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Enrollment Season in Kenya

Here in Bungoma, the entire month of November feels like the first day of school. We’ve hired a bunch of new field officers, and promoted the stars to field managers and assistant field directors, and everyone is busy enrolling new farmers for the next planting season. We’re up to 30,000 farmers in Kenya and Rwanda, and after enrollment we’ll be at over 50,000 farmers. This time last year, we were working with 12,000 farmers–it’s cool to think about how much we have grown since I moved here a year ago.

It’s also cool to hear how happy our farmers are with their maize harvests–their main source of income for the year. On many of my field visits, farmers are telling me about kids that they are enrolling in secondary school in January, land they are planning to buy next year, and money they are saving up to purchase cows. It’s great to hear people plan for the future, and to feel so hopeful. Also, the political mood has taken a huge upswing. In August, Kenyans approved a new constitution, which should usher in important political changes. Already, people are being suspended from minister-level positions for suspected corruption, and the local news is showing footage of crackdowns on police for taking bribes (hiding place for the cash: under the car mat). How real this all is remains to be seen, but I prefer to be an optimist, at least for now.

Here are some photos from Kenya, including a circumcision ceremony in August (nothing graphic, I promise), and my Kenyan Halloween costume:

http://picasaweb.google.com/snhanson/Kenya02

And here are photos from bean planting on crazy steep hillsides in Rwanda:

http://picasaweb.google.com/snhanson/PlantingInRwanda

And here are photos from some reporting I did in Ghana on the oil industry–I went to Accra in September for an agriculture conference, and took a few days for freelancing:

http://picasaweb.google.com/snhanson/GhanaOilReporting

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Ghana Must Ensure Oil Benefits Country

Market in Ghana

Originally published in GlobalPost:

TAKORADI, Ghana — A digital sign in the lobby of Tullow Oil’s office here reads 61 days — a countdown to the country’s first first oil.

In November, Ghana will begin producing from its estimated 1.6 billion barrels of oil reserves.

As oil workers prepare pipes for deepwater installation at the port of Takoradi, and the Ghanaian government passes legislation regulating the oil, Ghanaians are wondering whether the oil will benefit them.

To manage its oil industry responsibly, the Ghanaian government needs to slow down and make sure it has a strong regulatory framework in place. As Ghana comes close to becoming one of Africa’s oil producers with the offshore Jubilee Field, what progress has been made to see that the petroleum is a boost to Ghanaians and not a curse? What steps are being taken to protect Ghana’s environment?

Many of Ghana’s coastal communities are dependent on fishing. Regardless of any revenue-sharing agreement that is developed by the government, these communities need the ocean to remain clean and safe for their livelihoods.

With the recent Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the world is all too aware of the dangers of deepwater oil extraction. Ghana has made progress on legislation to regulate the petroleum industry and manage oil revenues (though this legislation has not yet been passed by parliament). However, environmental regulation still lags behind, and Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency lacks the technical expertise to adequately monitor the oil and gas sector.

Further, the Environmental Protection Agency is under-resourced. If it wants to investigate rig activities, for instance, it must hire a helicopter from an oil services company to fly it out to the offshore rigs. The Jubilee Field sits roughly 75 nautical miles offshore, which is at least a full day trip in a boat, or a 45-minute helicopter ride. A recent spill of oil-based mud by Kosmos Energy, for which the company is in the process of being fined, was reported to the agency by coastal fishermen.

The fact that Ghanaian fishermen reported the spill at all is quite surprising. Though Tullow Oil has held community consultations, and the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) has also held workshops on the oil in the Takoradi area, most fishermen have little knowledge of what is happening offshore.

“Only about 1 percent of fishermen know what is going on with the oil,” says Ed-Love Quarshie, secretary of the Line Hook Canoe Fishermen Assocation in Sekondi, Takoradi’s sister city. “These forums and workshops should happen at the beach where the fishermen are.”

The Ghanaian government has banned fishing within 500 yards of the oil rigs, a source of tension with fishermen, who say that fish are attracted to the rig’s lights. Fishermen do not know where they aren’t allowed to fish, and there are no buoys or markers in the water to indicate a no-fishing zone, according to Quarshie.

Ghana’s coastal communities want assurances from the government that they will receive a percentage of the oil revenues to compensate them for the impact the oil industry could have on the ocean’s health. The government is planning to channel a percentage of its oil revenues into a revenue-sharing fund called the Ghana Petroleum Fund, but the details of how that money will be allocated is yet to be determined.

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OAS_RICH(‘Right2’);
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With the recent Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the
world is all too aware of the dangers of deepwater oil extraction. Ghana
has made progress on legislation to regulate the petroleum industry and
manage oil revenues (though this legislation has not yet been passed by
parliament
). However, environmental regulation still lags behind,
and Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency lacks the technical
expertise to adequately monitor the oil and gas sector.

Further, the Environmental Protection Agency is under-resourced. If it
wants to investigate rig activities, for instance, it must hire a
helicopter from an oil services company to fly it out to the offshore
rigs. The Jubilee Field sits roughly 75 nautical miles offshore, which
is at least a full day trip in a boat, or a 45-minute helicopter ride. A
recent spill of oil-based mud by Kosmos Energy, for which the company
is in the process of being fined, was reported to the agency by coastal
fishermen.

The fact that Ghanaian fishermen reported the spill at all is quite
surprising. Though Tullow Oil has held community consultations, and the
Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) has also held workshops on the
oil in the Takoradi area, most fishermen have little knowledge of what
is happening offshore.

“Only about 1 percent of fishermen know what is going on with the oil,”
says Ed-Love Quarshie, secretary of the Line Hook Canoe Fishermen
Assocation in Sekondi, Takoradi’s sister city. “These forums and
workshops should happen at the beach where the fishermen are.”

The Ghanaian government has banned fishing within 500 yards of the oil
rigs, a source of tension with fishermen, who say that fish are
attracted to the rig’s lights. Fishermen do not know where they aren’t
allowed to fish, and there are no buoys or markers in the water to
indicate a no-fishing zone, according to Quarshie.

Ghana’s coastal communities want assurances from the government that
they will receive a percentage of the oil revenues to compensate them
for the impact the oil industry could have on the ocean’s health. The
government is planning to channel a percentage of its oil revenues into a
revenue-sharing fund called the Ghana Petroleum Fund, but the details
of how that money will be allocated is yet to be determined.
// ]]>