Monday, 19 August 2019

Ghana’s Atewa forest is one of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes in the country. It is seen as the better of only two Upland Evergreen forests left intact in the country, forming part of the six dominant vegetation zones of Ghana based on different climates zones.

The Atewa forest is part of the Guinean Forests of West Africa which stretch from southern Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone and through Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana into western Togo. Deforestation has massively reduced the size of the forests and the Upper Guinea Forest is now restricted to a number of more or less disconnected reserves and a few national parks acting as man-made refuges for the region’s biodiversity.

The Atewa forest landscape is remote and pristine, providing the habitat for a major collection of Ghana’s biodiversity. It has been named as one of Ghana’s 30 globally significant biodiversity areas.

But the forest is under threat. Last year Ghana signed a memorandum with China to explore Ghana’s deposits of bauxite – the primary ore in aluminium. The deposits are found in two locations – Awaso with very high deposits in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of western region of Ghana, and Atewa, with minimum deposits and located in the Upland Evergreen forests in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Under the memorandum Ghana will cede 5% of its bauxite resources to the Chinese. In turn, Beijing will finance $2billion worth of infrastructure projects that include rails, roads and bridge networks. The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act which would provide a legal framework to exploit country’s bauxite deposits.

Yet the government says it still has to validate the true worth of the bauxite deposit in the forest.

As a botanist I view the Atewa landscape as a scientific gold mine. A recent impact assessment by the US Forest Service corroborates the concerns of several conservation groups about the potential damage that mining would cause.

I believe strongly that Atewa is not for mining and that it must be preserved. Firstly, it needs to be preserved as a living natural history laboratory. Secondly, it should be protected because it provides a vital resource – water. Thirdly, it is a precious gift whose value cannot be quantified, but which must be lived, felt and appreciated. Finally it is a naturally bequeathed heritage that must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

The forest

An interesting characteristic of the Atewa forest is that the canopies of its trees are not easily visible as they merge with the surrounding clouds creating a beautiful cloud cover line. This is very rare in the Ghanaian landscape. This feature is described in local parlance as the phenomenon in which the trees are in direct communication with the firmament of the heavens and bring good tidings to the ground underneath.

Scientifically, the phenomenon is responsible for the daily condensation of water vapour which falls as precipitation. As a result the mountain top is kept permanently moist. This in turn explains the interesting hydrological networks beneath the soil surface. The water percolates down to create under ground water ways as well as water falls and many streams and tributaries that coalesce or combine to form Ghana’s famous three rivers. These are the Ayensu, Birim and Densu.

The three eventually drain their basins as they meander through the forests and farm fields providing essential water resources to over 5 million inhabitants. They also deposit suspended clay and silt materials as fertile alluvial for crop production during the rainy periods when they burst their banks and overflow.

The Atewa landscape provides rich forest cover for climate regulation, a show piece to illustrate climate adaptation to avoid drought, reduce poverty and enhance sustainable livelihoods and improve human well being in its catchment area.

The landscape has been the subject of research by geologists, hydrologists and geo-morphologists. A geologist studies studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitute the Earth while a geo-morphologist studies the earth’s surface. A hydrologist is a scientist who researches the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of the earth’s underground and surface waters.

Studies of the fauna and flora of the area have brought up new scientific discoveries of species like the critically endangered white-naped mangabey Cercocebus lunulatus. This shows that the knowledge of the faunal and floristic diversity and to a large extent the microbial diversity is still at the exploratory stages.

I would strongly argue that the Atewa landscape is an important species discovery destination, awaiting extensive research and studies. It should, therefore, not be disrupted or destroyed by mining.The Conversation


Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Associate Professor of Botany, University of Ghana

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Sunday she would meet British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Wednesday evening to discuss Britain’s planned departure from the European Union.
She added that Berlin was also prepared for a disorderly Brexit.
Johnson is seeking to persuade European Union leaders to reopen Brexit talks or face the prospect of its second-largest member leaving abruptly on Oct. 31 with no deal in place to mitigate the economic shock – a move that businesses expect would cause major disruption.
“We are glad of every visit, and you have to talk, and you have to find good solutions,’’ Merkel said during a panel discussion at the Chancellery.
“We are prepared for any outcome, we can say that, even if we do not get an agreement.
“But at all events, I will make an effort to find solutions – up until the last day of negotiations,’’ she added.
“I think it’s always better to leave with an agreement than without one.
“But if that’s not possible, we’ll be prepared for the alternative as well.’’
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that Johnson would tell Merkel that the British parliament could not stop Brexit.
Published in World
Monday, 19 August 2019 10:26

Lagos scales up fish production

Lagos State Government says it is implementing programmes and projects that would upscale fish production and harness the enormous economic opportunities available in the agricultural value chains in the State.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya who disclosed this in Lagos over the weekend at the closing ceremony of the 15th Annual Executive Weekend Training on Investment Opportunities in Fish Farming organised by his Ministry noted that these programmers and projects have significantly increased fish production, created jobs and stimulated economic activities in the State.
He identified the programmes and projects to include fish farm estates development; fish cage culture system; training/capacity building programmes; agricultural value chains empowerment and artisanal fisheries development among others.
While admitting that there is still much to be done if the goal of making the State self-reliant in fish production is to be achieved, the Permanent Secretary called for collaborative efforts between the private sector and government in the development of Agricultural Value Chain bearing in mind that the task of food production for Lagosians is quite enormous and as such should not be left for Government alone.
Dr. Onasanya said that fish is a major source of protein that is low in cholesterol compared with beef hence its consumption is healthy adding that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a per capita consumption of 17kg of fish per annum.
“Lagos State with a population of 22 million people is structured to have a fish demand of 374,000 tons per annum as against the current fish production figure of 155,262 tons per annum. The deficit in supply is being met through importation which gulps enormous foreign exchange which the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has estimated at a total sum of USD1 billion,” the Permanent Secretary averred.
According to him, very wide investment opportunities exist within the Agricultural Value Chain both within the country and internationally, especially now that there is the need to increase export of non-oil commodities in order to earn foreign exchange for the financing of the nation’s economy.
Onasanya explained that the 4-day Executive Weekend Training Programmes has been carefully structured to equip participants that include aspiring fish farmers and retiring executives both in the private and public sectors among others with relevant knowledge of best practices in aquaculture; broaden their practical experience in fish juvenile and feed production as well as expose them to investment opportunities available in the fish farming.
“The training programme has a special focus on the overview of Fisheries development in Lagos State; Fish Culture System and Management; Water Quality Management & Disease Control; Prospect of Cage and Pen Culture System in Lagos State; Hatchery Management and Fingerlings Production; Fish Feed Formulation and Nutrition; Fish Farming Insurance and Fish Preservation, Processing, Packaging, Marketing and Export Potentials,” he added.
He then enjoined the 43 participants to make good use of the lessons learnt during their training programme as well as leverage on available government extension services towards successful fish farming businesses.
Since the commencement of the training programme in 2005, no fewer than 912 people have been trained which has contributed to the increased investments in the fish farming value chain in the State.
Published in Agriculture

In line with its avowed commitment to transparency and accountability in all its activities as committed by the new Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, the National Oil Company has announced winners of its 2019/2020 Direct Sale of Crude Oil and Direct Purchase of Petroleum Products (DSDP) arrangement.

A release on Sunday in Abuja by the Corporation’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, said following the completion of the 2019/2020 DSDP tender exercise, 15 consortia/companies made up of reputable and experienced international companies and Nigerian Downstream companies emerged successful to undertake the 2019/2020 DSDP arrangement.

The contract is for one year effective 1st October, 2019 to 30th September, 2020.

It listed the successful companies as follows:
















The release stated that the tender process comprised technical and commercial bid submission respectively, evaluation and shortlisting, then commercial negotiations with prequalified companies and engagement of the successful consortia/companies by NNPC.

“Under the DSDP arrangement, the under listed fifteen (15) consortia/companies shall over the contract period, off-take crude oil and in return, deliver corresponding petroleum products of equivalent value to NNPC, subject to the terms of the agreement”, the release declared.

In his takeover note on 8 July, 2019, the newly appointed NNPC GMD, Mallam Kyari, had promised to open NNPC books to public scrutiny, saying as a publicly owned company Nigerians deserve to know about the operations of the Corporation.

He reiterated his management’s team commitment to transparency and accountability when he had a maiden Town Hall engagement with the staff of the Corporation where he launched the team’s policy direction tagged: Transparency, Accountability, Performance and Excellence (TAPE).

Published in Business
The Iranian oil tanker, Grace 1, at the centre of a diplomatic dispute has departed from Gibraltar after the British overseas territory rejected a US demand to seize the vessel.
But the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Navy Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said that the fate of the British oil tanker, Stena Impero seized in the Iranian waters depends on a decision made by the judiciary.
“The violations of the British ship are clear and it has had three violations which should be studied and the Judiciary and the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran should decide about it,” Rear Admiral Tangsiri said, Fars News reported.
He said “Seizure and freedom of the two are not related.”
The British oil tanker, Stena Impero, was impounded by Iran’s IRGC on July 19 for numerous violations of international maritime regulations when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
The British-flagged vessel has 23 crew members, 18 of which were from India. The other crew members are from Russia, Latvia and the Philippines.
The apprehension of the British vessel came two weeks after British naval forces seized Iranian-owned supertanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar.
According to the monitoring website Marine Traffic, the supertanker — which had been detained since July 4 off the coast of Gibraltar — lifted anchor Sunday evening and started sailing south.
Gibraltar seized the Grace 1, carrying 2.1m barrels on July 4 on suspicion it was transporting oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions, triggering a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London. Iran has repeatedly denied any violations.
Its Supreme Court ordered the tanker released last Thursday, with Iranian officials saying a new crew had arrived to pilot the vessel — now renamed the Adrian Darya — and its 2.1 million barrels of oil.
But on Friday, the US Justice Department filed a last-minute request to detain the ship, alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.
Gibraltar’s government rejected that request, saying it could not seek a court order to detain the supertanker because US sanctions against Iran were not applicable in the European Union.
As of early Monday, the vessel had turned east, with Marine Traffic reporting its destination as Kalamata in Greece.
In its decision ordering the release of the tanker, Gibraltar’s government said it had received written assurances from Iran that the ship would not be headed for countries “subject to European Union sanctions”.
Iran denied it had made any promises about the ship’s destination to secure the release.
“Iran has given no assurances over the Grace 1 not going to Syria to secure its release,” a state media website quoted foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.
The US State Department has threatened to issue a visa ban on anyone working on the ship.
The July 4 seizure by Gibraltar authorities and by British Royal Marines came amid surging tensions in the Gulf after several alleged Iranian attacks on smaller tankers.
The US — citing Tehran’s threat to American allies — expanded its military presence in the region with a new aircraft carrier task force, missile batteries and strategic bombers.
Iran termed the move an “illegal interception” staged by the United States, while Washington cheered it as “excellent news”.
Iran subsequently detained the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in what was seen as a tit-for-tat move.
Ties between Tehran and Washington have frayed since President Donald Trump withdrew last year from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, reimposing crippling unilateral sanctions.
Published in Business
Teachers across America have gotten so frustrated with low pay and a broken federal loan forgiveness system — which supposedly forgives loans for people working in qualifying public service jobs after a decade of payments — that they’ve decided to sue the Department of Education (DOE).
America has a $1.5 trillion student debt problem.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second-largest teachers union in the U.S., alleges that the government’s loan forgiveness programme for public service workers does not function properly, and calls for a fix.
“The very agency that is supposedly the champion of our nation’s education system has failed to live up to its role in administering this Program,” asserted the lawsuit, which was filed in July.
Over the past few years, student debt has been rising exponentially, hitting more than $1.5 trillion in loans outstanding. And teachers — who often have to take on post-graduate degrees to qualify for teaching positions — are feeling the heat.
They’re now “embarrassed” about their student loans, United Federation of Teachers (UTF) President Michael Mulgrew told Yahoo Finance. “Because the thing is, I went to school, I went to college, I wanted to become a teacher. I took loans. And now I’m paying $600, $700 a month right off the bat every month for my student loan… it’s a horrendous situation for them to be in.“
On top of that, “everybody talks about it,” added Mulgrew. “You hear all the politicians talk about it. But the idea that they passed the student loan forgiveness federal program, and in reality nobody gets to use it — that’s insane.”
A recent survey by social app Fishbowl — which looked at 10,284 responses from graduates — found that nearly 65% of teachers have student debt.
“Teachers have a lower median income and are taking on student debt at a higher rate than the three other industries involved in our survey,” Kyle McCarthy, head of growth at Fishbowl told Yahoo Finance.
“On top of that, over 96% of teachers are spending their own personal money to provide underprivileged students with the school supplies they need, leaving teachers with even less disposable income,” he added. “It’s a good example of the growing wealth inequality in our society today.”
In the U.S., there were 3.8 million full- and part-time public school teachers between 2015 and 2016, based on the latest figures from the Department of Education.
Half were elementary school teachers, and the other half secondary school teachers. There were also 27% more teachers in 2015 than in 2000.
Around 55% of elementary school teachers and 59% of secondary school teachers held either a “post baccalaureate degree” — which is either a master’s degree, a doctor’s degree, or an education specialization.
A master’s degree, in particular, is required to obtain a permanent teaching license in 36 states and D.C.
The median student debt taken on by a borrower for an undergraduate and master’s degree is $50,879, according to a 2014 study by the New American Education Policy Program.
And on the flip side, teachers also earn substantially less than people in other occupations who have a master’s degree. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned $57,980 in 2018, middle school teachers earned $58,600, and high school teachers $60,320.
That stands in stark contrast to what one can make with a master’s if they were in the financial services industry. The median annual wage for the industry was $170,000, according to BLS.
Published in World
The Nigeria women national basketball team, D’Tigress on Sunday defeated hosts Senegal in the final of the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket to win their fourth continental title.
The victory for D’tigress meant that they also successfully defend the title they won two years ago after defeating Senegal 65-48 in Bamako in 2017.
In a keenly-contested final match played on Sunday at the magnificent Dakar Arena which had as much as 15, 000 fans watching, the Nigeria women beat host Senegal 60-55 to win back-to-back continental titles.
As in previous Senegal games over the past few days, there was a deafening atmosphere at Dakar Arena but D’Tigress held their own.
With Sunday’s feat, D’Tigress became the first team to win back-to-back FIBA Women’s AfroBasket titles since Angola followed up their 2011 triumph with another in 2013.
To make it to the final, Nigeria eased past Mali, 79-58, in Friday’s first semifinal.
Hosts Senegal needed to work extra hard to overcome a fearless and determined Mozambique team, 60-57, to return to the championship title game for the third time in a row.
Both Nigeria and Senegal have emerged as the best teams from the 12-team tournament and it came as no surprise that each reached the final after four wins in as many games.
After losing to Nigeria two years ago – not once but twice in Bamako – 12-time African champions Senegal were hoping to become the first team to win the tournament at home since the D’Tigress claimed the 2005 continental in Abuja.
With D’Tigress successfully completing their mission, attention will now shift to the male team, D’Tigers who are expected to compete at the FIBA World Cup in China later this month.
The FIBA World is scheduled to hold from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
Published in World
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