African experts are calling for a common continental approach to deal with the Fall Armyworm invasion that has hit farms across the continent. They say this is important to ensure effective control of the pests which have ravaged farms over the last two years and threatened the food security of millions of people.

“If it has been contained in America, we can also contain it in Africa. But we need to work together as one in African,” Philibert Nyinondi, a Researcher at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania said at a forum at in the US that screened a Joy news documentary on the invasion.


The documentary titled ‘Rampaging Soldiers’ which was produced by Joy news’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo was shown at an Environmental Justice Series event organized by environment focused group, Cornell Environmental Collaborative and ‘Ghanaians at Cornell’ on the campus of the Ivy League institution Cornell University in Ithaca – New York State – USA.

‘Rampaging Soldiers’ which was aired in August this year on JOYNEWS on Multi TV discusses the spread of Fall Armyworm (a pest native to America which was first detected in Africa last year). One other documentary produced by Opoku Gakpo titled ‘Poison on the Menu’ which tells the story of increasing cases of food poisoning as a result of the misuse of chemicals, was also screened.

The event was on the theme: “Fighting Invasive Pests on African Farms: Are there alternatives to chemical application”? Philibert Nyinondi noted the invasion of the pests have caused significant damage to farm fields in Tanzania as has been the case in several parts of the continent, saying “scientists were taken by surprise.”


The Fall Armyworm which were first detected in Africa in 2016 have now spread to more than 25 African countries, invading about 117,000 hectares of farm fields in Ghana alone. Government earlier this year announced the allocation of 16 million cedis ($4m) for the purchase of chemicals and education to deal with the invasion.

Opoku Gakpo who spoke at the event expressed worry continuous dependence on pesticides to deal with the pests could damage the environment and harm human health, adding “it’s about time that we all think about possible other options to combating these deadly pests.”


Participated in the screening gave good reviews of the documentary. “I thought they were really enlightening… The one about the armyworm raises issues about food and environmental justice and how if African farmers don’t use pesticides, they may not survive. It’s always good to bring that into context that people are not always as privileged to pay attention to the environment more because they are desperate to survive,” Mitchell Lee, one of the participants said.

Dennis Delasi Nyanyo, a Biology Student and Co-President at Ghanaians @ Cornell noted: “it is really important that we got to see the food supply chain in Ghana because most of this is very invisible to we the consumer. And so just being able to see what is happening and the conditions affecting farmers is really important for us.”


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In the second part of the Hotline Documentary ‘Poison on the Menu’ which explores how the food you consume could be killing you slowly, we focus on pesticide poisoning. It’s one major but commonly underrated cause of food borne diseases. As these farmers in the Fanteakwa District of the Eastern Region explain, there is no way their crops will survive without the application of chemicals because of constant attacks by pests. “The pests hardly respond to the chemicals. So we need to keep applying the chemicals,” Obed Asiamah, a vegetable farmer in the area explained.

Let’s look at lettuce for example. It takes 12 weeks to mature between planting and harvesting. But it’s sprayed at least six times before harvest. These chemicals are strong, and need to be applied under strict health and safety procedures. With the most important of these standards being the duration between last chemical application and harvest, as Agric Extension officer in the Fanteakwa District Christian Zormelo explains.


“As for pesticides, especially insecticides, every two weeks you have to spray. But when it is almost 9 weeks, you stop the chemical usage. So that you have at least 12 to 21 days before you harvest to allow for all the residual effects to break down,” he explained

Farmers applying fertilisers wrongly

But the extension officer admits a lot of farmers in the vicinity flout these standards and end up risking the lives of their consumers. “Even some prefer spraying and then the following day, they harvest,” Zormelo disclosed.  Wisdom Korkor is one of such farmers. He told Joy news: “At times, the traders who come to buy the cabbage put pressure on farmers to harvest just a day after spraying the chemicals. They get upset if we do not allow that because they have the money.”

The evidence of how powerful these chemicals are lies in the way farmers react to them when they apply the pesticides on farms without the necessary protective clothing. Ernest Boabeng, popularly called Wofa Atta is a garden eggs, pepper and tomato farmer at Beregoro has been sharing his experience. “When you are spraying, you will see that you will become ill. You suffer headache, and you suffer pains and you get eye problem,” he said. “It makes me unable to sleep at night. I get fever. I can’t even breathe. My body itches. Then I get headache. I am unable to go to work for three days,” another farmer said.


And in fact, in the home of Asutsuare based rice farmer John Awuku Dziwornu, someone died as a result of the wrongful storage of chemicals. “I lost a cousin’s daughter to insecticides. The father went to the farm, came back and didn’t store the remaining pesticides. So this little girl took it and drank it and died. That girl could have been a doctor or lawyer or president and I am saddened by that,” he explained.

But one way or the other, these chemicals find their way into the diets of many as a result of the wrongful application and handling of such chemicals. As a study by Hagar Afia Nanabro of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’s Horticultural Department reveals, a lot of these chemicals are in the diet you consume each day, sometimes above the permissible limits. Quoting a study she conducted on the quality of some selected vegetables in Kumasi, Hagar notes: “It was seen that most of the vegetables contain various pesticides and residues in different ranges.”


Agric Consultant Aaron Attefa Ampofo says such contaminated foods get onto the market on daily basis. “Some farmers use the chemical dithane to help the tomatoes attain very red colour. Most of us will go to the market, you take the tomato and see this yellowish powder on it. How many of us take time to wash the tomato before consuming it?” he quizzed.

More cases of pesticide mishandling

Fredrick Boampong, Programmes Manager of Crop Life Ghana, an association of chemical sellers says they have also observed the mishandling of pesticides and their containers in several farming communities across the country. “During our programme, we found that most of the farmers were using the chemical containers for keeping salt in their kitchen. Some were also using it for water. It is dangerous. With the chemical container, even if you triple rinse it, it’s still hazardous,” Mr. Boampong explained.  Farmers misuse pesticides in at least six different ways in Ghana including spraying too close to harvest, over dosage, and applying pesticides intended for cash crops like cocoa and cotton to growing food crops, some of which contain unsafe active ingredients.


Unregulated marketing of chemicals

A visit to Kejetia in the Kumasi Metropolis, a hub where a lot of these chemicals are sold revealed that despite their strong nature, they are not sold under any regulated conditions. Some are sold in the open and on table tops. Some of them have inscriptions in foreign language. Sadly, a lot of the sellers are uneducated, raising concerns about how they are able to properly advise their customers on how to use these chemicals safely.


Deaths from Pesticide misuse

In fact, a recent report by the Northern Presbyterian Agricultural Services documents how in 2010 alone, 15 persons in the Upper East Region died from suspected pesticide poisoning according to the Regional Directorate of Health. Most of these deaths occurred due to poor storage of pesticides, which seeped into food stocks. 118 others suffered poisoning from consuming food contaminated with pesticides in the Garu, Bawku West and Talensi Nabdam Districts.

Agric Consultant Aaron Attefa attributes the situation to the fact that a lot of these farmers are illiterates and don’t understand safety instructions. “We have a huge problem because between 30 to 70 percent of the farmers producing vegetables are illiterates. The production context is changing. The factors that come into play are becoming complex. With the improvement of science, agro chemicals are not the simple chemicals we used to know. So you need some minimal education or sensitization to decipher between which chemicals to use at what time,” he explained.  


There are also lots of obsolete and expired chemicals on the market, some of which are being used on food thereby endangering consumers and farming communities. “Most of our members are complaining about their chemicals being faked. People are printing labels of our member companies on other concoctions and selling to farmers. And it is happening in broad day light. Everybody is seeing it,” Fred Boampong of Crop Life Ghana noted with concern. “The regulators are seeing it. We should have pesticide inspectors across the country but unfortunately either they are not enough or they are not there at all because we are not seeing the effect of their inspection… It’s a whole mess up there,” he added.

A study by the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission in June 2010 at five markets in Accra found that 23.8% of the fruits on the market contained residues of insecticides like DDT above the accepted Maximum Residue Limit. The report warned the continuous consumption of such fruits could result in deadly chronic effects.


Ban on chemicals

In order to deal with the problem of food contamination by pesticides, there is a push for a ban on the application of chemicals to food production. Dr. Samuel Atta Mills who is a farmer and MP for Komenda Edina Eguafo Abrim (KEEA) is leading the charge. “We need to ban these things. Ban the importation of pesticides. We need to get to organic farming. And anybody who is going to handle this should be qualified persons. And we shouldn’t be dependent so much on these things. Most of these advanced countries have banned all these weedicides. But they need to make money and so they send them to us,” he alleged. But chemical dealers disagree. “Believe you me, we are at this stage and we can’t do without chemicals,” Fred Boampong of Crop Life Ghana noted.


Agric Extension agent Christina Zormeloo is encouraging farmers not to jump into the use of chemicals without consulting agric extension agents even when their fields are attacked by pests. “We are advising that, whatever they see on the field, they should inform the Department of Agric and take samples to them so that they can actually do diagnoses and do prescriptions for them. They should not to just go to the store and buy whatever chemicals they want. It’s like going to the hospital to see a doctor and get drugs,” he said. There are also concerns about hard chemicals like mercury and lead contaminating foods as a result of activities of illegal miners across the country. These illegal miners usually wash such chemicals into water bodies to retrieve gold. These chemicals end up as sources of irrigation for crops.


One interesting point is that, some of the foods we consume in Ghana are not accepted at the international level. For example, Ghana has for the last two years not been able to export chilli pepper and other vegetables to the European Union after pests were detected in some of the exports. These banned foods are still consumed in the country. For players in the food industry, this is completely out of place.

“It does appear that the people out there would want to eat quality foods and we are also concerned. We make every effort to provide them with quality food. But I ask myself what of the food that we consume locally. Can this contamination cause illness? Can it kill people? The answer is yes,” Food Consultant Aaron Ateffa noted with concern. The point of interest is that; if the foods are not good for export to the international market, why is no one stopping Ghanaians from eating them?


Regulatory institutions must sit up

The Food and Drugs Authority however says it is doing a lot to deal with such cases of food contamination. “The FDA is working assiduously to ensure food on the market are safe,” Maria Lovelace who Johnson is Head of Food Regulation at the authority explained. Fred Boampong of Crop Life Ghana says the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and its Plant Protection Regulatory Services Division, as well as Environmental Protection Agency should do more to sanctify the agro chemicals industry.

“EPA and PPRSD, they are doing their best but their best is not good enough. We have a lot of challenges in the system with the influx of agro-chemicals. We have a lot of agro chemicals in the system that are not registered for use in the country. But they are on the market,” he said. Agric Consultant Aaron Attefah attributes this to government’s inability to resource such institutions adequately. “The very laws that create these institutions stipulate that they should be funded. But you will go there and money to conduct surveys on the market and also to enforce the regulations is not there,” he noted with concern.


Way forward

President of the Concerned Farmers Association of Ghana Nana Oboadie Boateng Bonsu is advocating for a food tracing system to check the problem. “Go to Agbogbloshie and see. Everything is from wherever, they send it to Agbogblosihe and people just buy them without any tag. And so when there is any food poisoning, we will not know the source. This must change so that if it is today that you harvested your products, we know what you sent it to the market,” he explained. He says this will ensure traders in food are held responsible when there are cases of contamination, so they stop bad practices.

Below is link to the video of the documentary:

By Joseph Opoku Gakpo


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Food… Everyone needs it. And no one survives without it. But what is the quality of food that you take in and how can you be sure that what you eat is keeping you healthy and not killing you softly? In this edition of Hotline Documentaries christened ‘Poison on the Menu’, we explore how the food you consume could be killing you slowly with or without your knowledge and approval. According to the World Health Organisation, one in every ten people falls ill from consuming contaminated food every year. There are many causes of this contamination, including food being liaised with harmful microorganisms, unwholesome additives and chemical residue, thereby resulting in food borne diseases.


“Food borne diseases are illnesses that we acquire from eating food that is contaminated. So the contamination could be as a result of micro-organisms or germs or it could also be as a result of toxins or poisons. So the symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea,” Dr. Donne Ameme of the University of Ghana’s School of Public Health explained. The contamination could happen during production on the farm, transportation, food preparation, among others. The most common sources of food borne diseases are fresh foods which are usually not cooked before consumption.

Victims tell their stories

Ama Kodum, a communications expert in Accra once had a terrible experience after consuming such contaminated food. “I was going to my village for a funeral. I bought banana along the way. By evening time, I started experiencing severe stomach pains and I was running. My brother in law had to take me to the hospital. For three to four days, I was completely down,” she narrated.


“Just imagine that the other day too I bought sweet pepper and put it in the fridge and a couple of days later, it had gotten spoilt. Let me use the language the women use, it melted. Its chemicals that people are putting on it because people want to make money at all cost so the vegetables must look beautiful and attractive and it’s killing people,” Ama Kodum added. Ama was lucky to have survived because sometimes, it gets more serious than this. As Dr. Donne Ameme explains, food borne diseases could even cause organ failure and death. “Sometimes you may get complications that relate to the kidney, your kidney may fail. You may get joint complications. Sometimes, brain and nervous tissue damage could result from foodborne diseases and ultimately you may die but most of the food borne diseases resolve without complications,” he said.


Kofi Darko, a resident of Kumasi is another victim of food poisoning who has been sharing his story. He remembers buying fruits on the streets of Kumasi after a hard day’s work to satisfy his hunger because he had previously been advised to stay away from heavy food at night. Kofi says he almost lost his life that night, and had to spend two nights in the hospital.

“I had butterflies in my tummy. It was a weird experience. We had to rush to the hospital. After the doctor conducted tests, he said I had taken poison. They gave me activated charcoal so I can vomit everything out. They took samples to run some tests and they realized the fruits had some chemical substances….. They forced it to ripe by adding carbide that I hear they use to cause the banana to ripe immaturely. The doctor said if I hadn’t been rushed to the hospital, I could have died.” he narrated.


Deliberate/inadvertent contamination of foods

Sometimes, handlers of food deliberately and criminally contaminate them with poisonous chemicals to induce or delay ripening. Other times, the intention is to preserve the foods and make them more attractive to consumers. Remember the survey by Food and Drugs Authority last year which showed more than 90 percent of palm oil on the market contained deadly Sudan IV dye? Remember the story that formalin was allegedly being used to preserve ‘koobi’ fish? And many more. Well, the Food and Drugs Authority says they have a lot of challenges monitoring the quality of foods which are not packaged before sale. “When we talk of the non-prepackage foods like palm oil, vegetables and others, regulating them is not easy. But we occasionally do market surveys to pick samples and check their quality,” Maria Lovelace Johnson who is Head of Food Regulation at the authority explained.

There are however other forms of contamination that happen inadvertently. Nanabro Hagar Afia of the Horticultural Department at KNUST conducted a study on the quality of some selected vegetables being consumed in the Kumasi Metropolis including carrot, cabbage and green pepper. Vegetables sampled from four of five different suburbs surveyed contained faecal materials, which Hagar notes could pose a threat to the health of consumers.


“They are from faeces dropping… Some use poultry droppings and the irrigation waters used could also be the source. Because the water runs through the refuse damps and gutters, there could be some human faecal residues in the water which also causes these coliforms,” Nanabro said.

The contamination was attributed to the deposit of human waste and garbage around the production sites which pollutes water used by the farmers to irrigate the vegetables. A situation that is all too common at various vegetable growing areas including Kwadaso, Tanoso and Gyinyaase. Joy news traveled to Gyinyase to go observe the cultural practices farmers apply to their work there.

“I am here at a large lettuce farm, the size of two football parks at Gyinyaase, near Atonsu in Kumasi. I see two young men carrying spraying cans running around helter skelter to fetch water from a nearby source to come irrigate the vegetable fields. I approach to check the water source. It’s a drain, what is popularly called gutter. It’s a stagnant water source. It’s green and dark in colour. I can see faecal matter and I see heaps of rubbish by the side,” Joy news Joseph Opoku Gakpo reported.


Daniel Adjei who is with the local Vegetable Growers Association says they are working to stop this practice of using contaminated water to grow vegetables. “As for us we, are an association. We meet regularly and teach our members to use clean water for water their fields,” he explained.

I visit another such farm at Begoro in the Eastern Region. The farm sits beside stagnant, brownish looking and muddy water which is used for irrigating the fields. As these farmers admit, the water source is unhygienic and has been the source of fungus infestation that ends up destroying their fields.

“The water we use to irrigate our crops is dirty water. It’s not clean water. It attracts pests to the fields. Sometimes, cattle walk in it and infest it with fungus. And when we use it on our fields, they infest the farm. The moment you use it to water your crops, the fungus then attack the roots of the plants,” Danso Samuel a farmer in the area explained.


Agric Consultant with the Meridian Agricultural Services Aaron Attefa Ampofo says there is a reason for which the use of such polluted water is common in vegetable production. They add to the nutritional value of the soil and it thus gives farmers better yield. “It’s not only nutrients that are coming into these drains. There are other industrial waste that come into these drains, sometimes faecal matter. And they come with pathogens,” he explained.

Post-harvest handling

Improper handling of food once they get off the farm has also been identified as major causes of food-borne diseases. Traders storing foods on the floor and in unhygienic environments in the market; tomatoes for example being kept until they rot before consumption, among others all contribute to such food contamination. “It was also seen that the vegetables from the markets have higher levels of microbes than those on the farms. They were more contaminated…. That could be from the way vegetables are handled by the market women. Some don’t even wash the containers they use to keep them. Some keep them on the floor,” Hagar Nanabro noted her survey found.


The danger is that such vegetables and fruits do not go through heat before consumption, exposing consumers to the effects of food-borne diseases. “Typical example is lettuces and our cabbages. We just put them in water, slice them and they go onto the waakye or foods we are consuming. And that is how dangerous some of these things can be,” Agric Consultant Aaron Attefa Ampofo explained. Aaron Attefa believes it’s about time consumers took ultimate responsibility for the food they consumed and insisted that only clean, unadulterated stuff enters their stomachs. He is asking consumers to double check the quality of the foods they buy before consumption.


“The consumer has the power to change the situation. We have regulators there but the buck stops with the consumer because they have the purchasing power. They pay the cash. So consumers have to be observant. We have to give feedback to our producers,” he advised.

The story continues in part 2 of POISON ON THE MENU.

Below is the link to the first part.

By Joseph Opoku Gakpo

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“Excellence is not a function of age, riches nor blood ties but good planning, determination and hardwork. I was the most unlikely candidate for this award but guess what, here we are….” Those were the inspiring words of 27 year-old Assemblyman for Mafi Zongo Electoral Area Julius Karl Fieve after he was recently handed the Youth Excellence League Award by the Beige Foundation at a colourful ceremony in Accra. He was awarded for his leadership, advocate for excellence and identifiable contribution to the development of his community and Ghana.


Mr. Fieve was elected to represent the people of Mafi Zongo in the Central Tongu District of the Volta Region at age 25 during the district level elections of 2015, making him unarguably the youngest person to have been declared victor that day. Armed with a lot of passion to make the lives of his people better and enormous youthful energy but very little resources, he beat the incumbent and two others to the top job in his community. He braced the odds, proved pundits wrong, re-wrote the history of his community and justified why the phrase “yes youth can” is no longer ‘a brag’ but words that could come true.

“When I announced my intention to contest, some people objected to it with the argument that I am too young to be an Assembly Member and also because I am not married. But I kept the faith. I put together the best brains from across my electoral area and managed to get the elders of about 9 out of 13 communities supporting my candidature,” he told the Revolutionary Minds Project in an interview.


Service to Humanity

For Mr. Fieve, it was a call to service and a high honour that he will cherish for the rest of his life. “I was trained to always serve well and give back to society and my believe is; as you do that, posterity would not forget you,” he said. “The zeal and passion to offer myself voluntarily to the people, serve them with all what is in me and live a life for their utmost benefit just entered me. I was prepared to offer myself as a sacrificial lamb to save my beloved people from the doldrums of poverty,” Mr. Fieve added.

The office of an assembly man comes with huge responsibilities but little resources and very tiny authority to influence development in the various localities. Julius has however ‘done what Napoleon could not do’ for his people and continues trying his best to do more through advocacy, relying on his networks and using the people’s power to get more influential political officers to work. Over the last two years, he has worked with philanthropists, central government and civil society groups to provide basic amenities to communities in his electoral area that have drastically changed the way they live their lives. Together, they have built school blocks for children there, communities have been mobilized to build health posts, electricity has been extended to some areas, and vulnerable residents have been hooked onto the National Health Insurance Scheme, among others.

One major focus of Mr. Fieve has been to instill in the people the spirit of pulling and pushing resources together to ensure the development of communities. He has made them believe in the principles of community initiatives including joint efforts, mutual assistance, social responsibility and community self-reliance. For him, these are valuable ideologies that are crucial for local development and nation building. It is for these efforts that the Prof. Stephen Addei led team at the Beige Foundation gave Mr. Fieve the Excellence League Award with a citation that hailed him for his selfless service to his community, humanity and Ghana as a whole.


A point to prove

For Mr. Fieve, he has a point to prove to his people that they didn’t make the wrong choice by electing him assembly member; a point to prove to the world that young people can make it big if given the opportunity; and a point to prove to society that with good leadership, every community in this world can lift itself out of poverty. “I want to raise the hopes of the community by serving them and not them serving me. I want to challenge and change the status quo. I refuse to accept the state that the electoral area finds itself in right now and I am in to change things around by the Grace of God,” he said.

Tough terrain

Julius had a difficult childhood. Born to parents in one of the Volta Region’s most under developed areas, he struggled to get access to quality education and even financing his schooling was tough. “I was born in a disadvantaged family. My parents are both peasant farmers. I spent the first ten years of my life with my late maternal Grandmother. Life at childhood was a very challenging one. There were waves of hardship that nearly blew me off track but I persevered,” Julius Karl Fieve told the Revolutionary Minds Project.

“Financial challenges nearly made me drop out of the Sogakofe Senior High School. But I purposed in my heart to endure the hardship and bring honour to my God and my family,” he narrated. “After school I farmed about 4 acres of cassava and managed to buy KNUST forms where I eventually went to study for a degree in actuarial science,” he said in an emotional tone.

IMG_20170417_102109 - Copy - Copy

It’s been ‘a break through the glass ceiling journey’ for Mr. Fieve in a community where many young people are unable to make it beyond senior high school level because of poverty. No part of the electoral area has motorable roads. None of the communities have good drinking water. Some communities are without electricity. Unfortunately, schools in the electoral area have some of the worst infrastructure you can find anywhere in Ghana. The pupils study under trees or sheds with them being sent home any time there is sign of rainfall. In addition to these, the schools do not have Information Communication Technology (ICT) laboratory or proper libraries which make teaching and learning of ICT very difficult. It thus remain such a difficult terrain to grow up in, but Mr. Fieve appears to be one of the shining lights for the community.

“My electoral area is a farming community with about 99.99% of the people being peasant farmers. So the major challenge in the community is poverty. This is what is making it difficult for a lot of children from the community to make it even beyond the Senior High School level,” Mr. Fieve narrated. “Also because it is a deprived community, the motivation to have children embracing education was missing. Teaching and learning was also not of quality as compared to the schools in the towns and cities,” he explained.


All his life, the following have remained key guiding principles for Mr. Fieve: “Life is more of what you make it than the circumstances that you are born into; every good leader can turn the fortunes of his people around within his term of office if he wants to; never give up hope.” He is convinced the above motivations are what has brought him this far and he looks forward to even brighter days ahead for his community.

Role Model

Julius Fieve currently works as Programmes Officer at the Global Women Development Promoters, an NGO in Kumasi. He is also a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, Kumasi hub. In 2016, Julius was granted distinction as an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society by the Queen’s Young Leadership Programme in recognition of his commitment to promoting values of the commonwealth and working to improve the lives of citizens.


For a lot of young people in the Mafi Zongo area, Julius is now a role model. He has become an emblem of what they can become in future if they put their hands to the fire and study hard. He doesn’t want to let them down. “The tenacity of purpose, zeal and ‘can do attitude of mine’ which in addition to the grace of God shot me up is an inspiration to the young ones not only in my community but in the whole of my district. I will do my best to live up to their expectations,” he said.

Writers’ note:
This write up by journalist Joseph Opoku Gakpo with additional files from Nana Aba Kanga Forson is part of a series of articles by the REVOLUTIONARY MINDS project to put the spotlight on unnoticed individuals engaged in radically, inspiring activities in their communities. The focus of the project is to tell the stories of young persons engaged in activities they would ordinarily not be doing. Every month, the project publishes the story of one “Revolutionary Mind” on, and this website and aggressively shares it on social media to the reach of as many people as possible. The objective of the project is to inspire all young people to do something ground breaking in their communities.

REVOLUTIONARY MINDS…. Do something Daring


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Multimedia Group Limited journalist Joseph Opoku Gakpo will on Thursday speak at Ivy League institution, Cornell University about the Fall Armyworm Invasion in Africa. The award winning journalist will be speaking at the Environmental Justice Series organized by environment focused group Cornell Environmental Collaborative and ‘Ghanaians at Cornell’ on the campus of the school located in Ithaca – New York State – USA.


Two Joy news’ Hotline documentaries produced by Joseph Opoku Gakpo, Rampaging Soldiers and Poison on the Menu, will be screened at the event. ‘Rampaging Soldiers’ which was aired in August this year on Joy News on Multi TV discusses the spread of Fall Armyworm (a pest native to America which was first detected in Africa last year) on farms across Ghana and the dependence on pesticides to deal with them. ‘Poison on the Menu’ tells the story of increasing cases of food poisoning as a result of the misuse of chemicals.

The event is under the theme: “Fighting Invasive Pests on African Farms: Are there alternatives to chemical application”? After the documentaries are screened, the students will host Joseph Opoku Gakpo and other experts from Tanzania and Uganda for a discussion on possible alternatives to deal with the pests. The panel will also discuss how to sustain a healthy food chain in Africa, even in the light of the fall armyworm invasion. Clet Masiga, a Research Scientist at the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations in Uganda and Philibert Nyinondi, a Researcher at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania will be the other discussants.


Organisers are excited about the upcoming event. “A lot of students here are environmentally conscious and so it’s going to be great… I think we are going to have a good turn out,” Nana Britwum, Co-President of Ghanaians at Cornell said ahead of the event. “In a lot of my classes we talk about innovative pest management and it always seem like something taking place in the Western world… you don’t hear a lot about people in developing countries trying to combat heavy use of chemicals…. It will be good to hear about what’s happening on the other side,” Ms. Britwum added.

Clay Davis, Vice President of Environmental Justice at Cornell Environmental Collaborative noted it will be a good learning experience for students. “In my position here I am very interested in getting the broader Cornell community not only interested in these environmental justice issues around the world, but also interested in how we can mobilize and help orient them towards developing solutions,” he explained. “There are a lot of students with interest in environmental issues, but don’t have as much exposure to information that’s coming from a lot of the places and so fostering this connection is really helpful,” he added.



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Former President John Mahama has been applauded by newly crowned winner of the prestigious World Food Prize award Dr. Akinwumi Adesina for supporting his career. Dr. Adesina who is currently President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) was on Thursday decorated as winner of the 2017 World Food Prize which has been described as the agricultural world’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize at a colourful ceremony in Iowa State, USA.

He becomes the sixth African to win the prize, joining a list of distinguished personalities including former President John Agyekum Kufuor who was jointly awarded with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2011.


The prize which was started by veteran American Agriculturalist and acclaimed father of the ‘Green Revolution’ Norman Bourlang is the foremost international honour in agriculture that recognizes achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Dr. Adesina was awarded for being an innovator in funding and financing of African agriculture. The World Food Prize Foundation notes that through his roles over the past two decades with the Rockefeller Foundation, Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) and Nigerian Agric Ministry, Dr. Adesina has been at the forefront of expanding agricultural production and exponentially increasing the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent.

Receiving the prize, Dr. Adesina acknowledged a tall list of persons who have helped him achieve the big feet including former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who he served under, and added: “And of course, sitting right here, is President John Mahama who has supported me so much over the years.” He predicted that Africa will in the next few years overcome the problem of hunger on the continent. “We will arise and feed Africa. A day is coming very soon when the barns of Africa will be filled and all her children will be well fed, when millions of farmers will be able to send their kids to school…..” Dr. Adesina said.

He walked away with a 250,000 dollar prize money which he promised to use to further boost funding for agriculture. “There will be no rest for me until Africa is able to feed itself… And so, I hereby commit my 250,000 dollars as a cash prize for the WFP award to set up a fund fully dedicated to providing financing for the youth of Africa in agriculture to feed Africa,” he said.


Addressing a media briefing after the award ceremony, Dr. Adesina noted a lot more needs to be done to revolutionarise the agricultural sector in Africa. “As president of AfdB, I recognize that we have to rapidly raise the productivity of agriculture in Africa if we are going to be competitive in the world…,” he said.

Former President Mahama participated in the event alongside former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as special guests of honour. President of World Food Prize Foundation, Kenneth Quinn during his speech acknowledged Mr. Mahama’s presence. “Please carry back our greetings to your country man, our 2011 laureate, former president John Kufuor,” he said.

dr Adesina

US Vice President Mike Pence in a letter to Dr. Adesina commended him for his role in helping develop Africa’s agric sector. “Your devotion to the cause of fighting global hunger is admirable and deeply needed. As the global food system is stretched and the need to feed more people grows, agricultural transformation will require persistence from leaders like you in driving change and capitalizing on public and private sector expertise,” the letter said.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump, I extend my heartfelt congratulations as you receive this important award… Thank you for your commitment and contributions to making the world a better place,” Mr. Pence concluded.

By Joseph Opoku Gakpo

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Government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) Policy must prioritise agricultural modernization as the sure way to help improve upon the livelihoods of farmers. That’s the call from lecturer at the Biotechnology Center of the University of Ghana, Dr. Daniel Dzidzienyo. Dr. Dzidzienyo who is also an associate faculty member at the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) observes the challenges that the agricultural sector faces including climate change and low remuneration among farmers can only be dealt with if science and technology is imbibed into work on the farms.

“In Ghana, about 60 percent of the population are engaged in agriculture but we can’t feed ourselves… A significant number of Ghanaians go to bed hungry. There is a lot of poverty. Farmers don’t get the needed returns for their labour and investment. About five percent of the population are food insecure. Partly because farmers rely on unimproved seeds. Climate change isn’t helping the situation any further,” he lamented.

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Government launched the PFJ policy earlier this year, announcing it will be hinged on five main pillars. They are: provision of improved seeds, supply of fertilisers, provision of extension services, improved marketing strategies and the use of e-Agriculture.

The programme aims to increase maize production by 30 percent, rice by 49 percent, soyabean by 25 percent and sorghum by 28 percent. Dr. Dzidzienyo said assurances from government that the PFJ policy will prioritize technology is an indication that Ghana is ready to accept innovation in the agric sector.

“Earlier this year, government launched the PFJ policy… We need to modernize agriculture to improve the lives of rural dwellers. Increase productivity, alleviate poverty and end hunger. The environment in Ghana is conducive to embrace modern technology. This is important so we are not left behind,” Dr. Dzidzienyo said during a panel discussion at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of Cornell University in the USA. The discussion which was moderated by Director of the Alliance for Science Sarah Davidson Evanega was under the theme: “Can biotechnology play a role in the development of Africa?”

Dr. Dzidzienyo and co 3

Nigerian journalist Nkechi Isaac who was on the panel said: “there has been a dip in the price of oil and that led Nigeria into deep recession… the government is looking at diversifying and there is no way we can go into agriculture without modernising. If we are going to feed the population, we need biotechnology to boost agriculture.”
Arkson Mwanza, an Agric Extension specialist from Zambia expressed concern about the huge food import bill in Africa despite the vast available fertile land. Philibert Nyinondi, a researcher at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania noted the need for access to improved seeds to help increase yields in his country as well. He said farmers are yearning for such technologies.

“Farmers in Tanzania visited Burkina Faso and realised that the cotton there is doing so well, and they jumped on the seeds… If we have technology that can save the lives of millions and we can give it to them,s why are we hear discussing whether Africa will accept it?” he noted.

By Joseph Opoku Gakpo

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