The ad hoc organizing committee for the Second International Criminal Defense Conference at Bruxelles on May 21-23, thanked Rwanda’s Chief Prosecutor Ngoga, and Kigali’s New Times, for publishing several articles drawing international attention to the continuing violence in central Africa.
The ad hoc committee defends the right to freedom of speech and thought and expects non-disruptive exchange of ideas that will be subject to public critique, and historical/scientific evaluation.
According to the committee, the Kagame regime habitually calls its political opponents “criminals” as has been demonstrated in the arrest and prosecution of Madame Victoire Inagabire and others, in the run-up to the August elections. Kagame used the same tactic to virtually eliminate political opposition in the 2003 “sham- election” that formalized his monolithic regime.
The Conference organizing committee rejects the Kagame government’s efforts to outlaw questioning of the role of Kagame’s RPF in crimes that have been charged to RPF opponents. Kagame/RPF responsibility for the assassinations of the Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda is the subject of French and Spanish indictments, and a wrongful death civil case in U.S. federal court. RPF responsibility for these crimes has been confirmed by former Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, and others from ICTR Prosecutor’s Office.
AGRA and IFDC to Adress Market Access for Ghanaian Farmers
Farmers in Northern Ghana will benefit from a new program aimed to increase their earning potential. The program, launched by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the International Centre for Soil Fertility (IFDC), will create more sustainable markets where farmers can sell their produce for a profit.
The three-year project will focus on easing the flow of produce from farms in Ghana's Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions to commercial buyers and processors of maize, rice, sorghum and soybean in Ghana. As lead implementer, IFDC will build alliances with local partners to provide farmers with skills to improve their farm productivity and business and marketing services to ensure sustainable supplies of high-quality produce for industrial buyers.
"The project will directly benefit smallholder farmers, buyers and consumers," says Kofi Debrah of IFDC. "By linking with buyers before production, farmers can be assured of regular farm incomes. Traders, processors and large retailers will also benefit because they will be able to obtain reliable and regular supplies of quality produce."
The project will involve AGRA and IFDC partnering with several local organizations to strengthen capacity of farmer organizations. The aggregating organizations will serve as an intermediary between farmer groups and buyers at the top of the supply chain. These include the Savanna Farmers' Marketing Company, Ltd (SFMC), a farmer-owned marketing company with a network of 8000 farmers, OFRAM Enterprises and nearly 50 community women's rice processing groups in the region.
"Many Ghanaian farmers lack access to reliable markets where they can sell their produce at a profit," says Anne Mbaabu, director of AGRA's Market Access Program. "This makes farming an unattractive investment for most farmers."
The northern region, which represents 41 percent of Ghana's total land area, has been identified as a breadbasket area because of its high production potential for staple food crops such as rice, maize, sorghum and soybeans and large rural farming populations. Yet the north is also the poorest region, with nearly two-thirds of the population living in poverty.
The private sector, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and relief agencies are now working to address the marketing issues in Ghana. In 2005, the Association of Church Development Projects (ACDEP) helped create the Savanna Farmers Marketing Company Ltd (SFMC), whose principal objective is to pool participating farmers' produce of such crops as sorghum, groundnut, soybeans and cashews for large industrial buyers. Between 2005 and 2008, SFMC supported approximately 5,000 smallholder farmers in the three northern regions of Ghana to sell a total of 4,307 metric tons (mt) of sorghum, soybeans, cashews and shea butter, valued at GHC 1,672,920 (US $1,394,100).
"Ghana has the potential to transform its smallholder farming into a profitable and sustainable enterprise," says Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA. "Strong partnerships and strategic planning that bring improved seeds, access to finance and farm management skills to farmers could increase yields significantly," observes Ngongi who also thinks that Ghana could transform itself into an exporter of a crop like rice, and free up US$500 million now spent on imports.
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