The splashes of green in these fields are the nursery beds of rice, waiting to be planted out by hand on the Kpong Irrigation Project. With the growing news of crop failures around the world, the need to promote in-country agricultural growth is greater than ever. There is a need for better coordinated practices and more informed use of fertilizers, herbicides and other agricultural inputs in order to maximise the economic outputs.
Driving into Accra along the motorway, the other day, I looked (as always) across to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) and saw the apron full of aircraft. I think it was the busiest I have ever seen it. Then, a couple of hours later, I was in the Tower, on some official business, looking out on an almost empty apron (the place where aircraft are parked whilst passengers embark and disembark). I also got a look at the massive amount of upgrading going on at the site, and must admit to being really impressed. Kotoka International Airport is certainly growing – and going through some growing pains, but still manages to move traffic efficiently, within its constraints! Recent waiting to backtrack and jiggles around the ground works may have created frustrations in the cabin of a few airliners, but I assure you that it will all be worthwhile in the end.
I remember the first landing I did in ‘Kotoka’ in 1994. It is not even worth trying to compare that experience with the ‘Kotoka’ of today.
Interestingly, many people have no idea where the name ‘Kotoka’ came from, for the airport. General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka (26th October, 1926 – 17th April, 1967) was one of the key players in the 24th February 1966 coup d’etat, that overthrew the Kwame Nkrumah government. Apparently, it was Kotoka who announced the overthrowing on the GBC. But that is not why KIA is named after him. Nor is it that he was the Minister of Health nor his position as General Officer Commanding the Ghana Armed Forces.
It was in his demise that the name was given to what was previously called ‘The Ghana International Airport’. On the 17th April 1967, in a failed coup attempt, Kotoka was killed at the airport, and hence it was renamed in his honour, to remember him by.
There has been talk from time-to-time about renaming the airport again, but I prefer the old name. Not because of Kotoka himself, but because it is a reminder that coup attempts fail, it is reminder that we have a history, and that history has taken people’s lives. Regardless of politics, history has portrayed General Kotoka as a brave man. Prior to independence, he underwent Officer training in the UK, and then went on to serve as a commander with the Ghana Armed Forces, as part of the United Nations operations in the Congo, for which he was awarded the ‘Ghana Service Order for Exceptional Bravery’ in 1963.
Talking of names for airports, I was surprised at how many airports London, UK, now claims to have – most of them are not even in London! For the Olympics, a list of ‘Airports to use’ was sent out. Entitled ‘London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, airport options for non-scheduled flights’ the document makes excellent reading (Google it and download your own copy!). It Lists no less than SIX airports with the name ‘London’ at the beginning. I will accept that London Heathrow and London City Airport as legitimate. However, the others all need some ‘discussion’.
London Ashford Airport: first of all, this is not in London, and it is not in Ashford. It is in Lydd, at the southern end of the county of Kent. I know it well, I used to fly there for lunch – it is a great little international airport, and a favourite for light aircraft customs clearance when crossing the waters to France. Based next to the Nuclear Power Station site at Dungeness it is a full 26km drive away from Ashford, and nearly 120km drive from London!
London Gatwick: Yes, it sounds good, especially when you consider the old adage ‘you can choose to go via Gat-quick or Heath-slow’, a glimpse into the British humour related to the efficiency between the two major airports. However, Gatwick is in Sussex, and is a full 45km from the capital city.
London Luton: Made popular years ago by the English actress and model Lorraine Chase, in an alcoholic beverage advertisement, ‘Luton Airport’, at 54km from London itself, is in Bedfordshire.
London Oxford: Please, at nearly 100km from London, how can these two go together? Oxford has sold its birth right. (for the record, Oxford is in Oxfordshire – please do not be surprised!)
London Stansted: 56km to the North East of the heart of the city it has borrowed its first name from. Stansted is in the Northern part of Kent.
Can you imagine Koforidua having an airport and calling ‘Accra Koforidua Airport’, even if it is only 85km drive from the city? How about Accra Winneba Airport at just 66km?
I am sure, certain and convinced that there would be an outcry if Ghana or any other developing nation tried to use this sort of naming. Internally, I do not think our citizens would want to lose their ‘title’ to the big city. Externally we would be accused of creating confusion and misunderstanding.
Names are important. We take our own names seriously, and most people object to being referred to as ‘the father of Kwame’ or the ‘son of Abena’ or the ‘boss of Kojo’, or indeed the ‘person who lives somewhere near Accra’, repeatedly without using the correct name, and if referring to our town or village the correct title. Our names and our origins are very important to us, and we must retain that – it is part of our culture and our pride.
It is completely beyond me as to how the British people have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into allowing the Capital City take glory over their regional assets. Moreover, I think that it is important that people realise that a flight to a ‘London Airport’ may be in Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire or Oxfordshire – and a long way from where they thought they were going!
Thankfully, in Ghana our airports and airfields are named sensibly, without confusion. Takoradi, Sunyani, Kumasi, Mim, Obuasi, Techiman, Wa, Tamale, Kpong… all christened after their nearest town or city….
The sole exception is Kotoka International Airport, but given that is named as a reminder that we want peace and development, and that somebody laid down their lives, I think that we should accept that it is a reasonable name. I have no doubt that it will change in the future, when the mists of time shroud the memories, but let us hope that Ghana continues to be honest about its airport naming, unlike certain European Nations!
Birds continue to rule the air. Their grace; their beauty; their precision; their instincts; all provide a magnificent displayin skies throughout the world, everyday. No human machine comes close to the bird and its ability in the skies. All the same, birds inspire us, despite their clear superiority. Reaching for the sky, soaring in the heavens is a dream that only comes true for those who are dedicated and committed; those with the courage and determination to make it a reality. If you are inspired, even by a creature or person who's abilities seem beyond your wildest dreams, take a strong hold of that inspiration, clutch it tight and run with it. Who knows, you may just fly! Photo courtesy of Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, pilot, engineer and instructor - inspiring and helping to make dreams come true. www.waasps.com
It has been postulated that we each use up one persons ‘lifetime-carbon-footprint-allowance’ every time we fly transatlantic. I am not sure if that is true, but I do know that we must all take our part in reducing the carbon footprint of mankind seriously.
The development of Ghana is having an impact on our carbon footprint. Yet, I wonder how quickly we can really transform the rural areas of our nation, what impact it will have on our carbon footprint, and what can we do to implement concepts that not only reduce the carbon footprint, but also improve the chances of development at the same time.
It is wonderful that we want to see rural developments – and I am the at the forefront of the proponents for techno-industrialisation of the rural areas, they not only need it, they deserve it.
It has been proven time and time again that businesses are the bases of growth. It is hoped that Government will create the enabling environment for growth, and I am sure that much thought goes into how to make that happen.
Running a small, social-entrepreneurship focusing on techno-industrialisation, engineering, education and health promotion in rural Ghana. I am the first to put up my hand and to declare ‘It isn’t easy!’
Infrastructure is a challenge. For example, when we enquired about connection to the grid, the estimate was close to $25,000 – hence the decision to remain with our own power-gen solutions, since that was way outside of any reasonable Return On Investment (ROI) potential.
Of course, running a business is not about the day-to-day operations only. Our administrative systems are such that development of the rural areas will, apparently, require a lot of carbon footprint enlargement. Each journey, generally needing to be a dedicated one, enlarges the carbon footprint.
We have to drive to our local SNITT and IRS offices at least once per month, and we have to complete, what appears to me, a lot of pieces of paper, many of them duplicates.
Our local SNITT and IRS offices are, conveniently, located in the same building – a very positive thing. All the same, it is a minimum commitment of two hours to go there, pay the SNITT contributions and IRS PAYE – and to get receipts. It is also a journey of over 20km. The men and women at IRS and SNITT have a large geographical patch to cover in a rural setting. Yet the return on their efforts is minor compared to the smaller, more densely populated, zones in the urban areas. The ROI on over-regulation of rural areas, is far from as positive as it is in the built-up areas, which is to be expected. Is there a better way?
It is important to reduce the informal sector and grow the formal. But it is also important to simplify life for those trying to grow a formal sector in the rural environment. Every person, in a rural setting, who has to go to their ‘nearest’ IRS and or SNITT office is forcibly travelling, burning fuel, increasing their carbon footprint, consuming ‘productive’ time. Of course, when they have to return the next day, to furnish additional papers or collect a document (which happens), they have to travel again. The rural roads are not as well kept as the urban roads, making the cost of going to the administrative offices higher than that of the city based counterpart. Vehicle wear and tear is substantially higher.
Sadly, it appears that some of the administrative outposts are not as well treated as their city brethren, either. Some of the desks in the Somanya IRS office are broken – even with sloping tops, missing pieces of wood, nails protruding – apparently simply waiting to collapse to the floor. The condition of the local office is such that, should it be a commercial operation, it may well be shut down on health and safety grounds. Counterpart offices in the city are luxurious in comparison. Yet, these rural workers are expected to promote the growth of the rural business, and are not equipped to support even their own horizontal desk surfaces – nor, it would appear, do they have enough filing cabinets for their paperwork.
Should there be a sudden rush on formalisation in the rural areas, it appears that IRS simply would not be able to cope, through lack of basic support for their infrastructural needs!
SNITT is, by comparison, much better equipped, and far more computerised. Their desks, offices and computers are in very good condition. There is a marked difference in their approach to their approach to work. Perhaps partly connected to the conditions under which they carry out their duties.
All the same, SNITT does appear to be a ‘carbon criminal’. Considering that SNITT is so incredibly well computerised, I am surprised that they still have boxes of carbon paper in their drawers for the many ‘duplicates’ needed! So many bits of paper are still being completed prior to entry to the computer – even for a small monthly entry, 6 sheets of paper or more are consumed! Of course, their greater computerisation provides greater efficiencies and they still rank as my ‘Number one favourite official office to deal with’. I am told, by a reliable source, that SNITT is currently working towards the eradication of much of their current paper-trail, for which they must be commended.
One suggestion that I have made repeatedly, but it appears to go un-noticed, is the concept of quarterly submissions for rural operations with less than twenty employees. Imagine the savings for ‘approved’ smaller companies in the rural areas to submit their SNITT and IRS every THREE months. Straight away it would save many motor vehicle trips on rural roads, a minimum of several working days per company, reducing paper, preparation time and above all it would release the companies to be more productive – and GROW. Of course, on-line submissions, thanks to the increase in 3G mobile data coverage, and electronic bank transfers, would be icing on the cake! As a Nation, we are close to being able to ‘not travel’ in order to be in the formal sector, but only if the e-systems will allow it.
Rural development is needed. It is needed now. However, would it not be fantastic if there was a blanket support for the rural businesses AND the rural workers?
Currently cattle farmers, cocoa farmers and the like get great support for ‘doing something to boost rural development’. Don’t you think that all sectors, including painters, plumbers, construction, engineering, training, etc. should ALL be encouraged. If we really want to promote the desire to grow the rural areas, we need to see the WORKER getting a benefit as well as the COMPANY. Imagine for a moment that there was less taxation on a rural worker, as recognition of their desire to remain in the rural areas. Imagine the change in desire of the individuals of the nation to cease their migration to the cities. Imagine a more equitable spread of jobs as companies desire actively to relocate to greener (literally) pastures!
Perhaps we can manage our carbon footprint, grow our businesses and promote rural developments all in one green package!
The many rivers and marshlands in Ghana are not only beautiful but also part of the essential habitat for our wildlife heritage. These marshlands are especially beautiful, and relatively untouched due to their inaccessibility. Sadly, all too often the natural resources of nations are destroyed by their very accessibility, resulting in increased human activity, coupled with poor waste management and lack of respect for the heritage we are entrusted with... This is the only Ghana we have, and we must look after it, for it does not belong to us, it belongs to our children's children's children... Photo Courtesy of Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi.
‘Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus’ was a popular book by John Gray, selling over seven million copies worldwide. The book postulated that Mars (the planet of War) and Venus (the planet of Love) were so far apart in distance, nature and repute, as are men and women in their approach to life. A good read, and one that provokes thought, even if nobody agrees entirely with sweeping statements and other people’s ideas.
Last week NASA landed a robotic vehicle on the surface of Mars. About the size and weight of a family car. The ‘Curiosity’ Rover is already sending back images of Mars – and it looks more like a dusty desert with rocks laying around on it.
Some columnists have already postulated that Men did not come from Mars, since ‘Curiosity’ has not found any evidence of sports magazines, girlie magazines or old beer cans. Personally, I can accept that men probably did come from Mars – since they tend towards war as a solution for a problem, and I am certain that women actually did come Venus, when one witnesses that they consider love as the weapon of choice in all matters!
All the same, this recent landing on Mars follows on from a discussion I had with a NASA employee a couple of weeks ago, when I was privileged to actually touch a rock from the moon. It was a public display, poorly attended, and hence one at which the NASA employee was happy to discuss concepts that he may otherwise have been too occupied to respond to.
NASA has recently ‘put aside’ its manned flight programme, and contracts ‘manned travel’ on Russian space ships to reach the international space station. However, NASA’s unmanned exploration of space has ‘rocketed’ in its place.
The man from NASA competently spoke about the potential, and lack thereof, on Mars. He explained that, ‘the trip to Mars takes several months, even in the most advanced space ship we have today, and the same to get back. Add a few months of research, and you are looking at a minimum one year in space. Imagine the oxygen needs, food, human waste management, water and other requirements for such a journey. It clearly makes sense to let the ‘robots’ do the trips at this stage. At least until we can establish a colony on Mars.’
Ummm the ‘Colony on Mars’ idea… that woke me up from my ‘I just touched a moon-rock daze’. As we chatted, he made it clear that the scientists are working on releasing the water on mars and the ability to manufacture fuels suitable for powering rocket ships from the materials on the red planet. I must have looked at him sideways for a second or two too long. ‘Do you remember the TV Series Space 1999?’ he asked, and in a moment the concepts were dredged from my childhood memories of a TV programme that had me skidding across the lounge floor in my socks, pretending to be in space. The British sci-fi depicted mankind living on the moon, in ‘biospheres’. It also worked on the concept that all the nuclear waste from earth was sent to the dark side of the moon for storage. In the opening episode of the series, the nuclear waste exploded and pushed the Moon, along with all 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, out of orbit and onto a whirlwind tour of galaxies and more. I am certain that the concept of storing nuclear waste on Mars is not being considered – and I hope that no crazy person is considering it either! Of course, the reference to ‘Space 1999’ was more related to the living conditions of the 311 inhabitants of the surface of the moon. There were air-locks, solar power, rovers and workshops. Of course, there were also a lot of computers – but nothing as complex as today’s tablets and smart-phones. In fact, when we consider where we have reached in the realms of mobile computing, we are, as tech-humanity, putting the Science-Fiction writers to shame with Science-Reality out pacing their wildest dreams!
Chatting with Mr NASA, it appears that the next logical step is to explore Mars thoroughly, requires that we send up some small living compartments, a fuel laboratory, perhaps a factory unit or two, and then to send some people to LIVE there. Not just to visit, but to live. It would be a very long-term assignment – rather like ‘ex-pats’ who migrate to Africa, or the growing ‘African-ex-pats’ in Europe and the USA, perhaps we will soon have ‘ex-Earths’ migrating to another planet. It is not only possible, but it appears to be looming on the horizon of reality in the coming twenty years.
Just imagine living on another planet – starting the first colony there. To me it would be like starting a village. I can think of no persons better suited to creating such a living environment than the rural people of Ghana. They are used to the small community, limited freedoms, lack of water, lack of facilities, lack of sanitation, lack of access to major centres, making do with what you have over what you want, and the need to work hard every day to simply survive. I find it hard to believe that the average European or American would cope with it well, at all! Perhaps there is a need for NASA to start selecting some of the brightest people from rural Ghana, and to train them up, all the time keeping them in a small community, educating them to the highest levels, ready for starting the first off-planet community of human beings.
Sadly, I doubt that scenario will be the case. Instead it will probably be a combined group of Russian, American, Chinese and Europeans, all forced to speak English as a common language, all from large community backgrounds, habitual visitors of shopping malls and accustomed to easy access to whatever they need. Then, once they are in space and start getting homesick it will become necessary to employ a counsellor to listen to their worries. No doubt, at some point, a six month rescue mission will be needed to cater for a nervous breakdown – or perhaps two.
Living in isolation is for some people a punishment. So many people whom I know do not want to live in a small village. Yet, for me and others it is bliss and the concept of living in a community of more than a few hundred leaves us with mental scarring!
If we are to succeed in mastering space, the final frontier, then we need to consider carefully where we came from. We need to listen to the stories of our ancestors wandering across the West African plains, looking for a settlement area, just as NASA is doing on the planets that surround us. We need to realise that small is beautiful, and that making do with what we have is not a punishment, it is a challenge, and one that only the bravest and most resourceful can ever succeed at – and find deep satisfaction and personal realisation through.
NASA, please come and visit, we would be pleased to show you around!
Construction of the Ensign College of Public Health, near Kpong in the Eastern Region, shows a positive approach to rural development via relevant education. It is encouraging to see the move to put training facilities, for the people, amongst the people. The need to place such institutions away from the already overburdened cities, not only helps socio-economic growth, but also makes access to education and training more approachable for those with responsibilities to their families living in the rural areas. Lower Manya Krobo has shown positive developments in providing education in many aspects within its own borders (including engineering and flight training), and must be applauded for this latest move towards regional growth. Photo courtesy WAASPS Ltd www.waasps.com
Taking two young ladies to the largest air show in the world carries a lot of challenges, mainly that they have so much energy! Watching how aviation is absorbed in the same fashion as sponge that has been sitting in the sun for a few days absorbs water.
Of course, the air show is fun, the displays of aircraft tossing about in the air; meeting the display pilots; sitting front row in the performers area for the re-enactment of Pearl Harbour ‘Tora Tora Tora’, with tens of Mitsubishi Zeros circling and making simulated bombing runs, accompanied by pyro-technics that released fire-balls several meters into the air; watching one of the last flying WWII bombers ‘role play’ the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima, and remembering the massive losses on all sides in the last World War; witnessing the last few living legends, including the Tuskegee airmen, flip and turn alongside the latest and greatest aircraft on the planet. The kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and smells were on a scale that few could ever imagine. From single-seat display aircraft swirling in their own display smoke, through the major war-bird fly pasts, topped off with the C17 Globemaster and the F18 Hornet fighter roar, climbing vertically for thousands of feet, there was not a single moment in the seven days of the event that was anything approaching ‘boring’. Airplanes really do have their own life, and are accompanied by a worldwide, tight-knit, family of aero-centrics. Of course, it was not all ‘fun’, this is a working air show, and much business was done, including procurement of tools and parts, strengthening and finding synergies and making new contacts in the aviation world.
The highlight of the show, for me, was watching our Ghanaian ‘light aircraft ladies’ talk about the Rotax 912 iS engine on ‘Engine Day’. Barely released to the world, and with only a dozen aircraft flying with the ultra-modern engine worldwide, it was impressive to watch them answer questions about its installation, operation and features. Having installed the first 912iS engine in Africa, and been amongst the first few in the world to fly with it, these able and intelligent ambassadors spoke eloquently to aircraft builders, the press and general public, adapting their answers and content to their audience magnificently. Ghana has much to be proud of in its light aviation developments, and it truly is something that is recognised at all levels of the industry.
Even though the air show was stunning, it paled in significance to the sight that I enjoyed just a few days later. These two Ghanaians, smiling and relaxed around all that flies (especially around the tools and materials of aircraft building) were invited to the Zenith Aircraft Company factory in Missouri. The welcome was magnificent, and after the factory tour, as I stood chatting to the engineer working on major repairs to a storm damaged CH750 two seat STOL aircraft, they both melted into the workforce, without a request or order. Both picked up brooms and started to clear the floor area of rivet stems, ensuring that the work area was impeccable, just as they do at home. Then, picking up cleco-pliers and air-drills they requested safety glasses and lent a hand on the airframe works. Within minutes they had gained full respect from the factory team, working with time served factory specialists, barely an instruction passing between them.
Teenage Lydia, a disabled student pilot/engineer, barely two years into her four year training, lay on her back positioning the #20 drill bit perfectly in position, controlling the drill with the dexterity of a surgeon, working as a cog in a well-oiled machine.
Later, after removal, de-burring and corrosion treatment of a worked replacement fuselage longeron, it was repositioned, and the duo set back to work with the riveting, ensuring that each and every rivet sat perfectly. Working the clecos, working the rivets, working the skins and moving the damaged metal-bird’s frame one step closer to returning to the air.
After some meetings, I returned to the factory floor, and was met by grins and heads held high, by all concerned. The compliments fell into two categories; firstly that regarding their ability to work, without instruction, swiftly, accurately and effectively; secondly, specifically to Patricia Mawuli, a founder of the AvTech Academy at Kpong, as an instructor. ‘She is a natural teacher’ came the comment ‘she explains everything, and makes sure that everybody understands. She can’t help teaching!’
This latter comment caught me off guard, making me wonder if she had ‘lectured’ the factory staff. Instead I learned that she had been giving instruction to a young man who had never worked on airframes before, and had transmitted her knowledge in a clear and effective manner, gaining respect from experts many years her senior.
Being able to share my knowledge with these young people has been, and will be, I hope, for many years to come, a priceless pleasure. I cannot begin to express my admiration for them; I watched these girls integrate internationally, fitting into established teams at facilities of high repute, yet retaining their personalities without arrogance, modestly demonstrating that the ‘African Woman’ can shine brightly in a traditionally male field, and command respect without even thinking about trying to!
Meanwhile, in the Brong Ahafo region, two other young women have been working at leading developments at Techiman Airfield. I received a text stating ‘we have completed work on the runways’. From the same class as Lydia, Emmanuella and Juliet have been working on applying their knowledge in airfield development and management at the small grass strip close to the largest market town in West Africa. Transforming bush-lands into new facilities that will enable growth and stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), as all aviation does. Furthermore, they have been speaking to young people about their passion for aviation in local schools. In the coming months these girls will get to witness their work on a piece of bush-land transformed into an aviation portal, as aircraft begin regular operations at this central point of our nation.
Of course, as a machine needs fed fresh materials to process, in the same way a training programme needs fresh blood to instruct and develop. In the next few weeks four more young women will begin their training at Kpong, all from Kete Krachi. These rural youngsters will be taking their first steps in the shadow of those who are already on their journey of aviation discovery, and they will have to work hard, following the lead of their sisters. Together, working towards careers in light aviation, with a strong emphasis on health and humanitarian related aviation.
I hope that next year’s economy will enable the return to skies at Kpong of annual air shows, and that these young, able, pleasant and competent ladies will be able to demonstrate publically their abilities in the workshops and in the skies of West Africa.
We have so much in front of us, so many opportunities and we must thank those who have sponsored, supported and given encouragement in the training and development of Ghana’s Angels of the Factory and Sky.
Our wonderful rural communities still preserve much of our cultural values and continue to embody our living history. There are so very many communities, like this one, isolated by just a few km of stable access road, lines of power and solutions for potable water necessary to provide improved economic development and health quotients. Our rural dwellers continue to smile, work and strive to progress, as best they can within the confines of their environment, despite such challenges and lack of the infrastructure that others may take for granted. Photo Courtesy of Medicine on the Move http://www.medicineonthemove.org/