Posts Tagged ‘rural’

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

 

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Staff, EcoSikh, ecosikh.org

 

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EcoSikh has been invited to make a presentation on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at a key academic conference on Sikhism and Gender at the University of Toronto on October 1, 2011.

The SAFAR: Our Journeys conference will feature over 30 speakers including Sikh feminist scholars, theologians and leaders, including keynote speaker Nikky-Guninder Kaur author of The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory of Sikh Identity.

Bandana Kaur of EcoSikh will be presenting a paper on Sikh women and biodiversity conservation in Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion.

In her paper, titled “Women Farmers of Punjab: Forgotten Voices from the Plains”, Bandana will examine the Green Revolution from the perspective of Sikh women living in the Malwa region of Punjab, an area recognized for the challenges posed to the farming community. Her paper examines the historical relationship between women and agricultural biodiversity in Punjab, and contemporary efforts by rural Sikh women to revive agricultural biodiversity today.

“Sikh women engaged in agricultural biodiversity conservation can help inform a new approach to agricultural development in Punjab that recognizes complex and interrelated systems in: the content and diversity of what is produced, the inputs both human and technical used to produce these goods, and the knowledge systems upon which choices are based.”

A special issue of the academic journal Sikh Feminist Review will be devoted to the conference proceedings. This public record of Sikh feminist research will serve as one of the first accessible domains to privilege Sikh feminist scholarship.

 

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http://www.ecosikh.org/ecosikh-presents-on-sikh-women-and-biodiversity-at-safar-conference-toronto/

Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition

 

Abokobi women farmers hold traditional food exhibition

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Posted 20 September 2011, by Staff, Ghana News Agency (GNA), ghananewsagency.org

 

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Abokobi (GAR), Sept. 20, GNA – Women farmers in Abokobi in the Ga East District of the Greater Accra Region on Tuesday organised a traditional food exhibition in an effort to drum home the need to patronise local foods and promote women in farming.

The exhibition was organised by Rural Women Farmers Association in collaboration with Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD), an NGO.

It was on the theme: “Women! We are the Solution for Food Security in Ghana”.

Foods on display included yekeyeke, abolo, mpotompoto, kpoikpoi, tugbani, banku with okro stew, fufu with variety of soups, akyeke and bankye akakro.

The exhibition was organised as part of the three-year Pan-African campaign targeted at five West African countries, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Ghana, to build a first mass rural women farmers movement managed by rural women farmers.

The campaign is aimed at educating women on the importance of traditional foods and their nutritional values.

Addressing the women, Madam Fatima Addy, Southern Sector Coordinator of RUWAG, noted that the association was formed to serve as a platform for rural women farmers to share knowledge and experiences on traditional farming practices.

“We seek to educate our members on the need to adopt safe and sound farming practices devoid of chemicals which are harmful to the human body.”

She explained that the association also served as a platform to educate members on the values of indigenous seeds and food recipes that had high nutritional value but getting extinct due to neglect.

Mr Bernard Guri, Executive Director of CIKOD, said the campaign was to promote good practice and knowledge that had been known and handed down for generations in Africa.

He said those good practices and knowledge had sustained food sovereignty on the continent, to influence decision makers and promote better governance and value family agricultural production.

Mr Guri noted that the campaign would also build the organisational and individual capacities of selected rural women associations and their leaders, build awareness and empower rural women to engage in decision making processes in on-going local, regional and global campaigns.

The women would organise, mobilise and sustain an Africa-wide action oriented network for information sharing and advocacy.

“The impact of this campaign will be to ensure that the Rural Women Association have the skills to improve, promote and share their traditional agricultural knowledge and ensure that this rich knowledge is not lost and indeed promoted as an alternative to the Green Revolution Methods,” he added.

Mr Wilberforce Laate, Deputy Executive Director of CIKOD, expressed dissatisfaction about the deplorable manner in which vegetables and other crops were cultivated.

He bemoaned instances where vegetables were forced to become ripe and ready for the market before their time by the use of chemicals which were injurious to human health.

Mr Laate expressed his dissatisfaction about the use of genetically modified crops as seeds of such crops could not be replanted after harvest due to the application of chemicals.

He urged farmers to use manure for their crops instead of fertilizer because it was cheaper and devoid of chemicals.

GNA

 

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http://www.ghananewsagency.org/details/Economics/Abokobi-women-farmers-hold-traditional-food-exhibition-/?ci=3&ai=33724

Women of Corn

 

Women of Corn

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Posted 20 September 2011, by Esther Vivas, International Viewpoint (Fourth International), internationalviewpoint.org

 

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In the countries of the Global South, women are the principal producers of food, those in charge of working the land, safegaurding the seeds, gathering the fruit, obtaining water. Between 60 to 80% of food production in these countries is down to women, and worldwide at a level of 50%. These women are the main producers of the staple crops, such as rice, wheat and maize, which go to feed the most impoverished populations of the South. But despite their key role in agriculture and provision of food, they are, together with children, the most affected by hunger.

For centuries, rural women have been responsible for domestic chores, care of people, feeding of families, and cultivation and marketing of surplus from their gardens, and have borne this load of reproductive, productive and community work in a private and invisible domain. In contrast, the principal economic transactions of agriculture, the trading of livestock and bulk buying and selling of cereals in the market, have been carried out by men… occupying the public rural domain.

This division of roles assigns to women the upkeep of home, of health, of education and of families and gives men the management of land and machinery and most significantly the”know-how”, thus perpetuating the roles allotted as masculine and feminine which for centuries and even today persist in our societies.

Nonetheless, in many regions of the Global South, in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, there exists an evident “feminisation” of paid agricultural work. Between 1994 and 2000, women occupied 83% of new employment created in the sector of non-traditional agricultual export. But this tendency includes a marked division of gender; on the plantations, women perform the unskilled tasks such as collection and packaging, while men carry out the harvesting and planting.

This incorporation of women into the paid workplace entails a double burden for women, who continue to carry out the care of their families whilst working to obtain an income from an employment which for the most part is precarious. They can expect worse working conditions than their male counterparts and lower pay for the same tasks, therefore having to work longer to earn the same.

Another difficulty is access to land. In several countries of the South, laws deny women this right, and in those that legally concede tenure, tradition and custom impede disposition to them. However, this problem not only occurs in the Global South. In Europe, many women farmers do not have their entitlements recognised and despite working on the land like their male peers, farm ownership and payment of social security, etc is usually commanded by men. Consequently, women, on retirement, cannot count on any pension, nor have claim to assistance or to payments, etc

The degradation of farmland in these Southern countries and the increase in migration to the cities has provoked a process of agricultural disintegration. Women are an essential component of this national and international migration, engendering a disruption and abandoment of families, land, and processes of production whilst increasing the family and community burden of the women who remain. In Europe, the United States, Canada… migrant women end up taking the jobs that years back were filled by locals, reproducing a cycle of oppression, burden and ‘invisibilisation’ of care, whilst externalising its social and economic costs to the communities of origin of the migrant women.

The incapacity to resolve the current crisis of caretaking in western countries, the combined result of massive incorporation of women into the labour market, the aging of the population, and the non-existent response from the state to these needs, leads to the massive importation of female labour into domestic work and paid care, from the countries of the Global South.

In opposition to this intensive and unsustainable neoliberal agricultural model which has demonstrated a complete inability to satisfy dietary needs of people and a complete disrespect for Nature, and which is especially adverse to women, arises the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty. This deals with the recuperation of our right to determine the what, the how and the source of what we eat; that the land, the water and the seeds are in the hands of small farmers (male and female); and the fight against the monopoly of agrifoods.

And it is requisite that this food sovereignty is profoundly feminist and internationalist, and that its accomplishment will only be possible from full equality between men and women and free access to the means of food production, distribution and consumption, along with solidarity among peoples, far from the chauvinistic cries of “ours first.”

We must reclaim the role of women farmers in food and agricultural production, and recognise the part played by the “women of corn”, those that work the land. To make visible the invisible. And to promote alliances between rural and urban women, from the North and the South. To globalise a resistance… feminine.

-Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

Other recent articles:

Ecology and the Environment

The years of 9/11 – September 2011

Women

Food crisis

The whys of hunger – August 2011

Climate change and food sovereignty caravan – April 2011

 

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http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2289

Living with oil spill in Ogoniland


Living with oil spill in Ogoniland

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Posted 18 September 2011, by George Onah,Vanguard Media, vanguardngr.com

As the convoy of cars from Bodo town conveying journalists veered into the road leading to Goi community, the air became fetid. The  air was so offensive that two members of the entourage made to throw up. The air had been poisoned by the smell of crude oil that had enveloped the river serving the five communities of Goi.

The deeper the convoy rolled along the tarred road towards the river, the stronger the smell of the deadly spill. The stench, it was learnt, is worse at night when the ebbing river returns. As the vehicles brushed through the grasses that have grown into the road, few youths and elders stared at the group with gloomy faces. The road had obviously not been in full use because the spill had emptied the clan of its population.

None of the onlookers offered a smile. While mothers clutched their naked pale-looking babies, the old people and youths stood akimbo wearing long faces. The appearance of the rural folks reflected the extreme trauma the oil spill had programmed their lives. Minutes later, many deserted houses came into view. As we approaches the inner part of Goi, we beheld a community under siege by a demonic crude oil. Most of the buildings were in a state of disrepair.

The occupants have since fled  because of the massive spill. Goi, said to be the oldest in the area, and with a population of nearly 60,000, is tucked on a quiet hill in Gokana Local Government  Area of Rivers State.  The Goi River, which  has its source as Bonny River, flows through Opobo Channel and Bodo West, with tributaries scattered around the villages of the clan.

Damage
While examining the volume of destruction, it was observed that an area of the river, where spring water was gushing, had been covered by a  mass of oil. The thick oil stretched all around the edges of the water which overlooks the swamp in the far end of the river. It was the community’s source of drinking water. Clearly, aquatic life in the river had gone extinct. Paramount ruler of the clan, Mene Livinus Kobani, said the spring water used to accommodate crocodiles and boa, which the community embraced as its deities.

According to him, “Mudskippers and periwinkles, which sprinkled along the shores of the river and welcomed visitors to the water, are all gone. With what has happened here, no one can fish in the next 50 years”. Scores of carcases of fishing canoes and other seafaring materials littered the shores of the river. Even all the farmland, where the waterfront slopes in the clan, had been made infertile.

The exposed roots of coconut and palm trees whose leaves flutter as the ebbing water returns had started dying from the roots to the fronds. Spokesman of the land Alhaji Muhammad M. Kobani said four villages and scores of canoes in the clan were razed by a mystery fire when the spill spread round the area.

The fire and the spill have, according to him, rendered over 30,000 of the communities inhabitants homeless. “Those who refused to move out are daily inflicted by various ailments. Because the people do not have any choice of drinking water now, they scoop whatever they can find including water polluted with benzene. As at last count, we have lost 15 people in one month. What is happening here is a gradual extinction of our people by oil spill”.

When Sunday Vanguard visited Bodo General Hospital, the medical doctor in charge refused to comment on the effect of the spill on the people. He said he would need authorisation of the state government to speak. But some patients, including pregnant women, old people and youths said they started experiencing pain and nausea as soon as the spill was noticed in their river, three years ago (2008).

Many pregnant women were said to be miscarrying at an alarming rate. Mr. Barinua, a resident, said he had spent all his life savings catering for his sick family since the spill was noticed in the community. “We spend so much money on drinking water. If you have to spend so much on water alone, what about food, school fees, hospital bills and others? This oil spill has scattered the community and many families”.

Oil Spill

Another resident, Mrs. Barigboma Williams, said she had lost three pregnancies in a row due to the “bad water, smell of oil every day and the general hardship” occasioned by the spill. “We cannot even relocate because of the financial implications. I used to farm and trade while my husband fished to sustain the family. But we have lost our sources of livelihood because of the spill”.

Sources of Spill
Narrating the sources of their woes, Alhaji Kobani said the first spill in the area was in 2004 and was ignored by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, because they said it was sabotage. He said the spill of 2008, which has remained till date, was accepted by SPDC as system failure at Bomu Manifold – Trans Niger Pipeline. The spokesman explained that Goi  has “always been at the receiving end of system failure and pipeline sabotage as claimed by Shell”.

The paramount ruler of the place, Mene Livinus Kobani, said he was taken aback that the UNEP report on the oil spill in Ogoniland did not mention Goi. Kobani said he was also surprised that the community has also not been involved in the distribution of drinking water by the Rivers State government.

Demands
Mene Kobani said, “Presently, there is no government or Shell presence in the community” and, for life to return to the area, they require a  health centre. My people want to return to the river to fish as well as to the land to farm. So, Shell should clean up the area and carry out remediation. We want adequate compensation from Shell and we want the company to build schools here.  Rivers State government should help us by supplying drinking water to this community”.

The lack of drinking water, he said, has contributed to the people leaving the area in droves. “The five sources of drinking water have been badly polluted. You see, only those who experience things would know the extent of pain. We are undergoing severe hardship in this community and the entire clan as a result of the oil spill here”.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/living-with-oil-spill-in-ogoniland/

Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture


Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture

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Posted 17 September 2011, by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka (Anant Media Pvt. Ltd.), tehelka.com

 

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The Dard Shin tribe of Gurez, speakers of the Shina language, are to be uprooted to Srinagar. But what is a pastoral hill community to do in the city, asks Iftikhar Gilani

Imagine the kind of uproar civil society and rights groups would have created had the Centre decided to shift the indigenous Jarawas from their native Andaman and Nicobar Islands to New Delhi. However, no such noise has been made so far even as the Dard-Shina tribe, said to be the last of the original Aryans living in the remote Gurez region is being robbed of its hearth and home. The tribal community will be relocated to Srinagar, making way for the 330-MW Kishanganga hydro-electric project in Kashmir. Away from the high-profile land acquisition cases of Bhatta Prasaul and Nandigram, this scenic place on the north-western tip of the Valley has hardly had anyone crying foul after the Centre announced relocation plans.

Since there is no land in this heavily militarised region close to Line of Control (LoC), the Government has decided to rehabilitate the tribals to Srinagar. Hyder Ali Samoon, a sub-inspector, a resident of Badwan village looks at his ancestral house with a sense of foreboding. The water from the dam will submerge what has been home to him and his ancestors. Pointing towards a nearby graveyard, where his ancestors lay buried, Samoon tells his sons and grandsons to engrave and store images of the house and the picturesque beauty of the village in their minds so that they can, at least, pass on their heritage to the future generations.

Nearly 300 families belonging to three villages of Badwan, Wanpora and Khopri are being relocated to Srinagar city. Against their peers across the Kanzalwan mountains in Bandipora, these villagers are getting a compensation of Rs 5.75 lakh per kanal (a unit of area). The farmers in Bandipora, on the other hand, with more fertile lands are being paid only Rs 2.25 lakh per kanal. Why this difference? Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Asghar Samoon, who incidentally was touring the area, told TEHELKA that Gurez tribes are being paid more because they are not only losing land but also their culture, civilisation, and will probably become extinct over the next few decades, thanks to the hustle and bustle of Srinagar.

The controversial Kishanganga project, which envisages diverting water from the Kishanganga river through tunnels to the Wullar Lake in Bandipora district of Kashmir Valley has not only come to focus due to Pakistan’s opposition invoking the clauses of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to complain against India to the World Bank but the project has drawn enough attention to itself for being ambiguous about its nature. What is intriguing is that the National Hydel Power Company (NHPC) officials have kept the voluminous environmental assessment report of Kishanganga undertaken by the Centre, for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment, close to its chest. Not only has it refused to share it with the state government, but it also did not accede to the request of former Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, when as a minister he wanted to see the report, before it went to the Cabinet.

Ed Note: Please visit the original site for a photo gallery associated with this article. Click on the image above to go to the original site.

The Rs 3642.04-crore power project will displace 362 families and consume a total of 4280 kanals (535 acres) of land. The Centre and the NHPC’s move to relocate the displaced families outside Gurez Valley were influenced by several factors. For instance, land in the mountainous valley is very limited. Some 27 revenue villages, inhabiting the region with a population of 31,900 (latest census) houses around 26,000 troops. Total land under Army occupation is 2802 kanal, out of which 918 kanals are unauthorised. Out of 1883 authorised occupation, the Army provides rent for 1140 kanals. The LoC fencing has consumed 339 kanals.

The local magistrate of Gurez Mohammad Ashraf Hakak said that the only land that was available on the foothills of mountains was prone to avalanches. Therefore, the Government, with the help of the NHPC, decided to shift the affected families to Mirgund, around 16 km from Srinagar.

At the core of this rehabilitation exercise stands the Dard Shin tribe of Gurez. Speakers of the Shina language, the rare tribals will be cut off from their culture, livelihood and roots if moved to Srinagar. Many historians and anthropologists claim that the Dard Shin people are pure Aryans.

For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state.

“Relocating people outside Gurez is an attempt to divide and rule the people of Gurez,” said the chairman of J&K Dard-Shin tribal minorities, Mir Hamidullah. Unhappy with the plan, he said that in order to preserve their culture and language, the people of Gurez should be provided land and rehabilitated in Gurez itself. “Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” said Mir.

The price of development:

Apart from jeopardising their cultural identity, the move to rehabilitate them will also risk the state of cultivable land in the area, which will be shrunk further by the dam. “This project will affect whatever little agricultural land is left in our village,” said Abdul Khaliq Ganie of Tarbal, the last village near LoC, about 20 kms from Gurez town. “We have been losing our cattle to the minefield areas every year, and now this project has added to our worries as this village remains cut off from the Kashmir Valley for most part of the year,” he added.

Known for its scenic beauty, Gurez is separated from the Valley by the north Kashmir mountain range that runs west of Zojila Pass. For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state. The taxes would be paid at Drass, which happens to be the only area on this side of the LoC that shares its language, culture and customs with Gurez.

The compensation being offered to the people for their homes and land, the locals say, is too little. “They are giving me one lakh rupees for one kanal of land, but how am I going to survive on this little amount along with my nine children,” rued a resident of one of the affected villages in Gurez.

According to civilian officials, the NHPC has promised (under the new relief and rehabilitation plan) to pay Rs 5.57 lakh to the families whose houses will be affected by the project and construct a new house per household outside Gurez. The powerhouse will be located in Kralpora village of Bandipora. Waters from a fast flowing Kishanganga—from Teetwal to Gurez—would be stored at Gurez and diverted to the Bandipora power station. The water will then go into the Bonar Madhumati and eventually flow into the Wullar Lake.

“Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” Slug: Kashmir

Pakistan has raised objections over the water diversion part of the project as it believes the inter-tributary transfer amounts to a violation of the IWT of 1960. Pakistan is worried that the diversion of the river will leave thousands of acres of its rice fields, fed by Neelum (that’s what Kishanganga is known as in Pakistan) dry, and impact Mangla Dam and the viability of its upcoming Neelam-Jhelum power project.

Environmental experts say that the rise in water level of Kishanganga will adversely affect the ecology of Gurez, submerging substantial plantation and leaving an impact on its agricultural land and wildlife. The dam will also affect the breeding cycle of trout fish, found in Kishanganga. “There will be no breeding of trout fish because of this dam as they need fast running water to breed,” said an official from the fisheries department. The dam will also lead to an extreme winter in Gurez, which already has a long winter, as the river will freeze because of the dam, some experts said. “There is a danger of floods too as the water level increases and this will affect other adjoining villages as well,” revealed a government official.

Work flows, unhindered:

However, despite many pitfalls, work on the power project continues on both sides of Gurez and Bandipora. The Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC) has been allotted the EPA contract by NHPC for implementing the project. An amount of Rs 269.96 crore has been spent until March 2010, sources said.

Conceived in 1996, the work on the project began in 2007. HCC is constructing a 37m-high rock-filled dam, and a 23.50 km headrace tunnel to take water to three turbines (110 MW each) for generating 1,350 million units of energy a year. The HCC, last winter, spent a crore on the helicopter service to reach the dam site in Gurez.

In addition to the various problems associated with the project, the HCC has been accused of discriminating against Kashmiri engineers and employees. The HCC authorities, locals alleged, are forcing families in the affected villages to vacate their houses and land even before providing them with compensation.

“The affected families are asking the HCC authorities to give compensation before they vacate their lands,” said a Kashmiri engineer working for the HCC site in Bandipora. “People of Kralpora, which is the most affected village, were recently beaten up by the HCC authorities for protesting and demanding land compensation,” he added. The HCC and NHPC officials, however, refused comment.

Local labourers alleged that they are paid less than the outsiders. “NHPC did not employ the people from the villages that will be submerged because of the dam. They should have been given preference, but the project authorities brought employees from outside the valley,” a government official said.

Minefield of historical wealth:

The region with its unique history is littered with gems of archaeological interest. Archaeologists believe that there are many sites in Gurez, which have inscriptions in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, Hebrew and Tibetan. Experts are of the opinion that an archaeological investigation of Gurez valley will give further insight into the history of the Dard Shin people and about Kashmir in general.

Incidentally, Gurez valley falls along the section of the ancient Silk Route, which connected Kashmir valley with Gilgit and Kashgar. Archaeological surveys in valleys north of Gurez along the Silk Route, particularly in Chilas, have uncovered hundreds of inscriptions recorded in stone. The Kishanganga project will also affect this route, which has traditionally been crucial for trade in Central Asia. One of the three villages that will also be affected by the project is Kanzalwan, which is believed to be an archaeological site of historic importance. The last council of Buddhism is said to have been held in this village, and further down the stream, the ruins of ancient Sharada University lie preserved along the Neelum.

The toll the project is going to take on the local population is heavy. It will mostly hit people who are entirely dependent on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihood. “Those families whose livelihood is entirely dependent on agriculture will be affected more as they have to look for other avenues of employment after their land compensation is exhausted,” said a government official in Gurez.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
iftikhar@tehelka.com 

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http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws170911Kishanganga.asp

Akwanbo: Linking the living with our ancestors

Akwanbo: Linking the living with our ancestors

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Posted 16 September 2011, by Ebo Quansah, The Chronicle, ghanaian-chronicle.com

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‘From the way children especially, were excited, I would not be surprised if a pupil at Ekrawfo or Essarkyir named Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the Head of State of the Republic instead of the Ekumfi-born President John Evans Atta Mills.’

Five days at the holy  village brought its own   reward. The air was  fresher, noise from the deadly insects and bites of mosquitoes were completely absent, and I enjoyed sitting out in the open late into the night, and just before day break. I was also able to reminiscence with colleagues and classmates I have not seen for several decades.

I was back home at Ekumfi Ekrawfo for the annual Akwanbo Festival. The festival had its own attraction. The Asafo drums, the durbar and the youth on a route march and a float, added to the colour of the occasion. But it was meeting friends and colleagues I have not seen for several decades that added to the spice of the occasion.

There was a particular mate we used to tease in the good old days at the Ekrawfo T.I. Ahmadiyya Middle School. Kwame Affam Quansah is a cousin. In the early formative years, poking fun at each other enriched life in the holy village. I would like to believe we were in early Middle School when the incident happened. It might have been while we were in Form One or Two, when Kwame Affam volunteered to write a date on a building which cement work had just been completed.

It was a day in October. Up to today, nobody has really bothered his or her head about the day and year. What has ever remained significant was the writing of October, which was done without the T. For the rest of the period, Kwame Affam’s name changed. Both the young and the old called him Ocomber, which was exactly what he wrote on the building that day.

I have not met him for a very long time. Last Sunday, Kwame Affam and I met during church service at the local Methodist Church. In between prayers, we recalled our school days and particularly, the incident which begat Ocomber. We continued right after the service, ending up with a few bottles of cold beer before we rushed to the durbar grounds late in the afternoon.

Trust trivial issues to lead to misunderstandings in the rural setting. Apparently, Nana Kwesi Attah, Chief of Ekumfi Ekrawfo, had brought down some white investors to undertake a number of agriculture-related projects in town. My understanding is that the investors are offering GH¢250 a month for hiring farm hands. Throughout the Akwanbo festival period, one was invited to settle this or that dispute, arising out of someone’s inability to gain employment with the new investors in town.

Akwanbo was fun. When some of us arrived on Friday morning, the town was already in a festive mood. The programme started on Thursday, with the traditional clearing of the path our ancestors took to settle at Ekrawfo. In a way, Akwanbo links the living with our ancestors.

Friday, was reserved for families to attend to their ancestral groves and family matters. When the Asafo drums began to beat on Saturday afternoon, the drum beat summoned the youth and the old to be part of the procession. In times past, the drums were carried from Otabenadze, through Atakwaa, Ekrawfo, and ended at the two shrines at Gyinankoma, where libation was poured, before dispersal.

The story is told that the warrior, who led the people from Mankessim, after the Fantis had migrated from Techiman, was Ankomah. According to the oral account of the history, Ankomah was asked by the chiefs and elders to stop because night was falling and legs were tired. Where Ankomah stopped became a settlement, and was named Gyinankoma, to commemorate the grounds where Ankomah stopped.

Later, someone left Gyinankoma and began a settlement over-looking the hills. As more households joined the new settlement, the town was called Ekrawfo, signifying a new township. From Ekrawfo, a hunter called Atta went hunting in a nearby forest. As time went on, he settled in the forest.

People visiting the settlement in the forest referred to it as Atta’s Forest or Atta No Kwaa No Mu. That was corrupted to read Attakwaa. From Attakwaa, a group of people moved on and settled just at the foot of the Obaakwaa Hills. It was said that the hill was so steep that old women especially, could not climb it.

Consequently, the settlement was referred to as Aberewa Anfo, an old woman could not climb. Now, it spots a new name. Traditionalists have still not been able to explain the name change. What is important is that the people of the four towns are bound together. They have a common ancestry.

Consequently, Gyinankoma, Ekrawfo, Attakwaa and Otabenadze celebrate the annual Akwanbo Festival together. There used to be two Asafo companies – Gyinankoma and Otabenadze in one group, with Ekrawfo and Atakwaa in the other.

Unfortunately, as a result of an on-going chieftaincy dispute, the four towns are going solo in the celebration of the annual Akwanbo Festival. Since Ekrawfo is larger than the three other towns, the attraction has always been at Ekrawfo.

The highlight this year, and every other year, was the durbar of the chiefs and the people on Sunday afternoon. Activities though began much earlier. In the morning, there was a float organised at Ekumfi Ekrawfo. With a disc jockey and musical instruments aboard a truck, the young men and women of the town followed on foot, singing and dancing.

A live band from Mankessim was in town from Thursday to Sunday entertaining guests to the festival. On Sunday, when the grand durbar of chiefs and people climaxed the occasion, politicians from the two leading parties in the country – the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress – arrived late, leaving the floor to the locals.

Mr. Nazir Keelson, Headmaster of the Postin T.I. Ahmadiyya Senior High School, chaired the function, with my humble self becoming the Guest Speaker.

I encouraged teachers to continue with their sacrificial job of preparing pupils of the local school effectively to pass the Basic Entrance Certificate Examinations (BECE) and qualify for the Senior High School programme.  In a year when schools in the Central Region appear to have done badly in the BECE, it was encouraging that 20 pupils out of the 28 presented qualified for the Senior High School from the Ekrawfo T.I. Ahmadiyya Junior High School.

It was not the best, considering that Ekrawfo had very distinguished performances in the examinations. I asked parents to interest themselves in the education of their wards by following their progress, and releasing them from tedious house chores, to enable the children to concentrate on their studies.

The paradox of educating the rural child is that while pupils tended to do better at a time electricity had not been extended to some of these communities, the children are not taking advantage of rural electricity to learn. It looks like the children are misapplying the opportunities available to them now. Instead of concentrating on their books, the rural folks are spending more time watching television and videos.

The NPP parliamentary candidate, Ato Cudjoe, was the first of the political guests to arrive. He charged the atmosphere by telling the local folks to examine their living conditions as a guide to casting their votes next year. He said the NDC came promising the moon, and had rather saddled the nation with huge debts.

He castigated the Member of Parliament (MP) for Mfansteman East, George Kuntu Blankson, for wasting the representation of Ekumfi in Parliament. He alleged that the MP had failed to initiate any project with his share of the MP’s Common fund, and invited the people to vote for the NPP candidate to ensure that Ekumfi, known on the political terrain as Mfantseman East, was effectively represented in Parliament.

He was still on the floor when Mr. Kuntu Blankson arrived with an entourage of NDC party faithful. He claimed to have brought many development projects into the area, and promised that the Essuehyia-Ajumako road had been awarded on contract, something ‘the previous administration could not do in eight years.’

Just before the durbar ended, word filtered through that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, flagbearer of the NPP in the 2012 presidential election, would come visiting Ekumfi, including Ekrawfo on Tuesday. Throughout the night and the next day, the topic for discussion was the impending visit.

Ekrawfo has always voted for the NPP since 1992, in spite of the fact that the constituency almost always returned the NDC candidate. In some way, therefore, Ekrawfo is a departure from the norm in Ekumfi. The impending visit of Nana Akufo-Addo was definitely the biggest news in town. Even children looked forward to the visit of the man likely to be the next President of the Republic.

On the day of the visit itself, people were in an expectant mood. In the end, the people of Ekrawfo were deeply disappointed when word came very late in the day that as a result of unforeseen circumstances, Nana would terminate at Essarkyir, the next town. Even then, people poured out to Essarkyir from Ekrawfo in their numbers to cheer the presidential candidate.

In spite of the fact that Nana arrived when it was already dark, people lined up on the main street to cheer the NPP delegation all the way to the chief’s palace, and ended up at the 10 bed-room residence of Ato Cudjoe, the young man on whose broad shoulders the people of Ekumfi’s fate in Parliament hangs.

From the way children especially, were excited, I would not be surprised if a pupil at Ekrawfo or Essarkyir named Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the Head of State of the Republic instead of the Ekumfi-born President John Evans Atta Mills.

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http://ghanaian-chronicle.com/news/other-news/akwanbo-linking-the-living-with-our-ancestors/

Enabling Environment, Capacity Drive MFIs – CBN

 

Enabling Environment, Capacity Drive MFIs – CBN

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

 

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Posted 13 September 2011, by Amaka Ifeakandu, Leadership (Leadership Newspaper Group), leadership.ng

 

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Central Bank of Nigeria has listed enabling environment,constant training and capacity building as the major factors that would help to drive the growth of Micro-finance institutions in the country.

The CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who made this remark in Lagos at a one-day seminar, said that the apex bank had taken various steps to develop the sub-sector because of the strategic importance of eliminating poverty at the grassroots and developing the economy.

Sanusi who was represented by the Director, Development Finance Department (DFD), Paul Eluhaiwe, noted that what the microfinance sub-sector needed was the right environment, training and capacity building, adding that the apex bank had trained over 200 examiners to assess the microfinance with a view to enhancing its efficiency.

Eluhaiwe said the microfinance bank sector, had gone through series of reforms in the country, adding that recently, the apex bank set new operating guidelines that would enable the sector operate and contribute to the economic growth of the country.

The policy according to him, seeks to harmonise operating standards and provide a strategic platform for the evolution of microfinance institutions particularly MFBs. Existing non-deposit taking service providers, which continue to operate outside the purview of regulation and supervision of the CBN, would be encouraged to make periodic returns on their operations for statistical purposes to the CBN.

The apex bank said the policy would enhance the provision of diversified microfinance services on a sustainable basis for the economically active poor and low income households. It would also provide appropriate machinery for tracking the activities of development partners and other non-bank service providers in the microfinance sub-sector of the Nigerian economy.

According to a CBN circular dated April 29, the MfBs are meant to enhance the access of micro- entrepreneurs and low income households to financial services sector to enable them contribute to the growth of the economy.
Microfinance services refer to loans, deposits, insurance, fund transfer and other ancillary non-financial products targeted at low-income clients.

The CBN said that before the emergence of MfBs, the people that were unserved or under-served by formal financial institutions usually found succour in non-governmental organisation-microfinance institutions (NGO-MFIs), moneylenders, friends, relatives, credit unions among others.

Also speaking at the seminar, the founder of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, Professor Muhammed Yunus, recounted the success story of the bank in his native country, stating that it has achieved its objective of addressing poverty in the country.

Yunus, commonly regarded as banker to the poor, said the Grameen Bank has given loans to nearly seven million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women in villages, adding that the bank gives collateral-free income generating loans, housing loans and micro-enterprises loans to poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products to its members.

“In a cumulative way, the bank has given out loans totaling about $6.1 billion. The repayment rate is 98.28 per cent. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. It is financially self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of the bank today amount to 155 per cent of all outstanding loans,” he said.

He maintained that to create a poverty free world was possible, stressing that poverty was not created by poor people.