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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

EPA Urges Special Attention For Land Management

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 25 September 2007


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked government to give special attention to land management and farming systems to enhance regeneration to protect the country’s vegetation.

It said a study conducted by the agency to assess the long term change in land use and cover in the sub region revealed a reduction in the country’s biodiversity as a result of increased population, illegal resource exploitation, and massive conversion reserves into cocoa plantations among others.

A Principal Programme Officer of EPA, Emmanuel Tachie-Obeng, explained that as a result, the six agro-ecological zones in the country have been re-classified into 12 to reflect the current situation.

Speaking at a workshop in Accra on Friday to validate the report, he said that the study also revealed severe dwindling of water resources in the transitional zones.

He said that the ecological changes associated with the emergence of new eco zones have occasioned the need for changes in livelihood strategies of the local people.

Mr Tachie-Obeng said that the current increases in population in the ecological region due to high demand of land for agricultural activities could affect the integrity of the environ-ment.

He said the country’s natural resources would continue to suffer decline with increased population, suspension of ban on mining in forest reserves and emergence of open cast mining.

He underscored the importance of reserving and developing some of the mountain ecosystems for eco-tourism and sustainable development for the benefit of the local communities and for the purpose of environmental protection.

He said that it is also important that mechanised agriculture is incorporated in agro-forestry practices to avert further decline of the country’s vegetation.

Mr Tachie-Obeng urged government to prioritise environmental issues and consider it as one of its key policies. He recommended the provision of logistical support to natural resources and environmental management organisations to develop management models to reverse the degrading trends.

The Deputy Executive Director of EPA, Daniel Amlalo, said the country’s natural resources have suffered much decline in the past three decades due to exploitation to meet growing socio-economic needs.

“Shifting cultivation, uncontrolled logging, wild fires, surface mining, charcoal production and increasing human population have tended to place enormous pressures on the resources in the country,” he noted.

He urged the participants to come up with directions on how best the report should be packaged in a way that all levels of society could understand and appreciate the value of the environment to safeguard and manage them as productive resources.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Artists Criticise Media



By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 22 September 2007



Members of Art in Social Structures (AISS), an NGO have criticised the Ghanaian media for the little attention being given art and artists in the country leading to low interest in art among the people.

They explained that art is fundamental to civil societies and important that a community’s creative resources are preserved and nurtured for its own growth and for future generations.

The members indicated that the situation has made it difficult for people to take up art and or take artists seriously in the country.

The group made the remarks at a "Journalists Art Criticism Workshop" in Accra designed to whip up the interest of journalists with little or no art training to become engaged with visual culture.

Conceptualised by Dr. Joe Nkrumah, a former Director of the National Museum of Ghana, the workshop created a platform for the journalist participants to discuss and evaluate some art work after they were taken through the elements of art and key ingredients in critiquing art work.

Senam Okudzeto, President of the AISS said due to the absence of art critique in the country, "the people don’t feel their relationship with art. Through the media every will be able to see, share and appreciate art".

She observed that although Ghana abounds in visual art, most Ghanaians do not appreciate it and its media too has not done enough to promote it," adding "the newspapers are saturated with politics"

She said that there are a number of popular musicians, artists, writers, authors and architects whose work abroad advertise Ghana as a site of cultural excellence and are internationally lauded as global leaders in culture, yet are virtually known in their own country.

Ms.Okudzeto who is an international artists, said that local artists such as Agblade Glover, Victor Butler and Kofi Settogee who are in the country receive little media attention, though they are very respected abroad.


She said it is important that Ghanaians are made aware of the achievements of their artists both locally and internationally.

She said the AISS is much committed in encouraging a creative and practical discourse about art and contemporary life in the country.
Contributing, Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo, Ag. Director of the School of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana said art is intrinsic to us as people, saying "we wear art in our daily lives."

She said it is the responsibility of the media to bring the meaning of art to the people in order for them to have interest in art. "You should write in such a way that will interest them," adding "We should not say people are not interested"
It is important that journalists critically look at what art is in our culture and tell it to their readers and listeners, she said, noting that Ghanaian journalists have left the stories of the country’s culture to be told by "outsiders".

Dr. Gadzekpo urged journalists to promote the beautiful things in the country’s culture most of which she noted are fundamental to art.

She indicated that art and artefacts within our society tells us that civilisation was there long before the Europeans came to Africa.
On his part, Godfried Donkor, a Ghanaian international artist, urged the Ghanaian media to look critically at the country’s culture and create wealth out of it through art.

He said historical sites like James Town in Accra should be designated as heritage sites.

Poverty And Child Trafficking- Any Justification?

...Ask Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 20 September 2007


"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these," Matthew 19:14.



Children are gifts from God and are said to be the glory of every woman. They bring happiness to families. In our part of the world, many marriages have broken down due to the inability of the couple to make babies.


Because of this situation, many couples resort to various means to be able to make babies. While some seek God’s intervention, others resort to orthodox medicine or the intervention of fetish priests.



CEREMONY

Then comes the merry-making when finally a child is born to the couple. The child is officially ushered into the world at a naming ceremony full of fun and excitement. At the traditional ceremony, the child is given a drop of hard liquor and water signifying smooth or difficult times in life.


Truly, in our part of the world life has not always been the same for everyone. While some people are having it easy and smooth, others are faced with difficulties due to poverty. In Africa, generally, millions of people are poor, a situation which has made African children more vulnerable and thus suffer in the hands of their parents and other adults.


In the struggle for families’ survival, children in poor communities mostly become victims of exploitation because of their vulnerability. Most children in such communities, instead of going to school, are forced to work, sometimes in very dangerous conditions, fight in armed conflicts or even engage in commercial sex – all of which are in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.



Traditionally, it is a common practice in Africa for poor parents to hand over their children to relatives and friends who are mostly living in the cities, andpromise to give the children education or vocational training, but in most cases it never happens. In some cases, other parents give out their children to people in return for monthly, quarterly or annual compensation. This has been described as child trafficking.


Statistics on trafficking are however not available as they are difficult to obtain due to the underground nature of the activity. But it is estimated that over one million children worldwide, including thousands in West Africa, are recruited from their homes each year by individuals seeking to exploit their labour. Some of them are sold outright.



The UN has estimated that 200,000 African children, some as young as three years old, are trafficked yearly. Governments, especially African governments always do not give the true picture of the phenomenon in their countries. This has resulted in conflicting figures by government officials and non-governmental organisations.



The ninth principle of the Geneva Declaration on Human Rights of the Child states explicitly that "the child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic in any form".
Child trafficking has in recent years emerged as an issue of global concern due to the world’s consensus and cooperation in fighting this heinous crime. Currently, child trafficking has highly become lucrative especially in Europe. It has been identified as the third largest source of profits of organised crime after drugs and guns.


In Ghana, child trafficking within the country is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. These children are used as labour in the fishing industry, on farmlands, quarries, and as porters, street hawkers and truck pushers.


According to some NGOs in the country, lack of employment in many communities is the main factor compelling parents to illegally sell their children through migrant traffickers who offer "real package deals". These children who are mostly taken to the towns and villages along the Volta Lake are abused and exploited by their "owners" to make money. And the effects of trafficking are very devastating. Some of them are cut from their roots, thus losing contacts with their biological family, at times permanently.


They are deprived of the right to enjoy life to the fullest. Their harsh working conditions make them deeply traumatised and damaged both physically and mentally in the long term.


On January 25, 2006, twenty-five of such children in Ghana were rescued by the International Organisation for Migration, an NGO from Kete-Krachi where they were being used for fishing on the Volta Lake. They were from the Central, Eastern and Greater Accra Regions and rescued under the "Yeji Child Trafficking Project", which started in 2002. The project has since rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated 612 of such trafficked children.Some of these children between the ages of six and 17, had developed signs of abuse. They had cracked lips and soles and ulcers. Their hairs were unkempt, were shabbily dressed, bare-footed, had skin rash, bilharzias and ear infections.


According to a UNDP report, 315 million people, about half the population in sub-Saharan Africa, survive on less than one dollar per day. It said less than 50 per cent of Africa’s population has access to hospitals or doctors. In 2000, 300 million Africans did not have access to safe water. The report indicated that only 57 per cent of African children are enrolled in primary education.


However the Ghana Statistical Services "Patterns and Trends of Poverty in Ghana 1991-2006 Report" released last April revealed that poverty in the country had reduced by half. It indicated that school enrolment in primary and secondary had therefore improved considerably since 1991 with four out of five Ghanaian children in the relevant age group currently attending primary school.



On health, the report said people’s preference for consulting pharmacists and chemical sellers to seeing doctors increased between the same period. Also mobile phones had increased in the last ten years while access to potable water had increased a lot in rural areas.


In fact, I read with surprise media reports on the said reduction in poverty, and asked myself whether this reduction in figure can be said of the situation on the ground, especially in the rural communities. Let us not look far. Just visit James Town, Chorkor, Alajo, Sodom and Gomorrah and Bortianor, all in Accra, and you would come to terms with what the level of poverty is like and whether the people are really better off.


In some rural communities in the country access to education, health, potable water and other basic social utilities is non-existent. Some school children in such communities walk long distances on foot to attend school daily as there is no means of transport.


Some communities which are fortunate to have schools, most of the times, lack good infrastructure and teachers. Some children study under trees while others have no teachers, which manifests in their poor performance in both Basic and Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations yearly.


Although poverty is with us, I sometimes blame those who are living in poverty for their woes. In Ghana, almost all the citizenry are looking up to the central government to provide "everything" for them, ranging from employment to social infrastructure and amenities. Some people sit idle in their homes not wanting to start anything, while others, throughout the week move from church to church and prayer camp to prayer camp wasting productive hours. Though there are a lot of opportunities in agriculture for people to take advantage of and earn a living, they seem not to be conscious of such opportunities.


Reducing poverty levels in poor communities world dramatically decrease the rate of child trafficking by making children less vulnerable. Enrolment of children in school is fundamental. Apart from protecting and educating them about their rights, it also gives them practical skills for work in the future.


The metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies must ensure that all children of school going age are enrolled in school now that the government has introduced the Capitation Grant and the School Feeding Programme. To enforce this, the assemblies should enact by-laws to deal drastically with parents who refuse to enrol their children in school.

CAMPAIGNS

One crucial element in combating the phenomenon is through local awareness campaigns to empower communities, families and children themselves to prevent trafficking. Government must also sensitise them on the various declarations, conventions and laws against child trafficking as most communities are unaware of the existence of such laws.

Poverty must never be a justification for a parent to sell or lease his or her child to a stranger to be taken away for whatever reason. They should be ready and willing to cater for their own children. Parents must uphold their responsibilities towards their children and take their role as primary caregivers very seriously. They can best do this when they have good employment. Therefore, they should be backed by the assemblies with economic development and micro credit facilities among other things to put them in good position to look after their children, since they are the future leaders of this great nation.

CEASE FIRE - STUDENT PLEADS WITH FACTIONS

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 20 September 2007

Distraught about the reported conflict between Konkombas and Bimobas, which has resulted in the death of six people and scores of houses burnt, a Konkomba student at the Accra Polytechnic, Augustina Nte-domoh Namuel, decided to do something about it.
Yesterday, she came to the Ghanaian Times office in Accra to seek our help in sending a passionate appeal to the groups at Jimbali, in the Bunkpurugu-Yooyoo District of the Northern Region, to immediately end the fighting.

She also called on Bimobas and Konkombas resident in Accra, to come together as one people to intervene in the clash which started last Sunday.

Ms. Namuel, 26, who came to the Times office early in the morning, expressed the fear that if an immediate solution is not found to the conflict, it could result in an escalation of the fighting.

The third year Higher National Diploma Fashion student who looked disturbed, made reference to the 1994 Konkomba-Dagomba conflict, saying that what started then as a small misunderstanding later degenerated into a disaster for the area.

She said news about the fighting between the two ethnic groups came as a shock to the Konkombas resident in Accra, adding "I have not been feeling fine since I heard about the clashes. It breaks one’s heart when you hear such a thing."

She noted that a number of Konkombas resident in Accra she spoke to are ready to join forces with Bimobas in Accra to seek security support to go to the area and broker peace.
Her mother and three siblings are at Saboba, the main Konkomba settlement, in the Saboba-Chereponi District.

She told the Times that this is not the time for her people to fight each other as "we are all one people," pointing out that "educationally, we are lagging behind and instead of catching up with the other regions, we are fighting among ourselves."

She called on the leaders of the two ethnic groups to lead in bringing about a ceasefire in the district to ensure peace and development.

The intermittent conflicts between the two ethnic groups were renewed last Sunday, allegedly following a misunderstanding between a Bimoba man and a Konkomba man at the Jimbali market in the district.

Many people have reportedly sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and are said to be receiving medical attention at the Nalerigu Hospital and nearby clinics, while about 300 houses in several communities have reportedly been burnt to ashes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ocquaye ‘Meets The Volta’

From Stephen K.Effah, Sogakope
Friday, 14 September 2007

A Presidential Aspirant of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Professor Mike Ocquaye, on Wednesday held the first in the series of regional forums with party faithful at Sogakope in the Volta Region, describing it as a prelude to the formal launch of his bid.
The meeting dubbed: "Meet the Volta" was aimed at discussing with the people the various programmes and policies he intends to implement if elected as the President of Ghana.

Prof. Ocquaye said should he become the President, he would embark on a green revolution by adopting the Asian model of agriculture through the use of simple tools and implements for production, and the creation of mass ordinary producers whose net produce will be equivalent to large plantation production levels.
He said grain production in the country would be given a boost, noting that corn will be grown throughout the year with simple irrigation techniques.
"We are going to grow corn bountifully to eliminate hunger and bring up a new generation of children who will eat an egg a day," he said.

He said a Grain Marketing Board would be established to purchase grains at guaranteed price to encourage farmers to store and market their grain production.

On education, the former Minister of Communications said his government would decentralised it by empowering district assemblies to take centre stage, adding that education budget will also be decentralised as originally perceived in PNDCL 207.

He said his educational programmes would encourage part time education to enable those who are not in formal education to improve themselves, saying "every district shall have adult night school/college to serve as the focal point for part-time, continuing education."

He underscored the importance of Information Technology and Mathematics education which he said is very key to the country’s development.

The former political science lecturer, said his government will re-orient its approach to private sector development and design appropriate measures tailored to the national agenda and goals.

In the health sector, he indicated his intention to tackle environmental and sanitation problems facing the country which has resulted in the outbreak of diseases, and among other things reintroduce ‘town-council’ inspectors of the colonial times."

He said he would encourage environmental hygiene, introduce more preventive methods and intensify research to help the sector be on top of all diseases.

Professor Ocquaye, who is also a lawyer, said that law and order will be a hallmark of his government, noting that the "spate of vehicular accidents, the needless disorder in public places, recent incidents of drug trafficking and the high incidence of trafficking would all be stamped-out of the country."
Touching on the media landscape, he said that the internal self regulatory mechanism of the media as a respectable institution would be re-examined to empower it to discipline its members without external interference.

That, he explained, would help maintain high journalistic standards.
On the party front, he said if elected as the party’s presidential candidate, he will work to "build it stronger and stronger in the interest of the party and Ghana as a whole."

Prof. Ocquaye who is the Member of Parliament for Dome-Kwabenya said if elected as the presidential candidate of the party, he will operate under the policy "Party in Partnership with Government."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ghana, Spain Strenthen Ties

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 07 September 2007

The Spanish government is in discussions with the Ghana government over how Ghanaian workers can be organised for legal employment in Spain as a means of checking illegal migration to Spain.

This is the first time Ghana is organising labour for Spain, and a memorandum of understanding is to be signed by the two countries.

Jesus Caldera Sanchez-Capitan, Spanish Labour and Social Affairs Minister, said that a total of 8,000 out of the 10,000 Ghanaians legally resident in Spain are employed in various sectors of the economy.

He said that the Spanish government would ensure that Spanish employers and companies employ the Ghanaians who will have the opportunity to be part of the recruitment when the programme starts.

Mr. Sanchez-Capitan said this when he called on the Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Nana Akomea yesterday, to brief him on the programme.

The Spanish Minister who is in the country to strengthen cooperation between Spain and Ghana said his government has also agreed to finance the improvement of all the 38 national vocational training schools in the country, and offer scholarships to people to further their education both in and out of the country.

He said the Spanish Ambassador in Ghana has been tasked to liaise with the head of national vocational training schools to work out the modalities to determine how much it would cost.

He said that there is the need to train Ghanaians to be able to have the requisite skills so that they can get good jobs when they get to Spain.

Nana Akomea lauded the Spanish government for the support to Ghana which he said would go a long way to help a lot of the country’s youth.

He said Ghana and Spain will soon sign an agreement on how the recruitment for Spain will be done, noting that there is already a draft agreement in place.

Illegal migration to Spain on the high seas involving African youth is a major problem as it endangers their lives, he said.

He underscored the long standing support by the Spanish government, which has enabled Ghana to develop its tourism industry.

He called on the Spanish government for more and stronger social and economic cooperation between the two countries, adding that if Ghanaians remain poor, they will still be leaving the country for greener pastures.

Mr.Stephen B. Amponsah, Head of the National Vocational Training Schools, commended Spain for its initiative to support Ghana’s vocational training schools, saying this would help the schools to take up the challenge of JSS graduates who are unable to enter SSS and offer them the opportunity to be trained.

He said that the curricula of the vocational training schools would be redeveloped to meet contemporary demands which make entrepreneurship central in vocational training.

That, he said, would give vocational training a new focus to impact on those who pass through it.

The Spanish Minister also called on the President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle on Wednesday.