Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Launch Of The Planting For Food And Jobs Programme

The agricultural sector still remains a major pillar in the Ghanaian economy, though its contribution to GDP has declined due to the increasing share of the services sector. It continues to be the largest employer of the economically active population, providing raw material for agro-based industries, generating significant foreign exchange earnings, holding the key to achieving food security and reducing the high unemployment rate. In view of the critical role the sector plays in the Ghana’s socio economic development, one needs to commend the government for the launch of the “Planting for Food and Jobs Programme” aimed at increasing agricultural produce especially, maize, rice, soya, sorghum and vegetables. The programme seeks to enhance food security, provide raw materials for agro-based industries, substitute imports especially for rice and soya beans as well check the cancerous rural urban migration.

The usage of improved seeds and optimal level of fertilizers is expected to increase productivity per unit area, looking at the ever-decreasing man to land ratio in Ghana. The services of agricultural extension officers will ensure best agronomic practices. Whilst the programme is laudable, its sustainability and maximum impact would be determined by five major factors. These are the commitment of farmers to repay after harvest, capacity building for extension personnel to transfer technology to farmers, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, putting in place structures to reduce post-harvest losses and a shift in paradigm which integrates improvement in agricultural production to enhancement of the socio economic conditions of the rural areas.

Many a worthwhile programme started over the years aimed at accelerating the growth of the agricultural sector have failed the sustainability test because of repayment challenges by beneficiaries. Since resources to finance the current programme are not limitless, the only way it can be sustained is for beneficiaries to pay after harvests for the funds to be revolved to others and the programme replicated over the years.

Since water is the most important limiting factor to crop production in Ghana, any effort to provide irrigation facilities would have a positive impact on the outcome of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs Programme.’

With the country annually losing between 20 and 50 per cent of all vegetables, and 20 to 30 per cent of grains produced through post-harvest losses, it will be prudent to invest in appropriate post-harvest technology. Past approaches to enhancing agricultural and rural development have been premised on selective programmes mostly dealing with the agricultural sector on adhoc basis with the hope that the development of the sector could engender overall rural development. The positive effects of such an approach if any have been minimal.

A more prudent approach to improve the lives of farmers is the adoption of an integrated rural development plan which enhances both agricultural and non-agricultural activities such as industry, education, health and social welfare. It is important to link the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs Programme,’ with the One District one Factory initiative with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture taking part-ownership of the agro-based industries to be set up under the One District one factory programme. The fact that most rural labour is underutilised is well known especially in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions where there is only one cropping season.

Rural industries would provide income generation opportunities for underemployed farmers during lean seasons and also strengthen and diversify the rural economy by making it less dependent on primary agricultural production, which invariably is at the "mercy of God."

Rural industrialization will offer a less cumbersome and cheaper alternative to urban industrialization by taking industrial development to rural areas where land and raw materials are readily available and where an appreciable proportion of the population live.

These together with seamless linkage of the programme to the One-District-One-Factory-Programme, strengthening off-taking arrangement under the programme, inclusion of crops such as cassava which is amenable to various forms of processing and industrial usage and the expansion of the programme to cover aqua-culture, livestock and poultry could make the programme in a stead to become one of the most successful contemporary interventions in the agricultural sector in Ghana.

By: POLYCARP KWAME AKOBENG, AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT BANK, ACCRA.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

First One Hundred Days Of The Akufo-Addo Administration

During his inaugural speech on 7th January this year, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stated, among other things, that as the Head of State, he would protect the public purse. President Akufo-Addo also indicated that he was in a hurry to fix the economy. Immediately after his inauguration, the President started putting together his government through Ministerial nominations for approval by parliament. Parliament also did well by quickly vetting and approving the nominations. Along the line, however, a section of Parliament, notably the minority, boycotted the vetting of the ministerial nominees on the grounds that they needed time to go to do some background checks in their constituencies. This meant holding back the clock of progress, seeing that the President had said he was in a hurry to fix the challenges facing the country. To be able to do this, he needed the full complement of his government.

Fortunately, those in the majority sacrificed to vet the rest of the nominees to make it possible for the President to have his team ready. The 2017 budget statement read on Thursday, 2nd March was described by the business community as business friendly and by economic and financial experts as growth-oriented. Due to the tax cuttings introduced in the budget, local airfares were slashed whilst prices of other goods and services also came down. Again, the prices of fertilizer was reduced because of government subsidy. Fuel prices in the country have started dropping in view of the removal of certain taxes on petroleum.

What is more, the Cedi has started gaining value against the major foreign currencies. All these show that so far measures taken to resolve Ghana’s problems have been good. Besides, the restoration of allowances for Nursing and Teacher Trainees as well as steps taken to employ a backlog of trained teachers and nurses who have completed their professional training are most welcome. Other achievements within the period under review include the introduction of the Zongo Development Fund meant to transform the zongo areas as well as the strengthening of bilateral relations between Ghana and other countries such as the United States, the UK and many others. Also, government’s resolve and declared intention to fight illegal mining known as “galamsey” which is threatening our water bodies and also degrading the environment are steps that deserve commendation by all. This means that so far things have moved on well as expected.

However, one issue that has threatened the goodwill enjoyed by the government is the unpleasant action taken by the vigilante group known as “The Delta Force.” Their actions have dented the image of government which stands for rule of law and good governance. In spite of this, the swiftness with which government and the security agencies have marshaled forces into the Kumasi metropolis to ensure that the culprits go through the judicial process for justice to take its natural course is quite encouraging and commendable. The non-interference in the judicial process has rekindled hope and confidence in the government, showing it’s committed and preparedness to affirm the rule of law in the country.

All in all, the Akufo-Addo government deserves a pat on the shoulder for a good work done so far, but the nation expects to see more action since the full complement of government is now in place.

BY KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY.

Handling children with specific learning difficulties in Ghana

Globally, millions of children risk failing to attain an appropriate level of education as a result of learning difficulties. According to All Children Reading, of the more than 150 million children with disabilities under age 18, 80 percent of them live in developing countries, and less than 10 percent of these children go to school. In Ghana, a large number of out of school children on the streets show symptoms of specific learning difficulties. These children also risk failing to reach their educational potential due to general lack of awareness and recognition of learning difficulties as well as absence of appropriate interventions both at home and in school.

Specific Leaning Difficulty is a condition that affects a particular area of learning and significantly impacts on an individual’s ability to learn. It can be a life-long condition, affecting many aspects of life, including education, employment, family life and daily routines. Children with Specific Learning Difficulty have a major difficulty in one academic area while excelling in other areas such as sports or arts. For instance, a child with a learning difficulty might perform well in mathematics, but have difficulty in reading or spelling.

Children with Specific Learning Difficulties also have normal or even higher level of intelligence, unlike individuals with Intellectual disabilities. Some common types of Specific Learning Difficulties are Dyslexia which is difficulty with reading, writing and spelling; and dyscalculia – difficulty with mathematics. In Ghana, children with Specific Learning Difficulties are often branded as ‘slack, dumb and stupid.’ Their condition is sometimes attributed to spiritual problems, and are therefore, denied the necessary support to enable them to overcome the difficulties. The abuse, discrimination and stigma by parents, teachers and peers compel many children with learning difficulties to drop out of school and migrate to the streets, forcing them into criminality where they become victims of violence and exploitation.

Despite their limitations however, children with learning difficulties have the ability to stay in school to overcome their learning problems and enjoy satisfying and productive lives with their families and communities. This happens when they are given the right support, guidance and direction from parents and teachers. Ghana is a signatory to a number of laws that protect the rights of children with learning difficulties. The country has ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which emphasises the rights of all children and prohibits discrimination. Article 24 of the Convention, states that children with disabilities have the right to quality education in their own community on an equal basis with other children.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education launched an Inclusive Education Policy to ensure that all children with disabilities receive help in their own schools. Despite these provisions, not much has been done to provide support services and the right interventions for children with learning difficulties. Learning difficulties have been a neglected area of research in Ghana. To ensure that all children with learning difficulties receive support services and right interventions in mainstream education, the Ministry of Education must expedite the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy which defines the strategic path of the government for the education of all children with special educational needs.

The implementation of the policy will improve education and related systems and structures to ensure the inclusion of all learners particularly, learners with special educational needs. It will also facilitate the review, revision and adoption of a national curricula content that is more representative and responsive to children with special educational needs. The Inclusive Education policy will further ensure that all pre-service teacher training courses include training on inclusive education to enable teachers to deal with the diversity in their classroom and be equipped with relevant teaching and learning competencies and strategies to meet the needs of the learners. When the Inclusive Education Policy is effectively implemented and parents take action to defend the educational rights of their children, the huge numbers of learners with ‘invisible’ special educational needs like Specific Learning Difficulties will receive the appropriate educational interventions to enable them to overcome their learning problems and achieve their full potential in life.

BY: Richard Odomako Opoku, Programmes Manager at Special Attention Project (a Ghanaian NGO working to improve the lives of children with Specific Learning Difficulties). 
Tel: 233 246190639. Email: programmes@sapghana.com

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Vigilante groups in political parties – A betrayal of Constitutionalism

After eleven years of military rule, the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana came into force and brought about multi-party democracy and its accompanied rights, responsibilities and limitations. Sadly, political parties, especially the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) encouraged the emergence of vigilante groups which have gone on the rampage at one time or the other. This phenomenon has betrayed the constitution which guaranteed the right and responsibilities of political parties in Ghana. Chapter Seven of the Constitution: “Representation of the People,” Article 55 (1), indicates that “the right to form political parties is hereby guaranteed.” Article 55 (5), adds that: “the internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles and its actions and purposes shall not contravene or be inconsistent with this Constitution or any other law.”

The constitution defines the internal organisation of political parties stressing that its organisation must conform to democratic principles. The emergence of vigilante groups for the purposes of personal security may look harmless; however, it shows the distrust political parties have in the state security agencies whether in opposition or in power – a phenomenon borne out of political polarisation of the security agencies.

Vigilantism in the Ghanaian body politic is a scar on the political conscience of nation. The NDC and NPP defend actions of vigilante groups of their political parties; instead of bowing their heads in shame because they have created monsters who are out of control and the ripple effect is staring them in the face. Beyond the distrust that political parties have in the state security, it shows that the state is ineffective in protecting them; thus the same mindset is handed down to these vigilante groups, as such the monsters are created and let loose. If at any point in time a group of young men in a political party take the law into their hands so as to get the attention of their paymasters, it unfortunately paints the picture that there is break down of law and order.

Law and order is important to the holistic development of every nation. No nation has ever developed in an atmosphere of lawlessness, disorderliness and chaos. A typical incident that confirms the disregard for law and order was when after the President had condemned the actions of Delta Force – a vigilante group linked to the ruling party, another group – Invincible Forces locked up the Eastern Regional National Health Insurance Offices. These acts of disrespect for law and order confirm the monsters that have been created out of these young men whose actions haunt their paymasters. The matter is a threat to national security – “a source of worry” as the President of Ghana puts it concisely.

The police are powerless in dealing with these young men due to the political strings tied to the phenomenon. Frankly, as long as vigilante groups are created by political parties it will be an impossible task for the police to clamp down on them. The political parties which actions have encouraged emergence of the vigilante groups should take the necessary steps to disband them.

The only way to deal with this matter is to use the legal system to compel the political parties to disband the vigilante groups – for in civil societies where actions of the people are ordered by the constitution, political parties do not raise vigilante groups, they exercise their rights as citizens by depending on the state to protect them. It is for the purposes of law and order that Ghanaians chose to have a constitution. Let us show the whole world that our society is not one where political parties betray the very constitution that gives them their very existence.

We are sick and tired of this political lawlessness.

BY: ALEX BLEGE, A FREELANCE JOURNALIST. 
Email: kw.ameblege@hotmail.com / kwameselom12@gmail.com

The re-appointment of James Kwesi Appiah as Black Stars coach

James Kwesi Appiah born on 30th June 1960 becomes the 43rd coach of the Black Stars and his appointment has been met with mix feelings by some football fans. The former Kumasi Asante Kotoko captain in 2012 took over from Serbian Goran Stevanovic and subsequently finished 4th in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. The highlight of Kwesi Appiah’s previous reign was a hundred percent qualifying record prior to the 2014 World cup in Brazil, with his team famously beating the Pharaohs of Egypt 6-1 at the Baba Yara Stadium.

All was rosy for the man who was tagged as a master tactician after becoming the first Ghanaian and African Coach to qualify Ghana's Black Stars to a world cup. He was always touted as the ideal man until Ghana had a poor showing in Brazil, drawing one game and losing two. There were several reports of Kwesi Appiah not having complete control over the team with some senior players like Kelvin Prince Boateng engaging in an oral war with him which led to the sacking of the Las Palmas midfielder from the team's camp in Rio. His personality and ability to control his players was questioned by most Ghanaians and several pundits of the game began to doubt his qualities as a tough coach.

After the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Kwesi Appiah was offered a new two year contract but resigned in September 2014 by mutual consent. He was later appointed head coach of Sudanese club Al Khartoum in December 2014. He led the team in the CAF Confederation Cup qualifiers but could not reach the money zone. Appiah showed tremendous improvement in the North African country and was named Coach of the Year last year.

On Tuesday 4th April 2017, Kwesi Appiah again received good news from the Ghana Football Association. The Ghana Football Association, which is the body mandated to develop football in Ghana, gave the 56-year-old Appiah a two year contract to manage the Senior National football team. He is also to handle the Local Black Stars. Coach Appiah handled the national Under 23 male football team and led them to win a historic 2011 All Africa Games gold medal. The following year, he was appointed substantive coach of the Black Stars and led Ghana to the semi-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. Appiah made history by becoming the first Ghanaian coach to qualify the Black Stars to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Kwesi Appiah’s appointment comes at a point when the Black Stars are almost out of the World Cup qualifying race and the team is in near disarray. It is the hope of many that Ghanaians will offer their unflinching support to Kwesi Appiah in order to help him succeed. The players and technical assistants who will be working with Coach Appiah should put the national interest first in all their activities. The fact that Kwesi's exploit in the Sudan has been appreciated where he was named Coach of the Year last year indicates that when given the opportunity he can do more for his mother land.

Let us celebrate our own and offer constructive criticism that will help Kwesi Appiah to manage the Black Stars to capture their lost glory.

By Theophilus Sampa, a Sports Journalist.

Combating Irresponsible Mining In Ghana By Bubu Klinogo


There are fears that if care is not taken, Ghana will have to start importing drinking water in the next two decades. This is due to extensive destruction being caused water bodies following illegal mining activities popularly known as galamsey. Most water bodies are highly polluted that they can no longer be treated for consumption. This unfortunate situation has led to the shutdown of some water treatment plants in parts of the country including Ashanti, Eastern, Central and Western Regions. Also, where it is possible to treat such polluted water, it comes at a huge cost to the Ghana Water Company.

In view of the threat posed by illegal mining, all hands need to be on deck to fight the menace to rescue the nation from future water shortage. Reports that influential people including chiefs, politicians and security operatives are neck deep in galamsey is worrying. The looming water crisis and food shortage as a result of destruction of water bodies and farmlands should send signals to the influential people involved in galamsey that they cannot sacrifice the collective national interest for their selfish gains.

There must be some lessons from the work of the past inter-ministerial task force on galamsey which saw huge financial and human resources committed to that exercise. The revelation by the Minister of Lands and Forestry, John Peter Amewu that drones will be deployed to augment efforts to effectively combat illegal mining is refreshing. This laudable initiative and others backed by political will and strict enforcement of the appropriate laws are required to make any effort at tackling galamsey sustainable.

Let us discourage the practice where influential people engaged in illegal mining when arrested, are released almost immediately, not because there is no evidence against them, but because they are highly connected. In most instances, members of the security agencies simply take money from them and shield them. When it comes to galamsey, Chinese are the single largest group of foreigners involved. Is it sheer coincidence that at this time when there is intensified campaign against galamsey, a Chinese entrepreneur in Ghana donated GH¢50,000.00 to the police administration? Our political, security and traditional leaders should be guided by recent revelations by a former minister for Environment, Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, that a high-powered Chinese delegation had once attempted to bribe him with the sponsorship of his child to the best schools in order to allow them to continue mining. The fight against galamsey must not be converted into electoral fortunes. It requires the support of a government that is looking at the next generation rather than the next election.

Apart from environmental degradation and other negative impacts, it is estimated that Ghana also lost $2.3 billion in gold revenue due to illegal mining. Which money could have been used for national development. We cannot allow this to continue. Let us adopt a naming and shaming posture. One potent vehicle to advance this agenda is the media. It is therefore refreshing that some selected media organisations including the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation have formed a coalition against illegal mining. The campaign must nevertheless not remain in Accra or just in the media. They must go to the ground and speak directly to those involved in the practice.

It is important for the youths to also get actively involved in this fight. Instead of allowing heavily built body people to torment and harass fellow citizens, it will be more useful and productive to direct their energies towards the fight against illegal mining.Who knows, the presence of these machomen alone may scare galamseyers. It is worth considering the argument for an alternative source of livelihood for operators of galamsey. Ordinarily, one should not be concerned with any alternative for people engaged in criminal activities. But the sheer number of people involved makes it a necessary evil to consider. Farming readily comes to mind. That is one sector that can absorb all the illegal miners and even more especially at this time when government is implementing the planting for food programme. The cocoa sector must also be made attractive so that instead of cocoa farmers giving parts of their land for galamsey, they can cultivate them to boost production.

Again, it will be important for the authorities to consider an immediate moratorium on the granting of new mining concessions. The hard truth is it doesn't matter where you are. You may not be living in a mining area, but the devastating effects of illegal mining go beyond the mining communities. Galamsey is a national security threat. We have to either join hands in ending it, or allow it to consume us.

Say no to galamsey, protect our environment.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Call on Bawku Central MP to apologise to Parliament after bribery allegation against Appointments Committee

The laying of the report in Parliament concerning the bribery allegation against the Appointments Committee of Parliament has revealed that the MP for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, did not have any evidence to accuse some Members of Parliament of bribery. At the time when Mahama Ayariga and his co-accusers claimed to have been given the money, they said they did not know the purpose for which it was given even though normally the giver and receiver should have known the reason for it.

Again, both sides of parliament approved Mr. Boakye Agyarko’s nomination by consensus as there was no evidence to prove the allegation. The Joe Ghartey five-member Committee, made up of both NDC and NPP members, unanimously recommended that Mahama Ayariga needs to be reprimanded by the Speaker in accordance with Section 35 of the Parliament Act, 1965 (300). This decision was also unanimously adopted by the 275-member parliament.

Since the Bawku Central MP did not have any evidence against the accused persons, he was required to offer an apology to parliament. Unfortunately, his apology to some observers was done in very bad taste, stating in parliament that if he was required to render an apology, then he was sorry. This conditional apology is unacceptable and goes to show that there is no sign of remorse on the part of Mr. Mahama Ayariga. One is tempted to ask what signal is being sent to the Ghanaian youth who are to see people in leadership as role models. In fact, a good and sincere apology is an essential life skill that requires a considerable level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence involves behavioural traits such as self-awareness, self-management, inter-personal awareness and also the ability to build positive inter-personal relationships with offending parties.

Again, a sincere and honest apology engenders trust and good will. Deviation from this principle renders an apology insincere and, therefore, calls for total rejection of the apology rendered. It is important for the Bawku MP to know that the ability and preparedness to swallow one’s pride and render an unqualified apology as required of him is a necessary condition to let sleeping dogs lie. An important point worth noting is the behaviour of some members of parliament who were involved in a near-brawl situation on the floor of parliament. This behaviour demonstrated extreme partisanship instead of sitting back and objectively reflecting on the situation in a manner necessary to encourage an apology from the Bawku Central MP.

Members of parliament are not above reproach and are always required to encourage their guilty colleagues to throw in the towel whenever it becomes necessary followed by the rendering of an apology.

The issue of morality must always be adhered to so that irrespective of which MP is at fault, the right thing can be done for peace to prevail. Engaging in open fight with eachother or resorting to the casting of insinuations in the name of parliamentary democracy is not good enough for this country. We need to encourage good governance through healthy relationship with each other and respect for our opponents as way of rising above pettiness.

This is the culture of democratic decency that we need to portray to our children and the people of this country so that the truth and nothing but the truth will always prevail in society.

BY: KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY.

Need for Ghana to exploit the potential of waste water

For 24 years in succession, Ghana and other countries have been making March 22 annually as World Water Day. The day is used to highlight the urgent need for the global community to manage its fresh water resources in a sustainable manner. The event has become critical in the face of climate change impact on water resources, rapidly rising global population and associated issues like over exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources. 2017 focus on “Water and Waste Water,” is a signal to nations like Ghana to change their attitude towards waste water, also known as sewage. Because of its composition, waste water is high in pollutants, the haphazard disposal of which impacts negatively on the environment and human health.

Additionally, improper discharge of waste water is a major contributor to insanitary environment that breed killer but preventable diseases such as diarrhoea. The US based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that more than 800,000 children under five years die from diarrhoea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11 per cent of the seven point-six million deaths of children under the age of five and it means that about 2,200 children die every day as a result of diarrhoeal diseases. There are also the millions of people who are infected with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water and/or hygiene-related. These include Guinea Worm Disease, Buruli Ulcer and Trachoma, which is a form of blindness that is preventable, and bilharzia or snail fever. All of these are worm related diseases often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices.

From the look of things, improper disposal of waste water should not be encouraged in any human settlement, whether urban, peri-urban or rural. However, the reality is that most waste water produced globally remains untreated causing widespread water pollution. Some UN reports show that 90% of all waste water generated is released into the environment untreated. In many developing countries, the bulk of domestic and industrial waste water is discharged without any treatment or after primary treatment only.

Currently, Ghana lacks adequate waste water treatment systems and majority of households and communities do not have basic sanitary facilities. The good news is that this problematic waste need not be a burden, because it can actually become a source of livelihood enhancement, job creation and income generating avenue. To emphasize the importance of waste water as a resource, the UN commemorated this 2017 World Water Day with the release of a report instead of the usual statement by the UN Secretary General. The report titled “World Water Development Report 2017 – Wastewater: An untapped resource argues that wastewater, discarded into the environment every day, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater. It can also serve as raw materials for energy and agriculture.

Fortunately, there are available simple and inexpensive technologies for treating waste water and tapping its precious resources. The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies that have oversight responsibility for managing the nation’s waste water should begin to dialogue with relevant institutions and organisations such as the Water Research Institute and the International Water Management Institute to tap the potential of waste water.

As a country, let us give priority to the management and recycling of waste water for the general good of the present and future generation.

BY: AMA KUDOM-AGYEMANG, AN ENVIRONMENT AND SCIENCE JOURNALIST.