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Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Sustaining the Planting for Food and Jobs policy -Mion District in perspective

Date: Sep 25 , 2017 , 07:58
BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr Abubakari Sayibu showing evidence of the Army Worm attack on his plants to the writer
Mr Abubakari Sayibu showing evidence of the Army Worm attack on his plants to the writer
The sky was pregnant with moody clouds. Domestic animals such as cattle, goats and fowls could be seen heading in various directions, perhaps, to seek shelter. Some residents who had pitched camp at vantage points along the road to trade their game were also briskly folding up before the moody clouds begin to weep.
This was the scene that greeted me when I got to Sang, the capital of the Mion District in the Northern Region last Friday. I had arrived there on a mission to find out how the farmers were taking advantage of the government's Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) agriculture policy.
About Mion District

Carved out of the Yendi Municipality in 2012, the Mion District is a predominantly farming area with a population of about 91,000. The district capital, Sang, is bordered to the West by the capital of the Northern Region, Tamale, and barely an hour drive from the latter. To the eastern side of Sang lies the Yendi Municipality while Karaga and Savelegu borders it to the north, with Salaga bordering it to the south.
Visit to the farms
Located about one and a half kilometre away from Sang is a 14.4-hectare maize farm belonging to 52-year-old Abubakari Sayibu. He is one of the 800 farmers in the district and more than 20,000 others in the region who are beneficiaries of the PFJ initiative. About a kilometre off the Sang-Yendi road were a 13.2 hectare rice and a four-acre soya beans farms belonging to Mohammed Shahadu and Mutaka Salifu respectively.
Until the PFJ project was rolled out this planting season, the farmers produced on subsistence basis with very little or nothing meet their economic needs.
Mr Sayibu for instance, could only manage a maximum of 12 acres of maize farm which only provided a yield just enough to meet feed the family. Applying fertiliser to crops was not an option for him since he could not afford it, hence the poor yield he had recorded over the years.
Success stories
The story this year, however, is a different one for Mr Sayibu as he has increased his production capacity by more than 300 per cent, thanks to the support from the PFJ policy.
"This year I have been able to get 90 bags of fertiliser from the district agriculture office at a very low cost while Agriculture Extension Officers (AEO) visit me regularly to offer technical support on best practices. In fact any time I come to my farm and see my plants, I do not feel like going home because I can foresee a bumper harvest smiling at me," the excited farmer said.
Figures at the Mion District Directorate of Agriculture showed that a total of 2750.3 hectares of crops had been planted as part of the PFJ programme. Out of the figure, maize accounted for 1494 hectares with rice and soya beans going for 1242 and 23.9 hectares respectively. Also, a total of 19686 bags of fertiliser had so far been distributed to the farmers to boost their production.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) figures show that while the traditional method of maize farming produced a yield of 750 kg/hectare, the hybrid or improved seeds under the PFJ had a yield capacity of about 6 tonnes per hectare.
The District Director of Agriculture at Mion, Mr Abednego Abosore, indicated that farmers in the area were expecting a yield of 20 bags per hectare. If this projection is anything to go by, it means that Mr Sayibu, for instance, will be harvesting 288 bags of maize.
Fall Army Worms
One key observation that was made during the visit to the farms at the Mion District, however, was the traces of the devastating attack on the crops by fall army worms. The pests could be seen lodging in the nodes and tussles of the maize plants, devouring soft parts of the maize cobs.
The Desk Officer for the PFJ at the Mion District Directorate of Agriculture, Mr Abubakari Neindow, who was part of the team that toured some of the farms, conceded that the Fall Army Worms posed a major threat to the success of the policy.
"As you can see for yourself, the pests attack on the plants was massive but the farmers who reported to us timely were given pesticides and other technical support to weather the storm," he added.
Nationally, MOFA statistics show that 112,812 hectares of crops were attacked by the fall army worms, out of which 14,411 were destroyed. The figures showed that a total of 74,000 litres of various chemicals were supplied to farmers across the country to fight the pests.
At the Mion district, Mr Abosore indicated that the Army Worms had attacked 804 hectares of crops, adding that “ 752 farmers reported the worms attack to us at the district out of which 499 were supported with chemicals to fight the worms.; so,a significant proportion of the crops were salvaged.”
It was obvious however, that the supply of fertiliser, pesticides and technical support given by Agriculture Extension Officers had brought back smiles on the faces of the farmers.
The PFJ project has the potential to increase the production capacity of farmers, increase agriculture productivity, and, in the long run, alleviate poverty and enhance socio-economic development.
Sustainability
The pillar of the PFJ that focuses on creating marketing opportunities for produce after harvest is key to the sustainability of the programme/
Per the arrangements made by MOFA, farmers ought to pay GH¢57, being 50 per cent of the total cost of fertiliser. In reality farmers are required to pay Gh28.5 per bag of fertiliser before delivery and the remaining half after harvesting their crops.
To ensure efficient recovery of the remaining amount that ought to be paid after harvesting the crops, Mr Abosore indicated that arrangements are far advanced to help farmers sell their produce and be able to pay their outstanding amounts.
"What is being done is that there will be a fixed price for specific quantities of the produce. Per our local initiatives, we are making things flexible such that farmers who wish to repay in cash or in kind can do so.
"We have started contacting assembly members and opinion leaders as part of awareness creation and education of the farmers ahead of the harvest. It will be possible for a farmer to determine the quantity of maize to bring to the district agriculture office to offset the outstanding cost of the fertiliser if they so wish.
"The idea is to ensure that funds are ready to expand the project and bring more farmers on board so that poverty can be reduced in the long run," he said.
Conclusion
The PFJ policy is a laudable initiative that has the potential to boost productivity in the agricultural sector, create job opportunities and also eradicate poverty among farmers. It is impoirtant to address the challenges in the first phase of the policy to ensure that the subsequent phases are effectively implemented. There is the need to suppot the PFJ to ensure food securiy. For, it is said that a hungry man is an angry man.
Writer’s email: ngnenbetimothy@gmail.com

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Can Accra become the cleanest city in Africa?

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
 Filth at Agbogbloshie
Filth at Agbogbloshie
The newspaper spaces, the screens of televisions, and the airwaves are replete with reports of filth that has engulfed the city of Accra.There are also daily reports about the deteriorating waste management regime in the country.
According to the pollution survey report released in 2016, Accra led with a pollution index of 102.13 whilst Lebanon's Beirut followed closely with 97.71.

Even before the situation got this worse, Ghana had slipped on its sanitation performance globally to become the world’s 7th worst performing country, according to a 2015 report.

The Joint Monitoring Programme report dubbed “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Assessment,” was a collaboration between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The 2014 report of the same entities ranked Ghana as the 10th worst performer on sanitation coverage.

Current figures at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) show that the capital city generates more than 3,000 metric tonnes of waste daily. The nerve-wrecking statistics vis-a-vis the growing indiscipline among members of the public in the management of waste raises eyebrows.

Cleanest city
It has been about five months since the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, made a historic declaration to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by the end of his tenure in office.

President Akufo-Addo made that declaration on April 23, this year, when the President of the Ngleshie Alata Traditional Council, Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V, together with the Chiefs and people of Jamestown, enstooled him as a Chief of Jamestown, with the stool name "Nii Kwaku Ablade Okogyeaman.

“The commitment I want to make, and for all of us to make, is that by the end of my term in office, Accra will be the cleanest city on the entire African continent. That is the commitment I am making to you,” these were the President's words.

The question then is "can the anchor of the President's quest to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa hold in the midst of the deteriorating sanitation challenge?"

Where is the roadmap to achieving that feat?

The AMA roadmap

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the AMA, Numo Blafo III, indicated in an interview that the city authority had a comprehensive road map in place to making the city clean.

Apart from the revival of sanitation courts in the capital city to enforce sanctions on people who commit sanitation infractions, the AMA has also started constructing transfer stations at strategic locations in Accra to ensure efficient waste management.

"Three of such transfer stations have been constructed at Achimota, New Town, and Mallam Interchange while others are to be constructed at the Dansoman, Korle Bu Mortuary Road, and the Osu areas," Numo Blafo explained.

The sub-metros within the AMA have been charged to come out with specific plans that will address peculiar sanitation challenges within their jurisdiction, while waste management contractors have also been assigned to the sub-metros.

Residents in the sub-metros are expected to register with the contractors for the waste they generate to be evacuated using tricycles to the transfer stations. Heavy trucks will then be used to convey the waste to the two dumping sites at Kpone and the Nsawam area respectively.

Another component of the roadmap is the launch of a pro bono AMA Sanitation Newspaper, an initiative to discourage people from posting bills on walls and mounting banners in the city.

The initiative will be a platform for individuals, groups, institutions and other entities to advertise their products free of charge.
“The AMA wants to start prosecuting people who destroy the beauty of the city by posting bills on walls and erecting banners.

But we cannot do that without providing an alternative medium for such people. When we kick start the paper, anyone who commit those infractions will be severely sanctioned to deter others," Numo Blafo stressed.

Hawkers
Apart from the huge sanitation challenge, the activities of hawkers who have turned the shoulders of major roads, streets, and even overpasses into their warehouses is still a tall mountain for the city authority to climb.

The Road Traffic Regulations (LI 2180, 2012) gives the Ghana Police Service the mandate to check the activities of hawkers. The regulation debars a person from selling, displaying, offering for sale, goods on or along the roads or on pedestrian walkways.

This regulation however seems to have been given lip service. Hawkers have defied the provisions of this regulation due to weak enforcement from the police, perhaps, due to political factors.

Way forward
The road map to making Accra the cleanest city in Africa will come to nought if there are no efforts concerted involving all stakeholders.

It is a matter of education, awareness creation, and personal commitment to be ambassadors of a cleaner Accra.
The faith-based organisations (FBOs), public and private institutions, the security agencies, the politicians, and all well-meaning citizens have a stake in making the city clean.

If we have to win the battle against filth and make Accra the cleanest city in Africa, all hands ought to be on the deck. The whip must be cracked on persons who act irresponsibly on matters of sanitation. It is not enough to stay away from indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

It is our responsibility to ensure that the person next to you is not compromising on the quality of the environment.
The catchphrase is "attitudinal change." Until we all begin to see waste management and improved sanitation as everybody's responsibility, we will continue hunger and thirst for cleanliness in our capital city.

Writer’s email: ngnenbetimothy
@gmail.com

The cemetery of development: Abandoned projects swallow Nkwanta-North District

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
The Kpassa Market project now a pile of rubbish and a site for open defecation
The Kpassa Market project now a pile of rubbish and a site for open defecation
What was supposed to be a modern market for the over 70,000 residents of the Nkwanta-North District in the Volta Region has been reduced to a home for rodents, reptiles and a site for open defecation.
The dilapidated structures whose roofing sheets have lost their aesthetic value and potency out of the frustration of being left idle have also become a hub for smokers.

A number of refuse dumps have also sprung up at various parts of the 30-acre land which had been encroached upon by private individuals with impunity.

When I got to the site of the abandoned Kpassa Market project about 5:30 a.m. that day, a number of the residents – the old and the young, male and female - were heading towards various directions to do their own thing.

Pigs, in an early bird catches the worm mantra, were anxiously waiting to cash in on the goodies; after all, one man’s poison is another’s meat.

The Kpassa Market project which rests on a 30-acre land was started about two decades ago with funding from the European Union (EU) in an attempt to open up the area to development.

While the EU provided funds, the local authority mobilised community labour to support in putting up the structures which have now been left to rot.

The project was supposed to provide a bigger space with services that will create room for convenience for the business community and also create job opportunities for the residents.

However, a number of setbacks, including financial challenges, disagreement by chiefs over the siting of the facility and lack of investors, have dealt a heavy blow to the project, making it a stillborn.

Uncompleted three-unit classroom block for Majimaji/Gbosike D/A Primary School
Uncompleted three-unit classroom block for Majimaji/Gbosike D/A Primary School
Uncompleted projects
The abandoned Kpassa Market project is just a tip of the iceberg as there are 22 other uncompleted projects that keep the Nkwanta-North District Assembly in the woods.

Among these projects is the uncompleted E-block for a Community Day Senior High School (SHS) that was started by the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, led by former President John Mahama.
The project which is located at Damanko, is at an advanced stage of completion but still far from that feat as funds are not readily available for that purpose.

What this means is that  the about 1,500 students, who could have had access to quality SHS education in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Four,  will not get that opportunity.

The Kpassa Senior High Technical School (KPASTEC) Dining Hall project that was started by the previous government to transform the school from a day school to a boarding institution has been abandoned at the roof stage.
 
Also making the list of the uncompleted projects in the district are classroom blocks for basic schools, Compound Health Improvement Service (CHIPS) compounds, toilet facilities and water projects.
At Danladi, Gbosike, Mama Akura, Sibi, Kofi Akura and other surrounding communities in the district, one uncompleted project or another is awaiting funds for completion, but the district assembly is bleeding profusely from lack of funds to complete the projects.

Some of the abandoned projects were the initiative of the district assembly while a number of others were financed under the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND).

These uncompleted projects that were supposed to facilitate healthcare delivery, support quality teaching and learning and also better the lives of the people now serve as shelter for domestic animals.
Uncompleted work on the Damanko Community Day SHS
Uncompleted work on the Damanko Community Day SHS
Concerns
The District Chief Executive (DCE) of the area, Mr Jackson Jakayi, indicated that the abandoned projects gave him sleepless nights.

"With the about 22 uncompleted projects at hand, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the assembly to start any new development project in the district.

The focus now is to ensure that the uncompleted projects are tackled and completed so that the investments that were put into them will not be a waste," he said.

According to him, the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) is woefully inadequate to carry out some of the projects aside from its untimely release by the central government.

Meanwhile, the assembly, over the years, has not been able to raise the required internally generated funds (IGF) due to apathy by the residents and perhaps, ineffective tax collection strategies.
Uncompleted CHIPS compound at Danladi
Uncompleted CHIPS compound at Danladi
Threat to SDGs
The string of uncompleted projects in the district is a cause for worry, especially when those facilities are in critical areas of development such as education, health, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
Failure to complete these projects means that SDGs Six, on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Three, on ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, and One, on ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, will be endangered.

The market project for instance has the potential to provide livelihoods to many people along the chain because businesses will emerge and the service sector will expand.

The uncompleted CHIPS compounds is a great worry because the district has no hospital and most of the link roads are in a deplorable state, making it difficult for residents of villages to travel long distances to seek minor health care.

As a result, the health of expectant mothers and their unborn babies are at risk because they have to travel long distances to access pre-natal and post-natal health services.
Abandoned CHIPS compound at Mama Akura now houses domestic animals
Abandoned CHIPS compound at Mama Akura now houses domestic animals
Way forward
It is important that pragmatic steps are taken by the government to ensure that projects which were funded by the GETFUND are completed to ensure value for money.

As of now, the district assembly is adopting all strategies, including revising its IGF mobilisation strategies and prioritisation of its expenditure through prudent use of funds.  However, the projects at hand far outweigh the internal control mechanisms being adopted by the assembly and call for wider external support.

There is, therefore, the need for strategic public private partnerships (PPPs) to carry out these projects, especially in the wake of dwindling donor support.

If the government’s policies aimed at transforming the education, health and agricultural sectors and also open up the rural areas to development are to see the light of day, then efforts must be made to complete these uncompleted projects. After all, governance is a continuum.

Writer’s E:mail: ngnenbetimothy@gmail.com

Winning the fight against filth - the role of faith-based organisations

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol (in suit) leads the way to clear piles of refuse at Old Fadama
Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol (in suit) leads the way to clear piles of refuse at Old Fadama
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Last Saturday (August 4), members of the Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG) hanged their suits at home and combed the Old Fadama slum at Agbogbloshie in Accra to rid the area of filth.

Led by the incoming General Overseer of the church, Rev. Maxwell K.K. Liwangol, the about 200 participants who were armed with rakes, shovels, brooms and other tools de-silted gutters that were pregnant with all manner of filth – solid, liquid and plastic waste.

During the exercise, which started at about 6 a.m. from the Konkomba Yam Market, members of the church cleared chunks of refuse from other parts of the slum community such as Galloway, the Agbogbloshie market, as well as Sikkens and the Old Fadama Police Stations areas.

The workers from the waste management department of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) had a hell of time as they struggled to clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road.


 A section of the members of the Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG) de-silting choked gutters at Old Fadama
Two heavy-duty refuse trucks and tricycles were deployed to evacuate the waste from the slum community for proper disposal.

According to Rev. Liwangol, the move was to help achieve the target by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by 2020.

Clean Ghana
Since the President made that declaration in April 2017, a number of interventions have been made, including the allocation of GH₵200 million to the newly created Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) in the 2018 budget to tackle insanitary conditions in the country.

Also, a national sanitation campaign dubbed "Let's Clean Ghana" has been launched by the MSWR, while efforts have been made to deploy sanitation brigades to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to help rid the country of filth.

The AMA in particular has also stepped up efforts to tackle the sanitation challenge with the revamping of sanitation courts, enforcement of sanitation laws leading to the arrest and sanctioning of hundreds of offenders, as well as engagement with the Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) to devise innovative waste management regimes.

Some members of Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG), clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road
The AMA has also made frantic efforts to close down illegal landfill sites that had sprang up across the metropolis.
Some landfill sites that have been closed down included those at the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP), Glefe, Okponglo), Adedemkpo, Mallam and Tunga, all within the jurisdiction of the city authority.

The battle rages on

Despite these efforts that are being made by the MSWR and the AMA to tackle the sanitation challenge head on, it is crystal clear that more work has to be done if the war against filth is to be won.
Many parts of the capital city are still engulfed in filth because people continue to litter the environment with impunity, while sanctions have not been robustly enforced.

Market centers such as Agbogbloshie, Kaneshie, Kantamanto, as well as slum communities in the capital city are still riddled with filth, giving clear signs that the fight to rid the country of filth is far from over.

Some members of Evangelical Church of Ghana (ECG), clear the waste that had heaped on the shoulders of the road
In some slum and coastal communities including Chorkor, Sodom and Gomorrah and parts of Jamestown, people defecate in the open and along the beaches.

This situation is worrying, especially when the country is doing poorly in terms of access to good sanitation services.
For instance, as of 2017, national figures in the Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) sector showed that 20.2 per cent of the urban population had access to improved sanitation, while only 8.6 per cent of the rural population has improved sanitation services, giving a national average of 14.9 per cent.

The figures further show that 91.4 per cent of the rural population has unimproved sanitation services with that of the urban population pegged at 79.8 per cent.

With the current situation, it is obvious that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Three and Six, on access to good health and wellbeing, as well as quality water and sanitation services will be nothing but a mirage. This is because the insanitary conditions and poor waste management exposes people to health risks and affect their wellbeing.

FBOs

It is in the light of the above that it has become imperative for all stakeholders to get involved to educate members of the public to change their attitude towards the environment.

One of such key stakeholders is Faith-Based Organisations(FBOs) – Christians, Muslims and others who form more than 90 per cent of the national population.

As of March, 2018, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) estimated that Ghana’s population had hit 29.6 million, up from the 24.5 million recorded during the 2010 Population and Housing Census.

The country’s demographic profile shows that Christians constitute 71.2 per cent of the population, while Muslims and traditionalists make up 17.6 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively.

What this mean is that Ghana’s religious population is 94 per cent of the national population translating into about 27.8 million people.
A Global Attitude Survey conducted by Washington –based Pew Research Centre ranked Ghana among top eight most religious countries in the World.

According to the survey, more than 90 per cent of Ghanaians who were sampled said their religion is very important in their daily lives.

The above scenario shows that religion and for that matter FBOs have a critical role to play in shaping the attitude of people and putting the country on the right path of national development.

The two main religions in Ghana – Christianity and Islam, abhors filth and enjoins people profess faith in them to live clean and pure lifestyle to glorify the maker.

Way forward

The time has come for strategic partnerships with these FBOs so that they can use their platforms to preach the gospel of environmental protection and good sanitation practices.

If religious leaders take up the challenge to use part of their time with the creator to educate the congregation on the need to protect the environment both as a civic responsibility and as a duty to God, the desired attitudinal change could be achieved.

The incoming General Overseer of the ECG hit the nail on the head when he said: “as Christians, we owe it a duty to protect the environment because it is an instruction from God for man to take control over his creation. We should not only focus on the spiritual aspect of our members because the spiritual self lives in a healthy body; and we can only stay healthy when we keep our environment clean.”
It is about time the government reached out to FBOs to chart a common path in the fight against sanitation.
This calls for a national dialogue with the leaders of the FBOs to set the tone for effective collaborations with other stakeholders in the WASH sector to help tackle filth holistically.

Dying to live: the case of scrap metal business in Accra

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Young people busily extracting materials from scrap
Young people busily extracting materials from scrap
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Deafening sounds from hammers that strike ferrous metals can be heard from all angles of the squatter enclave.

Clusters of thick, dark smoke emanating from the burning of waste electronic products and other scrap material fill the atmosphere, blurring vision and causing teary eyes.


The young, the old, male and female are performing one task or the other in the chain of activities associated with the scrap metal business.

From dawn to dusk, they comb through what is known as the world's biggest dump site for electronic waste materials, in search of worn out fridges, television sets, computers, and other electronic waste to extract copper, brass aluminium and other useful matter. It is what they do for a living. But, first, it feeds them, then kills them slowly.

The residents

This scrap metal dump site located at Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra Region is not only a business centre for dealers in scrap metals but also a home for many people.


Most of the people, who live in this slum area, are from the rural north of the country while others are foreigners from neighbouring West African countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo.

They live, work, dine and wine in that part of the city oblivious of the hazardous conditions they are exposed to daily. The most affected group in this area is children who engage in all forms of work that contravenes the laws of the country.

Child labour

Among the dealers in this scrap metal business are children who should be in school but who mortgage their future and put their lives on the line. They join the crew of scavengers at the site and do work that weigh them down physically and psychologically.

One such child is Abdul Saani, a 17-year-old student of one of the privately owned basic schools at the Old Fadama slum who has been in that scrap business since 2011.

 A pile of scrap metals at the scrap centre
hen I met him at the scrap line about 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 10, he was busy scavenging for the goodies. Armed with a magnet, a wheel barrow and a sack, he moved from one place to the other, rolling the magnet to attract magnetic materials.

I followed him to a base where about 10 others almost his age, were also working on their wares. One of them who gave his name as Nicholas Agor (not real name), a Form Two student, confessed to have left the class at the blind side of his teacher to work at the site.

"I decided to come and work here to get some money for my upkeep because I live with my sister in the Old Fadama slum. She is also a head porter (Kayayo) and cannot take care of all my needs," he said.
Meanwhile after about 30 minutes, Abdul had sorted out the goodies and was ready to mount it on a scale that had been planted there by his “boss.” He placed the items on the scale and the reading stood at 55 kilogrammes.

  Some children weighing useful materials they had collected at the scrap business centre
The reading on the scale meant that he had made GH¢44 because a kilogramme was worth 80 pesewas.
An excited Abdul told me that it was a sign of a good day. “On a good day, I can make more than GH¢100 and at least GH¢600 a week. He works under a "master" who buys his wares and resell to others in the chain.

The headache

Without protective clothing or any efficient tools to ply their trade, they handle the metals with bare hands and burn the electronic waste in a very crude manner that emit poisonous gases into the atmosphere. This practice leaves the area and its surroundings filled with polluted air that exposes the people to health risks and respiratory diseases.

  The scrap centre is always filled with smoke from the burning of electronic waste
Abdul threw more light on the side effects of the scrap business, saying: "It is a difficult thing to do because sometimes the metals can hit your head, eyes and other parts of your body. At times, we cough so much after work and have sleepless nights. But we cannot stop it because we get money from it."

The side effect the scrap metal business has on the people and the public is a major concern that needs to be looked at, especially when there are dire health and environmental consequences.
For instance, even though the place is very unhygienic, food vendors and fruit sellers carry their wares around for the public to buy and eat.

Also, livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, feed on piles of refuse that are dumped around. These animals are later slaughtered and their meat sold to members of the public.
There are no figures to show the number of deaths that result from the risky lifestyle in this area but it is certain that many lives are lost every now and then.

Importations

Despite the physical and health risks the scrap metal business poses, it continues to thrive in contravention of the laws of the country because of the insatiable taste for second-hand electronic goods which end up as scrap metal.

Hundreds of tonnes of these used products are mostly imported from the United States of America (USA), Asia, Australia, and Western Europe with impunity.

Food is sold under unhygienic conditions at the scrap enclave
It is estimated that about 500 containers of these second-hand electronic products are imported every year, with a chunk of it not able to function under one year.

These importations go on even though Legislative Instruments (L.I. 1586) of 1994 and L.I. 1693 of 2001 placed a ban on the importation of some used merchandise such as mattresses, underwear and fridges.
The Abossey Okai business enclave, which is about 500 metres away from the hub for scrap business, is flooded with these second-hand products and serves as one of the main suppliers of scrap metal for the dealers.

Call

Key state agencies such as the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) need to collaborate effectively to enforce the regulations on the importation and dumping of second-hand electronic products on Ghanaian markets that end up as scrap metal.

There is a relentless war to rid the country of filth and the government’s resolve to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa. If this feat is to be achieved, attention has to be given to the proper management of e-waste.

The Ministries of Sanitation and Water Resources, Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Local Government and Rural Development, and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) need to design an integrated approach to tackle the challenge head-on.

Writer’s email: ngnenbetimothy@gmail.com




National Service Scheme improves with technology

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Mr Mustapha Ussif (right), Executive Director, NSS, observing the registration process at the Greater Accra Office of the National Service Scheme (NSS)
Mr Mustapha Ussif (right), Executive Director, NSS, observing the registration process at the Greater Accra Office of the National Service Scheme (NSS)

For the first time in many years, national service persons have gone through the registration process and started their mandatory service without the usual brouhaha.


 Unlike the previous years when hustle and bustle characterised the registration exercise, this year was largely devoid of ugly scenes.
Also, the usual news headlines such as "NSS blues: user agencies reject service persons", "Soldiers maltreat service persons" and "long queues greet first day of NSS registration exercise" were absent this year.


For instance, the Daily Graphic carried an opinion piece titled “NSS blues: healing the wounds and erasing the scars” in its September 11, 2017 issue, discussing how long winding queues at registration centres conspired with slow processing of documents to frustrate hundreds of the prospective service persons.
 Mr Mustapha Ussif (2nd right) inquiring from an official of the NSS about how registration is going during a tour of the facility. Looking on is Ms Gifty Oware (2nd right)
The plight of some of the service persons was worsened when user agencies such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) rejected their postings because of the overwhelming numbers.
It was an eyesore as many of the rejected service persons thronged the offices of the NSS for reposting to other user agencies.

Technology
The improvement in the NSS deployment and registration process this year can largely be attributed to the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and other innovations.
Mr Mustapha Ussif (2nd right) inquiring from an official of the NSS about how registration is going during a tour of the facility. Looking on is Ms Gifty Oware (2nd right)
The Executive Director of the scheme, Mr Ussif Mustapha, explained in an interview recently that the use of modern technology and innovation was the secret weapon.
“This year, the NSS had a complete overhaul of our registration process by deploying the right technology to facilitate our processes.
We used online technology for biometric data capturing by linking our system to the central database which houses the data of state institutions such as the Passport Office, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and the Electoral Commission (EC).
“Once we keyed in the details of the applicants for national service, their data popped up automatically and that made it easy for us to track the identity of all of them to check against impersonation,” he explained.
Touching on how the NSS managed to prevent the challenges that came with the mammoth crowd that thronged registration centres over the years, he had this to say: “Last year, the management of the scheme was not happy about crowd control and the challenges that came with registration, so this year, we introduced an appointment system for the prospective service persons to book an appointment online before they get to the registration centres.
“By this system, only a limited number of people are given appointment for each day and once they get to the centre, we have the QR code system that allows our officials to scan their data at the click of a button. They spend under five minutes to be registered,” he said.

Innovation
For instance, on July 18 this year, when the NSS announced the postings for the 2018/19 service year, Mr Mustapha disclosed that the postings of some 2,102 prospective service persons had been withheld because of some infractions that its robust tracking system had identified.

The move, he said, was to restore sanctity to the NSS which had been caught in the web of ghost persons on the scheme’s payroll. As of now, 633 of those people are still being investigated for allegedly using fraudulent means to apply for national service.

In addition, the management of the scheme rolled out an online application regime that made it possible for the prospective service persons to log onto a dedicated website and register.
Perhaps, the most innovative step taken by the management of the scheme is the introduction of the appointment system for crowd control.

In this system, the service persons were required to log onto the NSS website and book an appointment and be given a unique number and date before they report to registration centres.
Mr Mustapha Ussif (2nd left) explaining a point to some journalists after the tour of some registration centres. With him is Ms Gifty Oware (left), Deputy Executive Director, Finance and Administration, NSS
This great initiative did not only ensure that only a minimum number of service persons reported to the registration centre daily, but also eliminated the long queues and pressure on the registration officials.
In a bid to address the issue of rejection by user agencies, the prospective NSS persons were required to seek the consent of the user agencies to which they had been posted before submitting the final document to the offices of the scheme for final approval.

Certificate delivery
Over the years, members of the public had to go through cumbersome processes to collect their national service certificates to be able to apply for jobs.
To address this challenge, the NSS management introduced online reforms to facilitate the delivery of the certificates.
Flash back: Long qeues at the Greater Accra registration centre during the 2017/2018 service yer
The system has also been decentralised such that people do not have to travel to regional offices of the scheme to collect their certificates.
“Our certificates are now online, so by the click of a button, I can sit in the office here and know the number of certificates in the system and how many are being collected at any point in time,” Mr Ussif explained.

Some challenges
In spite of the huge gains that have been made in the registration process this year, there were reports of some challenges in the process.
Last year, many prospective service persons were turned away by the user agencies either because of the excess number or lack of the skills set required by those organisations.
Such rejections occurred this year again, but Mr Ussif said they were minimal as compared with that of last year.
“Some private organisations applied for service persons to be posted to them, thinking that the government would pay allowances for such persons but upon realising that they had to bear the cost, they made a U-turn.
“Many of the private organisations turned down the request for service persons because of changes in their budget. However, the NSS reposted all those people to other user agencies,” he added.

Conclusion
The initiatives by the NSS management may not have addressed all the challenges in the registration process, but certainly, they have greatly improved the system.
It is in the light of this that one can salute the management of the scheme for doing a Yeoman’s job. But like Oliver Twist, we ask for more.