Saturday, January 26, 2013
Friday, October 26, 2012
THE importance of forests to human life cannot be overemphasized. According to agric scientists, forests, apart from conserving nature, are a source of life.
They purify the air that we breathe, serve as habitat for the animals that we feed on, and preserve climatic temperatures to protect our bodies. In Africa, in particular, forests are the main source of herbs and many of the food we eat.
Experts have also noted that forests play a crucial role in helping mitigate the impact of climate change on humans.
|Some illegally-sawn timber that were recently seized in Saboba|
According to the Director of the United Nations (UN) Forum on Forests Secretariat, Mr Pekka Patosaary, forests can act as a ‘sink’ to absorb greenhouse emissions and store large quantities of carbon for extended periods of time.
No wonder the developed world is now committing itself to invest in afforestation projects in Africa under the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiative.
One is therefore at a lost why forests in the Northern Region of Ghana are being depleted at such an alarming rate, in spite of how essential they are to the livelihoods of the people in the region.
Checks at the Forestry Commission indicate that there are 24 forest reserves in the Northern Region.
The region even boasts of having the largest forest reserve in Ghana, the Yakombo Forest Reserve, near Buipe, which occupies an estimated land area of 1,160km².
Each year, more trees are planted in various parts of the region so as to create new or replenish existing woodlots and forest plantations.
Currently, the Forestry Services Department (FSD) of the Forestry Commission is establishing large acres of forest plantations in various parts of the region through the National Forest Plantation Development Programme.
During a recent visit to the Northern Region by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry, the Northern Regional Forestry Manager, Mr Ebenezer Djaney Djagbletey, revealed that the region had exceeded its targets for the plantation programme.
“A total area of 3,309 hectares had been planted by the end of December, 2010, which is far higher than the 2000 hectares target that had been set,” he told the committee.
He said in Yendi alone, a total area of 1,126 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas and 200 hectares in existing forest reserves.
In Tamale, a total area of 462 hectares was planted in off-reserve areas, whiles 70 hectares of areas located within forest reserves had been planted.
In spite of all these glamorous statistics about the establishment of large acres of forest plantations, the question to ask is “how many of these trees would survive?”
How many would become prey to the painful blade of chain-saw operators and how many would crumble when the dry season fires start?
Statistics from the EPA paint a gloomy picture about the depletion of forest resources in the Northern Region.
According to the EPA, the region loses 38, 000 hectares of its tree cover every year due to activities such as indiscriminate bush burning, deforestation, use of chemicals in fishing, over grazing by livestock and illegal commercial logging.
Just recently, the FSD intercepted large quantities of illegally sawn rosewood, which had been felled from forest plantations in the Saboba district.
Due to the depletion of forests and the vegetation, some parts of the region are being reduced to desert-like conditions and this has caused a reduction in food and water resources and also increased the intensity and duration of droughts and disasters in the north.
It is sad to note that many community folk do not seem to know about the harm they cause to the environment and future generations when they run down forest resources.
The extent to which they cut down trees for firewood and to make space for farming and settlements exposes the region to desertification.
Unfortunately, forest conservation issues do not receive adequate attention from local government authorities and politicians in the region.
Under the noses of District Chief Executives, Members of Parliament, Co-ordinating Directors and traditional rulers, forests are destroyed and no one seems to border.
It is high time that the nation’s leaders and the entire populace were reoriented on the importance of forests and the need to conserve them.
Politicians, chiefs and opinion leaders in the region must stand up now to protect the region’s forests and not wait for calamity to befall us.
|Afa Alhassan being assisted by mom and auntie to dry his nuts|
EACH year between August and October, one can see chains of women carrying sacks and pans filled with freshly harvested groundnuts and walking along dusty or muddy paths in villages in Northern Ghana.
It is that period of the year when groundnut farmers harvest their groundnuts, which were planted earlier in the year.
Groundnut or peanut happens to be one of the most farmed food crops in Northern Ghana due to its health, culinary and economic values.
In 2011, the Ministry of Food Agriculture (MoFA) indicated that the total output of groundnut produced in the three regions of the north accounted for about 80 percent of the nation’s total groundnut production.
In a recent trip to Zokuga, a farming community in the Savelugu/Nanton district of the Northern Region, I met with a 44-year old farmer who has been cultivating groundnut since childhood.
It was midday and Afa Mohammed Alhassan as he is called was busily drying groundnut he had harvested from his 10-acre farm. He was being supported by his mother, Mma Salamatu and auntie, Mma Maata.
In the interaction that followed, he mentioned that although he farms both maize and groundnut, it was the latter that was so dear to his heart.
|Afa Alhassan speaking to me|
“I focus much of my attention on farming groundnut because it is through this that I get enough income to take care of my family,” he said, adding that his favourite variety is ‘abaen’.
Afa Alhassan was unequivocal in stating that his life as a groundnut farmer depended on good harvest.
“When harvest is good, I can get about seven bags of groundnuts from an acre and this happens only once a while,” he stated.
At the time, a bag of groundnut was selling between GH¢50 to GH¢70 and this in an incentive to Afa Alhassan.
“When prices are good, it helps us farmers to reap what we have sown,” he said with a smile.
I asked him what were the factors that can account for a good harvest and he mentioned good rains as paramount.
He noted that having a good harvest depended also on planting at the right time, adding that to plant one needs to mobilise the seeds and get the land prepared.
Unlike maize and other crops, groundnut does not depend heavily on fertilizer and this, in the estimation of Afa Alhassan, is one thing that makes farming groundnut conducive for the rural poor.
In spite of this, he thinks that groundnut farmers, like other farmers, need some support from government and other organisations.
“When the season arrives and there are no tractors to prepare the land, then it could affect planting,” he said.
Afa Alhassan said the lack of equipment for harvesting and shelling groundnuts makes the work of harvesting groundnut a bit laborious.
During harvest, he and other farmers use either their hands or hoes to uproot the vines from the ground, depending on the texture of the soil.
“When the ground is still wet, we can use our hands, but if it is dry, we have to use hoes,” he said.
He said after the vines are uprooted, he employs the services of some women to separate the nuts from the vines, assemble them in heaps and transport them in pans and in sacks to his house.
It is then that another process begins as the nuts have to be dried for a period of time, before being shelled, separated from the kennels and packed into sacks.
“It is a painstaking process,” he said.
Of course, Afa Alhassan is also concerned about getting the needed technologies to increase yield.
“If we can get help to enable us get better yields, it would help us a lot because our lives depend on it,” he noted.
Like many other rural men, Afa Alhassan has two wives and four children, but is not satisfied.
“I want to have more children,” he intimated, adding that “Three of the children are for my first wife and so my second wife would also be delivering two more.”
He admitted that taking care of his four children, together with his mother and other extended family, is quite a challenge, especially in keeping his children in school.
Three of them, Zakaria, Alhassan and Memunatu attend the Zokuga nursery and primary school.
“Sometimes, the teachers ask us to pay some dues and buy some items for the children and I try to get it for them,” he said.
|Afa Alhassan's children are in school|
“They tell us that education is good, but I am yet to feel it because none of my children has gone far with their education,” Afa Alhassan said, with a sense of uncertainty.
“Have you not heard of family planning,” I asked him and his response was expected: “I have heard of it, but I want to have more children because I do not know which one of them would prosper in future.”
Efforts to explain that family planning is about planning child birth would however not sink.
Well, it appears that Afa Alhassan’s 44-years of farming has shaped his idea of life and what he considers the most important is how to get a good harvest each farming season.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
|Npong shopping vegetables inside Tamale Central Market. Display are GMO tomatoes, pepper.|
The market looked dangerously constructed, the walking lanes are narrow. Trucker pushers and owners worsened the situatuion as they force their ways through these narrow lanes, carelessly pushing shoppers side by side and some instances block the lane to offload their carriage.
I was not sure of what my wife meant when she stressed “buy fresh and good looking peper, tomatoes, okra, and salt? Do we have fresh and good looking salt too? I asked.
“Be sure not to also buy chemically induced vegetables for me, you know i am careful of my family’s health”, she commanded.
My wife is among millions of people in the world who habor bad feelings about genetically modified foods (GMOs). But she would not object to cakes, cholates made from genetically modified wheat as gift, fresh and good looking vegetables who genes have been modified to improve their desired traits such as good looking, nutritional content, it’s durabitity among other things.
Scientists are currently battling to correct the notion that GMOs are dangerous to health. According to Professor Wayne Powell from the university of Aberystwyth, the modification of plants in the laboratory is to enhance their desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides, pesticides, drought or improved their nutritional content and that nothing dangerous about the use of GMOs has been scientifically established. Prof. Powell was addressing seasoned journalists in Ghana who took part in in workshop on initiating dialogue on plants breeding, genetics and bioscience for farming organised by Bioscience for Farming in Africa (B4FA) for some selected sceince reporters held in Accra.
He explained that, GM technology was developed after the second war II to help boost agriculture to meet global food supply. GM process involves the transfer of genes responsible for desired traits of plants such as drought and insects tolerance, or high nutritional content into a different plant.
The best known example of this is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t. genes) used in corn and other crops.
He also disapproved negative comments associated to GM products and that GMOs are to ensure regular food supply to the increasing population by controlling pests, crops diseases and improving their nutritional content for the wellbeing of both humans and animals.
My wife has been a great patronist of GMO products at the sametime she detests it. She would not reject genetically modified wheat cholate, biscuit, neither would she buy bad looking vegetable from the market. Her attitude towards GMO s stem from protests and rumours making round alleging the dangers associated to GMOs. Ironically, my wife would also not go anywhere without her GSM cell phone which scienctists say are dangerous than the consumption of GMOs.