Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 Africa for Results Forum: Towards an Affective Management of Natural Resources

On the wings of AfDB and ACBF, I was asked to attend this forum in Harare. I bring you my own personal excerpts from the discussions, on a day by day basis. This is Day 1:

Yesterday was a long morning at the AfCoP 6th Annual meeting  on Effective Management of Natural Resources for Africa & the Afrik4R Gender and Youth Issues on the Continent. AfCoP, MfDR, Afrik4R, AfDB, ACFBF are the key abbreviations you need know as platform for this entire conversation. This year, the gathering is in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it was opened yesterday by a league of powerful men and women from across the continent.

The opening statements were given by 4 stalwarts, the final and the ultimate being Hon. Walter Chidakwa, Minister for Mines and Mining Development for Zimbabwe. By the time he began giving his speech, most participants, in the usual style, were beginning to nod off, and I was gagging myself on mints to stay awake! It was a long, rather boring morning of ‘opening statements’. Hon. Chidakwa read his 20-minute speech, which at the time, we did not know was a prepared speech, at the end of which time, he went into a slight lull. The whole room became very silent. Chidakwa’s voice changed.

Walter Chidakwa - Min. for Mines & Mining Development Zimbabwe
Mr. Chdakwa with South African Minister for Mining Susan S.

'As we all know', he announced in that voice I know so well – that voice that natural orators switch to when they are about to make a declaration that will never leave time and space the same again – 'whenever ministers have these functions, they have permanent secretaries defining and scripting for them the things they should say, and the presentations they should make' (not in Ghana, where most political leaders speak out of their backsides). He continued, speaking of how Africa has always been of the heart, not only of the mind, and therefore, he was going to put away this dutiful script and speak from the heart.

Excerpts from his ‘Heart’ Welcoming Address:
'A few days ago, I was at a gathering of ministers, where we were discussing issues pertaining to the extractive industry (mineral and oil) of the continent, and most of us agreed with the realization that everything concerning Africa’s resources and Africa’s future is discussed by everyone …but Africans themselves. Well, today, when I return, I am going to call my colleagues and tell them that that is not so true; a gathering of people just arrived in my capital to do exactly that – discuss Africa’s Natural Resources. Whenever this industry comes up, some of us keep finding ourselves referring to the colonial challenges we faced and continue to face, and yet some of us get frustrated and say, “But why do you keep raising this age-old problem?” My response is as follows:

In Africa, we have models we operate on for our extractive industry. Models that have been there for more than 100 years. Models that gave foreigners access to our Natural Resources (NRs) even before we were born. And so they dig into our land, take our minerals, and use words and figures to detract our attention from the fact that we are actually holding the losing end of the stick. If you say you have given us 49% of the shares of your holdings, and that 40% you have given us translates into $USD70million per annum, whereas after taking your 51% through processing, you get $USD900million per annum in your coffers, who is gaining from whom? And when we point that out, they get flustered and annoyed and say, ‘Let us just stick to percentage shares, and stop negotiating for the monetary value’. So therefore, if we have not benefited from this model after a 100 years, must we sit and watch? Must we accept it as God-given?

He takes the speech a notch higher
Just because you have used your equipment to mine it does not make it yours. Just because its value has reflected on your spreadsheets does not make it yours. You take the value in our ground, tear open the bowels of our earth, and take the value, convert it and put it on paper and leverage it for more money.

They take this same value, these figures on paper, and on the back of this paper, go and list on stock exchanges that are outside of our countries, and leverage our wealth there, making revenues that never come back to us, or come back in minutae.

Africa MUST have hubs of value addition. Hubs that add value, that process our minerals and resources and send them out, for greater value, under better negotiations. Hubs that not only serve sub-regions of Africa, but ultimately unite them. Because we cannot move on to this next phase of owning our own resources if we go about it individually.

And now, in true colonial style, let me quote from Shakespeare ….. (which he does, at great length and impressively). During the official gathering photos that were taken right after, I strolled down the staircase with him, in a brief chat. I was heavily moved by his statements, I told him. He has balls, I told him. He stared at me, but I continued. If only our own ministers had half his balls, Ghana will be such a great country. He nodded. I know about Ghana’s wealth. We ministers meet again in a few weeks. We shall talk, he said.'

Well, Mr. Chidakwa, I don’t know just how much of an impact you will be able to make on my Honourable Ministers for Energy, for Environment, for Lands and Natural Resources and their complementary Directors. But you, you keep on doing what you are doing, and soon, the young shall join you save Zimbabwe!

Tomorrow, I bring you more on deliberations and conversations going on here. Stay tuned.

Harare, Zimbabwe.
2nd December, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taking a Green Leap of Faith: tales from Ghana

Hey funky people and green-lovers! So, my latest adventure in the world of environmental and sustainability issues has been my traipse up the boardwalk of the Medium group, with Rowan Moore Gerety, an editor who focuses on African Makers and African Innovation.

He gave me the nudge and opportunity to talk about our Eco-Design School in Aburi, which, shame on me, I have said very little about on here! So, instead of re-hashing it all, I thought 'What the heck. Share and link up.' What, photos? They are all in there. See below:

 ... read more.

Facebook Album: click here

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Guest Post: loaned from 'Mind of Malaka' - DOES GHANA HAVE ANYTHING TO FEAR FROM MONSANTO?

This post hit right home. Thank you Malaka!! You're a smashing spud, and tasty too!! :D

Monsanto, for all those of you still not fully aware, are the contemporary version of what in the medieval age would have been Count Dracula in his purple-smoke, hackle-raising, weird-smelling, strange-animals-in-cages, terrifying body parts pickled in large mason jars filled laboratory... with a Frankenstein character  of a lab assistant handing him every test tube with a hoarse cackle. That is fundamentally Monsanto, but they look like James Bond and his cohorts - wonderfully suave and clean, with a sensual hint of rakishness.

Anyway, I talk too much. Read Malaka's thoughts about Monsanto ... now in your backyard, fridge, kitchen. Yes, in Ghana. Eeeeeeeeek!!

Does Ghana – or Africa as a whole, for that matter – have anything to fear from Monsanto? The short answer is “yes”. Anytime a huge US conglomerate takes an active interest in developing nations or any geographic area perceived as being bereft of privilege, there is cause for concern.
I first heard about Monsanto while watching the documentary Food, Inc. I have to be honest: it was pretty terrifying stuff. The idea that one company had the power to change the face and nature of the types of food we eat, dictate how our crops are planted, and make farmers solely dependent on their agricultural products because the very nature of that product (i.e. seeds) had the capacity to alter the state of the very soil it was planted in so that nothing else but genetically modified seed could thrive there is a little disconcerting. The antics of the Greek god Ares come to mind, for some unexplained reason. I visualize carnage… carnage everywhere.
To hear a number of American farmers tell it, they feel “enslaved” to Monsanto. No doubt this sentiment arises from the voluminous contracts the company is the habit of handing out to those who be willing to make a deal with the Dark One. (You can read about it here.)
In fairness to Monsanto, the company has done some unquestionably impressive things in the realm of science since the company’s inception in 1901.  Some of its more harmless achievements include creating and selling the artificial sweetener saccharin to Coke; it became the first company to start mass production of (visible) light emitting diodes (LEDs); and it gave us AstroTurf, which is an imperative must at the Super Bowl.
However, some of its more sinister inventions include DDT (which eliminated malaria in America, but destroyed bald eagle shells, sending the population into decline), Agent Orange (the toxic effects of which still persist 51 years later) and lastly, genetically engineered seed.
It is the last component that I am most concerned about with regard to Ghana in particular and Africa as a whole.
There is no doubt that Africa has a problem feeding itself. It is estimated that every 5 seconds, a child dies from a hunger related disease.  As usual, and as it is with every African crisis, our leadership looks outside of its borders, way across the sea and into some Westerners science lab of carpeted office for solutions to the same problems that these labs and offices created. Enter Monsanto. And Bono. And Kofi Anan. And President Obama.
Looking at the lineup, we should trust all of the gentlemen. They are Nobel Laureates and by the world’s standards, very intelligent and well-meaning individuals. The trouble is none of these guys are farmers; for if they were farmers, they would know better than to engage in this sort of sanctimonious frivolity which has gotten the Western world nowhere but fat, sick and nearly dead.
We don’t have to go very far into the past to see the future effects of genetically modified food. Take a stroll around Any Mall, USA, and you can see the direct effects of bovine somatotropin, a hormone injected into cows pituitary glands to increase milk production. Bigger udders on cows = bigger boobs on little girls. Throw a Σ and a few Ωs in there, and you’ve got yourself an equation for disaster. Other unforeseen consequences of genetically modifying our foods in such an aggressive manner include indecent acts against these unnaturally buxom young ladies of the R. Kelly variety, which then translates to increased prosecution rates and overcrowding of our prisons.
But for the purposes of our discussion today, we are looking to Africa’s fertile land scape… not the waxy surfaces of North Point Mall.
From the little that I have read on genetically engineered seed (GES), I have learned that these plants are extremely aggressive. They take over native crop varieties and either strangle them or at best, cause them to mutate. There is also the alarming phenomenon of Monsanto seed – marketed as ‘Roundup’ – causing glyphosate resistance, whereby overuse of Roundup creates aggressive, herbicide-immune super-weeds. In turn, these super resistant weeds require more toxic chemicals in order to suppress them. It’s the agro-equivalent of Super Gonorrhea.
Ghana, along with Tanzania and Ethiopia, has signed on for Phase 2 of the so-called Green Revolution, which in simplest terms in the business of creating ‘higher yielding crops’ (not necessarily higher quality) in Africa.
This is where I get stuck… because it’s obvious that someone in the Kufuor/Mills/Mahama administration did not do their homework before inking this deal (as usual) and putting the farmers – our country’s backbone – at risk. I smell a kick back.
I can’t speak for other African nations, but the fact is, Ghana’s feeding problems have less to do with output than how to get the product to market. How often have you driven through a village and seen women and children scrambling to sell their wares to passers through? Depending on the topography, they will all be carrying similar items: okro, garden eggs, tomatoes, and/or pineapples. People in the villages who carry out subsistence farming eat very well. Ironically, they produce more than they need to get by. The failure of the government, private industry and other stakeholders has been in engaging these farmers in a meaningful way, and helping them bring their goods to market in an efficient and cost effective manner.
Ghanaians die not only from hunger, but from malnutrition in alarming and needless rates. Because the cost of transporting food is so high, our diet is severely limited to basic carbohydrate saturated staples like kenkey, gari, rice and over fried fish, when we need to be eating more greens, fruits and legumes – which are grown in abundance.  Tragically, every few months there are reports of crops tumbling from the sides of tipper trucks en masse, or worse, being left to rot in one production center or another because the lines of transportation were either ineffective or broken. Truthfully, there is no reason that a country that harbors iron ore in its hills and oil in its seas should not have an advanced rail system at the ready.
And now Ghana is going to let Monsanto come in with its high-bred GMOs to devastate the soil, alter our environment, and cause genetic mutations in our population because Obama and Bono said it’s an excellent idea? Tell me, someone, how do the major players plan to distribute this new-found genetically modified manna? On the wheels of ‘hope and change’? Pshaw!
Agriculture is big business, and there are billions of dollars at stake whenever these sorts of deals are hashed out. But at the other end of that of those negotiations also sits a mother who is trying to feed her family. How much consideration is she being given?
I know that there are quite a few scientists and health professionals that read MOM but rarely comment. Don’t make me call you out *cough* Stella and Karimi! *end cough*.  Would you be so kind as to share your views on GMOs, either good or bad, and enlighten us all here?  I’m only writing about it because Gyedu asked me to.
I know that Misty (yes, I called you out) is also a big champion of organic food. I’d like her and other parents like her to share what influenced her to make these choices.
Oh heck. Everyone just speak all at once here
To comment, and to read more of Malaka, go here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Recycled School Bag for Africa's Children. Full Stop or Question Mark?

Who is behind this move? 
Where does their 'discarded' plastic come from? 
Is it really recycled? Or it's brand new plastic being touted as recycled? 
What schools are benefiting? How many students will they like to help/are helping? 
Is it free or subsidized or being sold at competitive prices? 
What is the target number to be produced, in what timeframe, and by whom are the bags being produced? Are they collaborating with any entity already making the same effort? 
Any website or space with information and contacts?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Our Eco-Artisan & Eco-Craftsmanship SUMMER COURSE is open!

Please share far and wide, and feel free to write to me with any questions or queries you have.
And should you want to sponsor any child to attend, PLEASE do let me know right away. I have many needing it.

Yay!! *epileptic excitement*

Accra. 28th April, 2013.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Ever heard of force majeure? I love that term. I do.

Being a language lover and an avid writer who also lectures English/Literature aside my activism and communications career, I have always derived an intense pleasure from tweedling semantics and expressions. Hate me all you may, but I also studied French and Spanish, read a bit of Latin (poor though), and I can speak, read, and write them well, albeit not rapidly.

Force majeure (French). Fuerza mayor (Spanish). Casus fortuitous (Latin). Act of God (Legalese/legal language). These all refer to the same thing, which Wikipedia –bless their heart – defines as “chance occurrence; unavoidable accident”. Now in that case, why are human beings NOT ALSO a force majeure? God knows we are an “act of God”, and what an act! Such an accident – the humankind, and totally avoidable too. The Man Above should never have created human beings. Sometimes, I think he did just to give himself the challenge, and not have to spend eternity in boredom. We are that accident, that flaw, that tiny stain on what should have been a peaceful world, and to me, we are that unfortunate force majeure that climate, wildlife, and the environment has to deal with – unavoidably.

In legal situations (contract-making), the term has very deep connotations and relevance; is used to fore-bargain for the right to be excused if one fails their part of the contract due to certain “unavoidable occurrences/accidents” out of their control, and so on; in military terms, the same term is used to give a vessel or aircraft access to a normally restricted area without penalties. You really should read more about this, people.

So why am I going on about terms and languages, and plotting the total extermination of mankind à la Pinky&Brain, and boasting about my skills?

 It has to do with our celebration of Earth Day (22nd April each year) here in Accra. Many NGOs, organisations and environmentalists celebrated it their own way, but all focused on the climate, environment, eco issues, and our attitude. The day after, 23rd April, which was yesterday, the US Embassy in Ghana (Accra) also hosted some of us at a small forum for the purpose, and once again, we paid tribute to Mother Earth. There were several representations and enthusiasts of environmental and climate efforts in Ghana there at the Embassy, though the official presentations were made by:
  • Deputy Chief of Mission (DCOM) Mad. Patricia C. Alsup
  • Allan Savory (via a TEDTalk video made in Feb 2013 in California and showed to us)
  • Mr. Kyekyeku Yaw Oppong-Boadi (EPA’s UN FCCC Focal Point in Ghana) 
  • Mr. Robert Bamfo (CC/National REDD – Forestry Commission).

Mad. Patricia Alsup (Deputy COM) opened the program graciously and briefly. She re-iterated the rising sea level along the coastline, the rate of desertification, the inception of Earth Day in 1970, which has now swelled from the little efforts to a worldwide movement – from Iowa (USA) to Wa (Ghana), just to para-quote her. She shared most of Obama’s large efforts to cut down on carbon emissions via strong policies and executive directives, and pointed out that Ghana was at the forefront of  number of US-Africa efforts to reduce carbon emissions and climate change, concluding with a quote from Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Address : that the obligation was not just to ourselves but also to posterity, and our responsibilities extend to our children and the generations to come. And equally importantly, that the evidence that nature is radically changing for the worse shows in recent natural disasters, in spite of our reluctance to accept majority of the science-based assertions on climate change.

My favourite part of the event was the TEDtalk video by Allan Savory on what he called “the one ultimate solution to Climate Change, the world over”.  Oh, I was sold! I sat tight. For sure, we were still interested in growing better and bigger Renewable Energy and Natural Energy platforms; still interested in Sustainable and Progressive efforts for all businesses, building, and bodies. But an ultimate solution for Climate Change, albeit a bit isolated, veritably grabbed my interest too! Here is a rendition of the video in a mix of paraphrases and my own terms, and to me it points to one question, “What is in an act?, What is in your action, and my action?, What is in the act of Man?”:

We are facing a ‘perfect storm’, and it is bearing down rapidly on us. We see it coming, yet amidst our mix of worry and disbelief, we are also arrogant in our view towards it, believing that we can meet it with the force of our amazing technologies. We must think again.

When we speak of desertification, we define it in long sentences, but it is really only this: ‘too much bare ground’. There is no other cause for desertification than allowing or creating too much bare ground, and it is this simple. Months of humidity followed by months of dryness escalates the situation, by allowing algae to grow on the bare crust, which permits any rain water to run off immediately, and also causes rapid evaporation of whatever little rain soaks the soil; evaporation with a lot of carbon dioxide.

Mankind has gone through this 'force majeure' before. We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were wrong then, and we are wrong now. Moving around the USA after Africa, I saw national parks desertifying just as badly as places in Africa, where the issue was attributed to huge herds of wildlife passing/living there; yet these US parks had had no wildlife for over 70 years. I was learning, and prior mistakes I had committed in Africa (in attempting to restore the plant-life, Mr. Savory had at a point insisted 40,000 elephants be killed to help succeed; he was wrong, the desertification worsened, and he has lived with this tragedy all his life) made me even more determined to correct this situation of desertification and climate change.

Basically, when one allows/makes the spaces around them to be bare/made/left bare, they have created a microclimate. Multiply this by the number of people doing the same thing, or caring just as little, and you have the picture in your mind. Now, my solution is in our return to mimicking nature – with LARGE MOVING HERDS of animals. What large, moving herds of wildlife or animals does is this: they urinate and drop dung as they move along (grazing or not grazing), which is trampled over INTO THE GROUND by the herd themselves as they move along. Any grass in their path is also flattened, and since they are grazing as they move along, bits of unchewed grass is dropped all over – forming NATURAL MULCH. Combine this with the trampled-into-earth urine and dung, and you have NATURE’S OWN COMPOST AND MULCH process. With a little bit of dew and/or rain, you have exponential increase in grass and plantcover in a month or two.

In creating his solution to climate change, Savory picked this natural ‘antidote’ to desertification, studied it, applied a plan to it, and formed what he called the HOLISTIC MANAGING & PLANNED GRAZING approach to desertification and climate change.

Hence, he has taught communities in Africa and other parts of the world how to ‘pool’ their animals and move them as in a herd for a carefully planned and controlled (holistic) grazing across bare/desertifying swathes of land for a length of time, with the aim of regrowing their plantlife back. Where the land is seriously desertified, the moving large herds of animals are made to pass over it in a planned schedule WITHOUT GRAZING, until the trampled-over urine and dung and a bit of humidity/rain causes grass and plantlife to begin growing. This is also monitored. As they grow, the herds are permitted to begin grazing still under a plan, and on and on it goes. And this, Savory said, was at absolutely low cost to both the communities and bodies (international and local) involved in such efforts, and PROVEN to work in several countries and communities, safeguarding both animal life and plantlife.

Please watch the video via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnNaLSKDf-0

What does this Holistic Grazing concept have to do with Climate Change? Savory said, burning 1 hectare of grassland releases more carbon dioxide than 6000 cars burning fossil fuels; and bare land releases much more carbon dioxide than one with plant cover. Carbon dioxide is drastically affecting the climate. Yet we have more forests rapidly being cut down, less efforts to plant AND maintain trees, and many people burning grassland to clear it off weeds and also for planting. MORE CARBON EMISSIONS. Holistic Grazing counters the effect of such acts, even whilst it returns the space to its natural balance, sustains wildlife and animalife, and is at a VERY low cost to all involved.

My one main question was this: where are those cattle-nomads? They should come to school and learn a new business initiative: Roaming Ambassadors of Green Life. Of course, that means we have to school ourselves, school those around us, have our chiefs and community leaders begin planning land use much better, and having nomads and ranchers learn how to co-exist peacefully in communities in a more … well, holistic way.
As one of the panelists at the forum said yesterday, “Let’s go BACK to the FUTURE.” Our indigenous people and our grandparents knew the way, and reserved things for us. Today, our arrogance and stupidity makes us the most destructive force ever on earth. Force majeure? Act of Man? Maybe an act of God should strike us down, and our contract with the universe revoked for thoughtless acts. At this rate, the earth could do without us. But wait, perhaps that is it – climate change is an act of God to wipe us out by force majeure. Do we wait for it, or change our ways and renew our contract with the universe? Hmmmm?

24th April, 2013.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Growing hard and slow! Energy Solutions gives birth ...

Dear Reader,

It's been a journey here. Since I last shared what ESF had been up to here, I have not had the chance to update again. There HAS been much being done, pursued, and dreamt up. One thing is sure though ... I have been able to keep up the dream, and I have not allowed challenges to tire me out.

Our "Born.Again" recycling label has been much of a humbling success, especially our journals. They have been bringing amazing feedback, and so I decided to follow that path even as ESF's more demanding and bigger projects continue stewing and growing.

What resulted is a market-competitive recycling and upcycling line of products, spearheaded currently by our journals going to fairs, being stocked in bookshops (currently at SyTris Bookshop, in the Mark Cofie Building, Osu-Accra and soon to come to 2 more shops in Accra) and being posted to people who order outside of Ghana.
"Born.Again" Journals on sale at the Natural Beauty Bazaar (Dec. 2012: image by OneFotos, GH)
ESF via "Born.Again" also recently joined in the 1st-ever Ghana Blog & Social Media Awards as Donors (see us at the right-hand column bottom row) supplying premium edition journals to the 13 winners of the various categories. So if you are a blogger or own a social media account OR know any of those you LOVE, please go and nominate them there, and there could just be an award with your/their name on it! That day (23rd March) is also the day for our 2nd Annual BlogCamp Ghana, and you can have a gander at the programme for the day. Curious to see who are behind BloGH? Just click on Team, and fill yourself up on the goodies ... and if you want to join the Association of Ghana Bloggers, you are right at home on that website. I am one of them, and I can assure you, it rocks!

We will also be working with a team of literary enthusiasts and poets to promote literacy, creativity-in-literacy, and recycling in Ghana amongst selected campuses in the country, all via our new baby :

Outdooring our logo
So ... 2013 has started in earnest!
For updates, always visit and like us at : Energy Solutions Foundation (Facebook)