ACCRA, Ghana (PAMACC News) - At age 55, Beatrice Asantewaa has been actively farming yam, cassava, cocoyam, maize, plantain and groundnuts for over 20 years.

She is fulfilled at tilling the soil to produce food to feed her family and also earns good income to manage her other economic needs.

“I get enough produce to cater for my family and sell others to get money for other things,” she said.

Her major challenge, perhaps, is access to market to ease the disposal of her harvests.

In the future, however, Beatrice will face a bigger challenge of accessing fertile land to grow her crops, as opportunities to allow lands to fallow dwindle.

“Virgin lands are no longer available because of climate change, charcoal burning and indiscriminate tree felling,” noted Henry Azot, a Chief Technical Officer at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

He says critical interventions will be needed to address the challenge of declining soil fertility and scarcity of virgin lands for use in yam cultivation.

Research scientists are exploring solutions to help farmers overcome this challenge by introducing farmers to the Pigeon Pea–Yam Cropping System for improved yam productivity.

The new planting system, implemented by the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and partners, has been identified as sustainable for yam production in the face of depleting soils and climate change.

Research scientist on the project, Eric Owusu Danquah, says the technology also address staking which is crucial in yam production.

“This is very important as it sustains the soil nutrient. It also helps in climate change because farmers don’t clear places on yearly basis; they stay on a particular place continuously for a longer period. We are saving the farmers from cutting down trees to use as stake which also help in carbon sequestration,” he explained.

The pigeon pea is used as allays with the yams planted in-between the ridges. The system also involves placing the pigeon pea at the border zone which are cut and used at stakes – the direct access to stakes saves the farmers from the labour, transportation and cost of buying stakes.

The pigeon pea conserves moisture and fixes atmospheric nitrogen. Its leaves or biomass, which are cut and spread before land preparation, also add to the soil carbon and nutrient stock in sustaining soil fertility.

By 2020, the researchers are hoping to come out with a technology that will be appreciated by farmers.

Opanyin Adu is among yam farmers from the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions targeted for the on-station field trials of the new cropping system at Aframso in the Ejura-Sekyeredumase District of the Ashanti region.

He has been farming the past 30 years, long enough to appreciate the dwindling soil nutrition.

Without the application of fertilizer, Opanyin Adu used to harvest good yields from his yam farm though he planted in mounds.

“Now the land has lost its potency, so you need to apply fertilizer if you are to attain good yield,” he observed.

Opanyin is now looking forward to the outcome of the Pigeon pea–yam cropping system as a productive alternative to his conventional planting method.

“We like the growth of the yam and believe it will be beneficial for us to listen to the researchers. I will like to experiment the new system by farming alongside my conventional system to appreciate the difference,” he said.

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate, has died at the age of 80.

A statement posted on the social media by the Kofi Annan Foundation said that the global statesman died in Switzerland after a short illness.

“It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness,” reads the statement.

Full statement…

It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness. His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.

Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.

After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to young and old alike.

Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.

The family kindly requests privacy at this time of mourning. Arrangements to celebrate his remarkable life will be announced later.

Cocoa, the second largest foreign exchange earner for Ghana, is indeed the cash-cow of the Ghanaian economy. But the cocoa industry, a major driver to deforestation, is reeling under the threat of climate change. Increasing production demands expansion of area under cultivation, with the resultant effect of converting forests to farming systems which leads to decline in carbon stocks. To sustain production, there is the call for the country to explore climate-smart cocoa production practices.

PAMACC News reporter,KOFI ADU DOMFEH takes a look at what Ghana is doing to ensure the cocoa economy and local livelihoods are sustained.

The Paradox of Cocoa Production
A drive through Ghana’s cocoa belts, especially during the dry season, reveals a sorry sight of stretches of cocoa withering from the top as though fire had gone through the top part of farms.

Under good weather and improved farming practices, Ghana unprecedentedly produced one million metric tons of cocoa in the 2010/2011 crop year.

But production has since declined, currently hovering around 850,000 tons.

Temperature plays a critical role in Ghana’s cocoa production – whiles climate change affects agriculture, agriculture also affects climate change.

Agroforestry research scientist, Dr. Luke Anglaaere, describes cocoa production as a paradox to Ghana’s forest depletion and restoration.

“Cocoa is the crop that has led to the destruction of Ghana’s forest and it is the only crop within Ghana’s agricultural system that has the potential to help restore the forest, to bring back the forest,” he said.

The Climate Threat to the Prized Bean

Enjoyed by sweet-toothed consumers the world-over, more than half of the world’s chocolate comes from the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers supply lucrative fair-trade markets in developed countries.

But the climate threat could transform the cherished chocolate bar into a luxury few can afford.

Ghana, at the turn of the century, had 8.2million hectors of forest reserves.

The policy in forest reservation at the time was to reserve a small portion to create a good micro-climate to support cocoa production and other agricultural activities.

“The reduction in forest, alarming though it may seem, was more or less intentional,” noted Kwabena Nketia of Tropenbos International Ghana. “But with time government realized that was not the best of policies; that is allowing the areas outside the reserves to be converted fully to agriculture”.

Most ecological zones in Ghana are experiencing gradual increase in temperature, longer dry season and reduction of annual rainfall.

Mr. Nketia has observed the dwindling fortunes of cocoa production in some northern parts of the country “because the microclimate there does not support cocoa growing; so if we are not careful with the way we manage our forest resources, as we lose our forest, the environment gets drier and drier and cocoa will no longer be able to survive”.

Seven years ago, climate scientists at the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, predicted that the expected increasing temperatures will lead to massive declines in cocoa production in Ghana and other cocoa-growing areas in West Africa by 2030.

Their report also revealed that an expected annual temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius by 2050 will leave the cocoa-producing areas too hot for chocolate.

Warmer conditions mean the heat-sensitive cocoa trees will struggle to get enough water during the growing season, curtailing the development of cocoa pods, containing the prized cocoa bean.

Fatal Cocoa Extension Error

With the exception of the Greater Accra region, cocoa used to be cultivated in all areas of Southern Ghana.

Farmers will clear the forests in these areas to plant their cocoa due to the soil fertility of forest lands.

Initially, some remnant trees were left to provide shade.

With the introduction of hybrid cocoa, however, farmers were advised to remove trees to engender higher yields from the hybrid.

Cocoa extension officers erred in discouraging the cultivation of hybrid cocoa under shade, said Dr. Anglaaere of the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

As an open-sun cocoa, the hybrid cocoa yields higher than when under shade. However, the variety draws heavily on soil nutrients through the export of the beans from the system.

“Within a short time, the nutrient pool within the soil gets depleted very fast and yields begin to decline,” observed Dr. Anglaaere.

Nutrient loss and sun scorch, he said, are major challenges to sustainability. With climate change, temperatures are high and the cocoa trees struggle in the heat and limited nutrients in the soil.

The open-sun system practice, therefore, requires external inputs of fertilizers and agrochemicals for the crop to journey beyond the 15-25 year life-span.

“Our cocoa is not growing healthily and yields are also beginning to suffer. So, invariably, we have to, at any cost, try to bring back shades into that system because the hybrid also does well under shade,” said the researcher.

Now, the government’s policy looks at the possibility of managing areas outside the permanent reserves on sustainable basis, including the promotion of agro-forestry and tree planting.

Farmers are now encouraged to integrate trees in their cocoa production.

Promoting a More Beneficial Shade-Loving System

Ghana has lost half of its forests since 2000, and the rate of loss is two percent per year.

Head of the World Bank’s Climate Investment Fund (CIF), Mafalda Duarte, during a recent visit to Ghana, reiterated the country’s risk of losing its total forest cover if the trend of forest loss continued unchecked.

The CIF has over the past decade invested $75.7 million in Ghana’s reforestation program, implemented by the Forestry Commission and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to help reverse forest degradation in reserves and off-reserves.

The Fund’s intervention is driving a paradigm shift in cocoa production from a “sun loving system” to a more beneficial “shade-loving system” for better yields, better soil, better preserved water streams and biodiversity.

“We ask the farmers to combine the cocoa trees with timber trees, high yielding economic trees. Once you have the timber trees on the farm, they will be providing a lot of shade because cocoa is a forest plant and it thrives best when it exists with other trees,” said COCOBOD Chief Executive, Joseph Boahen Aidoo.

Partnerships for Sustainable Cocoa Production

Among challenges affecting productivity levels of cocoa in West Africa are over-aged and diseased farms.

The world’s top cocoa producer, Cote d’Ivoire, which supplies two million tons of cocoa to the world market annually, is joining forces with Ghana to sustainably grow the bean.

The two leading cocoa economies are accessing a $1.2 billion investment facility from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to rehabilitate cocoa farms and replace forests that were razed to grow cocoa beans.

In Ghana, about 10,000 hectares of diseased cocoa trees will be cut down across the country from August 2018 as the COCOBOD kick-starts series of interventions to increase cocoa yields.

“We are also embarking on irrigation because of the climate effect…to help the farmers harvest all year round,” said Joseph Boahen Aidoo.

The drive to promote sustainable climate-smart cocoa production has been supported by not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations.

SNV Ghana, for instance, has over the years partnered the COCOBOD, the Forestry Commission and some private licensed cocoa buying companies to expose farmers to interventions in climate mitigation and adaptation for sustainable cocoa production.

“Indeed, the negative impact of climate change has become real in virtually all cocoa growing areas across the country and the results are decreasing productivity per unit size of farm,” said Charles Brefo-Nimo of SNV Ghana.

Under the SNV’s Shaded Cocoa Agroforestry Systems (SCAFS), farmers are supplied with tree seedlings to encourage afforestation for improved productivity.

“I received 1,111 cocoa hybrid seedlings, 1,111 pieces of plantain suckers and 30 pieces of economic trees for free, and this means that I have saved a lot of money to make other financial commitments,” said Yaa Ampomah, 60 year old farmer at Essam in the Bia West District of the Western region.

Putting Farmers First to Drive Smart Production

Prior to SNV’s intervention to introduce the farmers to new cocoa farm establishment model, they used to rehabilitate their unproductive farms by using cocoa beans from the disease susceptible Amazon cocoa pod without any planting design.

“Today, we are provided with technical agronomy and extensions support to do lining and pegging as well as using shade system in our farms,” said Christian Nkrumah, a 34 year old farmer from Asuopri Community.

FORIG’s Dr. Anglaaere expects that cocoa farmers would be trained and empowered to plant 15-30 trees on an acre of cocoa farm, more than the 6-7 trees recommended by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

“It is just how you manage the trees that determine the level of impact that they have on the cocoa,” he said. “The type of tree species and management of the trees are important for climate smart production”.

He explained that cocoa and coffee are more shade-tolerant than other agricultural products. Therefore, the number of trees that can be put under food crops is not comparable to the number of trees that the cocoa crop can tolerate.

COCOBOD says it is implementing innovations to improve crop yield in order to boost the country’s cocoa production to one million metric tons ahead of a five-year target.

But Charles Brefo-Nimo of SNV Ghana, says the future for sustainable cocoa production in Ghana requires a multi-facet approach which should be grounded on strong public and private sector funding.

“Cocoa renovation and rehabilitation with agro-forestry system model is a critical climate change adaptation model but other innovative models such as appropriate cost effective and affordable irrigation scheme should be introduced at smallholder levels,” he said.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (PAMACC News) - Bujumbura, la capitale burundaise abrite ce lundi 13 août 2018, la 26ème réunion du Conseil des ministres  de l’Initiative du Bassin du Nil (IBN).

Neuf sur dix  pays membres de cette organisation  ont répondu présents à cette assise tenue à l’Hôtel Club du Lac Tanganyika.

« L’IBN est une organisation intergouvernementale des pays riverains. Il revient à nous tous d’assurer sa protection, de faire la bonne gestion de ses ressources et de jouir équitablement de ses biens, qui sont les fruits de nos efforts », a déclaré Joseph Butore, 2ème vice-président de la République du Burundi.
Procédant à l’ouverture de cette réunion, il a précisé que l’eau est, pour aujourd’hui et demain, considérée comme une force motrice de développement socio-économique des peuples du bassin du Nil en générale, et celui du Burundi en particulier.

M.Butore a ainsi souligné que la gestion du secteur eau demeure un défi majeur face à la pollution perpétrée des eaux, de l’air, le gaspillage et la réduction des zones de protection.
« Le Burundi comme d’autres pays est soumis aux défis de changement climatique », a-t-il fait savoir, notant que le déficit pluviométrique s’est traduit notamment par l’aggravation de l’aridité et la réduction significative des principales zones humides et le tarissement de plusieurs rivières et lacs.

D’après lui, les pluies torrentielles, les températures extrêmes sont aussi autant de phénomènes climatiques qui révèlent aujourd’hui la vulnérabilité de plus en plus grandissante. La conséquence étant la recrudescence des maladies liées à la contamination de l’eau et à l’intoxication de l’air.

Et d’interpeller : « En matière de coopération, chaque pays doit reconnaître que le cours d’eau partagé forme un système unique et cohérent à gérer ensemble avec tous les riverains ».
Pour réussir, le 2ème vice-président de la République du Burundi appelle à l’unité : « Nous devrions rester solidaires au sein de notre organisation qui nous unit, et continuer  de résoudre ensemble les questions qui hantent notre communauté ».

A l’agenda de cette réunion figure la délibération sur l’état de coopération du Nil et examen des orientations  stratégiques sur la gestion et le développement coopératif des ressources en eau de ce bassin.

D’autres points à l’ordre du jour sont : examiner les résultats de l’année précédente et prendre des décisions concernant la stratégie de financement ; le plan d’action pour la mobilisation des ressources et la stratégie de communication et d’engagement des parties prenantes et prendre aussi une décision importante concernant le prochain sommet des Chefs d’Etats.

Et le Burundi, pays hôte va prendre la releve de l’Ethiopie en occupant  le poste du président du Conseil des ministres du Nil tandis que le poste de directeur exécutif du secrétariat de l’IBN reviendra au Soudan du Sud. Son siège est à Entebbe, en Ouganda.

Cette 26ème réunion du Conseil des ministres est tenue sous le thème : « Parvenir à un développement socio-économique durable grâce à l’utilisation équitable des ressources communes du Nil et aux avantages qui en découlent ».

Mis à part le Rwanda, des délégations des neuf pays ont répondu au rendez-vous à savoir  Burundi, RDC, Egypte, Ethiopie, Kenya, Rwanda, Soudan, Soudan du Sud, Tanzanie et Ouganda.

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