forces of our decline into poverty as a nation.

.
The Minister also – very commendably – told us the situation with regard to the prices we can expect from two of our main exports – cocoa and gold. This is something that has not been prominently depicted in official statements on the economy in recent years. The Minister said:

QUOTE: “Gold prices are expected to decline from an average of US$1,249 per fine ounce in 2016 to US$1,219 in 2017, due largely to an expected strengthening of the US dollar. According to the Commodity Markets Outlook by the World Bank, [the] cocoa price is projected to average about US$2,940 per tonne in 2017– up from US$2,850 in 2016.UNQUOTE

Of course, the cocoa farmers will be entitled to demand that the greater part of the slightly less than $100 per tonne increase in the world price will be passed on to them. In this connection, I would like to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the Ghana Cocobod spends far too much of our earnings from cocoa on just administering the exportation of the crop.

The way the Cocobod borrows heavily from external sources to buy the crop each year is also not in the best interests of the country. The loans attract a relatively high interest rate at a time when interest rates are very low the world over. Some Ghanaians suspect that the loans, in fact, do bring a lot of “commissions” to the “Yennkye nni” [Let’s share it and eat!] lot who arrange them.

Maybe the Government should, in fact, carry out a thorough review/ audit of the Cocobod’s operations. This has been left undone for years, because, fear that the Board might perform badly if it is interfered with, has made successive Governments leave the Cocobod virtually untouchable, although we all know that untouchability is a dangerous lever to corruption in a conscienceless society like ours.

Indeed, the time has come for the Government to examine the very raison d’etre of the Cocobod.

Why should we maintain a Cocobod that was established by the colonial Government in 1947 for its own nefarious purposes? Given the huge overhead costs that the Board recoups from the “operation allowance” given to it by the Government from our earnings from cocoa exports, is the Cocobod truly cost-effective?

Beyond that is the question of doing justice to the cocoa farmer. Fishermen sell their catch themselves through the open market. So do plantain farmers, cassava farmers, citrus and pine-apple farmers, and other agricultural producers.No marketing board intereferes with their operarions. So why should cocoa farmers alone be singled out and be made to serve as the unacknowledgedlabourers of the Cocobod (and by implication, the Government?)

The inherited system is convenient to the Government, to be sure, but an injustice cannot be perpetuated because its imposition was convenient to the dictator who imposed it. With modern data systems in existence that are capable of capturing sales, the main argument that the Government cannot collect taxes from cocoa farmers unless the Cocobod, a Government agency, sells their crop, is untenable and extremely backward. Can you see the German Government selling BMW and Mercedes cars for the manufacturers because they pay such huge taxes and the Government wants to take it at source? Or the French Government selling wine for the producers?

“FREE THE COCOA FARMER” I say to the Government. Otherwise its claim to be a liberal, business-friendly” Government, will be just hypocritical hot air.

The ECOWAS Common External Tariff system, which Ghana has joined, will (the Government recognises) be a “a major platform for the establishment of [a] Customs Union… and help address problems such as cross-border smuggling and dumping in the sub-region”. Surely, the elimination of smuggling should serve as a further incentive for the Government to allow cocoa farmers to sell their own crop?

“Change has come!” NPP followers believe. The Government says it’s in a hurry to transmit the effects of that change to the ordinary people. It should therefore not waste any time in turning the “change” into reality for our cocoa farmers.

Another aspect of the budget that disappointed me was the Minister’s inability to even outline or highlight the steps the Government plans to take to fight our biggest national calamity of the moment – galamsey.

If the Government as a whole does not make the anti-galamsey crusade its major plank, it will wake up one day to find that all our water-bodies are dead and that whatever social changes it seeks to bring to the rural areas – such as”one district one factory” – will be dead in the muddy-water, so to speak, and be still-born.

You just cannot mess about with your people’s drinking water. Mr Ken Ofori Atta mentioned his own pedigree, and that of his boss, President Akufo Addo, in his introduction to the budget statement. That pedigree carries a message back to them, namely, that the River Birem, which nurtured them when they were babies, must not be allowed to die. Right now, it is in its death-throes and crying out – like the Prah, the Offin, the Oti, the Tanoh, the Densu and many other rivers in Ghana — Grand-children of the Oforipanin Stool, now that you have got power, do not turn a deaf ear to the cries of agony of your country’s Sacred Rivers! If YOU of all people close your ears to our cries, to whom shall we turn next?” Would Danquah allow it? Would Paa willy allow it? Would Barfuor Osei Akoto allow it?

As the Twi proverb has it, “Na asem se ber!” (A word to the wise is enough).

 

Source: modernghana.com

‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ to begin with GHc 560m cost

 

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government’s flagship agriculture policy, “Planting for Food and Jobs” will begin with a cost GHc 560 million.

This is according to the Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, who said 200,000 farmers have already been recruited for the exercise which is expected to take off in March 2017, ahead of the new farming season.

Dr. Afriyie Akoto announced this policy at the annual New Year School and Conference of the University of Ghana earlier in 2017 and speaking to Citi News, he said a lot more farmers will be roped into the programme as it develops.

GHc 1.3 bn to be generated for farmers
He said the policy was “going to generate GHc 1.3 billion for the participating farmers and also create 750,000 jobs and this is involving maize, rice, soya, sorghum and vegetable [cultivation] for the first year.”

“In 2018, we are going to expand this. Don’t forget we have five million farmers and fishermen in this country. We have started with 200,000 as a pilot and in 2018, we are going to expand this program considerably to involve nearly a million farmers.”

Dr. Afriyie Akoto has said the “Planting for Food and Jobs” campaign is designed to encourage citizens, both urban and rural, to take up farming as a full time and part time activity.

It has been structured along the lines of the “Operation Feed Yourself” programme from the 1970s.

The Operation Feed Yourself campaign was launched in 1972 to make Ghana self-sufficient in food supply though it encountered significant shortcomings. But the government, however, believes the objectives of the Operation Feed Yourself campaign will be revived through the new campaign.

Though the “Planting for Food and Jobs” pilot only involves the cultivation of rice, soya beans, sorghum and vegetables, other crops will be adopted in subsequent years.

 

Source : modernghana.com