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Nana Boateng Osei and his sustainable vision for Ghana

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Nana Boateng Osei

Nana Boateng Osei and his company Bôhten have created an innovative and sustainable product that is benefiting his home country of Ghana.

Nana Boateng Osei is the young man behind the stylish luxury eco-eyewear company Bôhten. He hails from a Ghanaian family that is deeply proud of its heritage. He has travelled the world, conceived various outlandish business ideas and even appeared on the Canadian version of Dragon’s Den. Today his company Bôhten is going from strength to strength, while also giving back to his home country, Ghana.

Travel, the Big Apple, education and Lilo

Osei’s early life certainly wasn’t dull. Due to his father’s job as a diplomat for the Foreign Ministry of Ghana, Osei and his siblings spent long periods of time in countries such as the U.K, the U.S, Yugoslavia and South Africa. His family eventually settled to live permanently in New York City. However, they held on tightly to their Ghanaian roots; Osei has said that at home his family would always speak Twi and eat traditional Ghanaian dishes. They became closely involved in the Bronx’s large Ghanaian community and retained strong links with family in their home nation.

In 2007, Osei moved to Canada to study Environmental Science at the University of Ottawa. It was while at University that he first began to create and pursue his own business ideas. In 2009, Osei opened a marketing firm Lilo Enterprises, which was designed to connect sustainable and environmental product manufacturers to consumers. Lilo foreshadowed the creation of Bôhten, highlighting the causes that Osei holds dear. He also flirted with other unorthodox businesses such as vertical gardens and limousine services during this time.

Ghanaian beginnings and the Dragons’ Den

Nana Boateng Osei

Bôhten eyewear was born from the culmination of multiple ideas. Firstly, Osei was inspired by a trip back to Ghana where he was moved by the natural beauty of the area. Also, some of his family worked in the local wood business, which interested him. These factors swirled with his love of fashion and passion for sustainability. He said, “At some point, my interests began to play off of each other and during that trip, the seed of the idea for using reclaimed wood for glasses was planted.”

In 2012 he started initial work on Bôhten while still at University. He derived the company from his own name, Boateng, which means prosperity in Twi. Osei got the chance to pitch his business in the infamous Dragons’ Den during a student special episode. While he impressed with his pitch, he didn’t receive an offer from the Dragons, who felt the business was too young.

Osei wasn’t deterred by the Dragons’ decisions. He went on to bring family members into the business to help him grow the organization. Osei has said that with hindsight, investment partners may have stifled his creative freedom, and that the company has managed to move forward without them by knuckling down and getting things done.

The exposure from appearing on the show led to skyrocketing sales and growth. Some say the Dragons missed out.

A sustainable vision for Ghana

Sustainability is at the heart of the business; Bôhten uses reclaimed wood from items such as chairs and tables, all sourced in Western Africa. Additionally Osei wants to use Bôhten as means to better the economy in Ghana. The company currently manufactures its glasses in Canada. However, later this year the firm intends to open a full-scale manufacturing plant in Ghana. The plant going live will be the realization of a long term ambition for Bôhten. “Our ultimate mission is to create a zero-waste facility in Africa that will not only serve to create jobs but also educate people the importance of eye care, sustainable design and social entrepreneurship.”

Osei says that eye care is woefully inadequate in Africa. He explained that the high levels of UV radiation on the continent are responsible for some of the issues that African’s face. To combat such problems, Osei has partnered Bôhten with eyesight charity Sightsavers. For every sale Bôhten makes, the company will make a donation to Sightsavers programs, aimed at eradicating avoidable blindness in West Africa.

As Bôhten grows, so will the benefits that it brings to Ghana and other nations in the region. Nana Boateng Osei is tenacious, compassionate and conscientious individual; a great example for Ghana and Africa as a whole.

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Beetles threaten Ugandan coffee crop

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Shrinking forest cover and climate change threaten Uganda’s coffee industry by creating conditions for the destructive black twig borer beetle to spread into plantations, an official said on Wednesday.

Africa’s largest coffee exporter, Uganda mostly cultivates the robusta coffee bean variety. Shipments of the beans are a major source of foreign exchange.

Exports in the 2015/16 (Oct-Sept) crop were expected to reach 3.6 million 60-kg bags, modestly higher than the previous period’s 3.46 million bags, according to state regulator Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

But David Muwonge, head of marketing at the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farmer Enterprises (NUCAFE), said prospects were clouded by the twig borer beetle which was increasingly migrating to coffee farms as forest cover shrank.

He said some farmers had reported losing as much as 40 percent of their potential harvest as a result of the beetle, although he did not give a forecast for the overall impact.

“The biggest threat to coffee in Uganda is … the twig borer,” he said.

The beetle thrives in the drier conditions which have become more frequent in recent years and which have been partly linked to global changes in climate, Muwonge said.

First detected in Uganda in 1993, the twig borer makes tiny grooves on the twigs – the small branches that bear cherries – of coffee trees and lays eggs there. It then infects the twigs with a fungi which causes the leaves and twigs to wilt and die.

A 2013/14 survey by UCDA found that at least 40 percent of all trees in robusta growing areas had infected twigs.

Muwonge said the beetle mostly lived in dense forests where natural enemies controlled its population. But smaller forests and drier conditions meant “some of the (beetle’s) natural enemies have been eliminated” and it was migrating to farms.

He said pesticides had only a limited impact and many farmers could not afford the chemicals.

“It’s an existential threat to our coffee because we don’t have a cure as yet,” he said.

British charity Oxfam warned in 2008 that changing weather patterns in Uganda could leave much of country unsuitable for growing coffee within 30 years if temperatures rose 2 degrees or more.


(By Elias Biryabarema. Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Edmund Blair and William Hardy)

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Bamboo – Africa’s Green Gold?

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Bamboo poles

Bamboo farming could provide many African states with a green and lucrative industry.

If you asked the average person on the street to name a country that they associated with the bamboo plant, it’s unlikely you would hear many answers other than China. However, Africa has extensive bamboo reserves that the continent could reap huge rewards from.

What makes the prospect of harvesting the continent’s bamboo reserves particularly exciting is that the benefits offered are not solely economic. While the bamboo would indeed provide a veritable gold mine of revenue to many nations, it is also an opportunity to try and slow down the deforestation that threatens Africa’s myriad environments.

Sustainable, clean profits?

The issue of deforestation is obviously not confined to Africa, but many African countries are particularly at risk from the environmental impact that the practice brings. Cutting down large areas of forest contributes to a cycle of drought and pollution, especially as it leads to soil erosion which has been a primary factor in some of the disastrous famines that the continent has faced.

What makes bamboo so much better? According to Dr. Chin Ong, a retired professor of environment science, bamboo holds soils together, utilizes less water than trees and offers a greater overall package. Ong told the New York Times, “You want firewood; you want to reduce erosion, to maintain the water supply, generate cash and employment. Bamboo comes the closest — it gives you the most things.”

Bamboo is technically a grass, which means after a harvest it regrows and does so quickly. In fact bamboo can grow an astonishing meter per day, and it absorbs almost twice the amount of CO2 that is taken in by a tree.

A crop that is rapidly replenished, reduces pollution levels and does not damage the fertility of soils when harvested is clearly an environmentalist’s dream.

But do the numbers add up on the commercial side? The short answer is yes.

The International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) is an intergovernmental body that works with the UN and has valued the global bamboo trade at $60 billion.

Thus far, 18 bamboo growing African states have joined INBAR as they look to make the most of their natural resources without devastating the local eco-system to do so. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), bamboo has over 2,000 uses and China claims that if the plant is processed, this number rises to 10,000!

Despite such a glowing profile, the industry has yet to really take off in the majority of the 36 African nations where it grows. Adal Industrial PLC is a company trying to raise awareness and interest to help develop Africa’s bamboo farming. CEO Adane Berhe summed up the current problem facing the bamboo trade in Africa when he spoke to CNN saying, “The farmer who has bamboo is rich, but he doesn’t know it.”

Ethiopia takes the lead

Bamboo cooperative members in Ethiopia

Bamboo cooperative members in Ethiopia

One African nation that is investing in the industry is Ethiopia. Not only is Ethiopia rich in bamboo, with 2.47 million acres of it untapped, but due to widespread deforestation, the government has taken drastic steps to promote sustainable harvests and green industries.

The government has banned producing charcoal from hardwoods and has welcomed investment from China and other nations seeking to grow the bamboo trade.

INBAR now has an office in Addis Ababa and local people and small farmers have embraced the opportunity.

State Minister for Agricultural and Rural Development, Mitiku Kassa says, “Ethiopia has the resources, the investment, a rapidly-developing manufacturing industry and a strong demand for our bamboo products…The expansion of Africa’s bamboo sector has begun.”

As Ethiopia’s bamboo industry begins to grow, the hope is that other nations take note and follow their lead. The early signs are promising as the membership to INBAR continues to expand with new African members; there is patently interest in what the plant has to offer.

China has already offered investment in Ghana and a recent bamboo project there opened up 1,500 jobs.

The chief research scientist at the Forestry Research Institute in Ghana, Andrew Akwasi Oteng-Amoako told IPS news, “We anticipate a revival of investment interest in Ghana’s bamboo industry in the near future thanks to Ethiopia’s success.”

With recent government decrees from Rwanda and Nigeria on the importance of looking into utilizing bamboo resources, the future of Africa’s “green gold” looks promising.

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Time short to protect Africa’s food supply from climate change

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Without action to help farmers adjust to changing climate conditions, it will become impossible to grow some staple food crops in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with maize, beans and bananas most at risk, researchers said on Monday.

In a study of how global warming will affect nine crops that make up half the region’s food production, scientists found that up to 30 percent of areas growing maize and bananas, and up to 60 percent of those producing beans could become unviable by the end of the century.

Six of the nine crops – cassava, groundnut, pearl millet, finger millet, sorghum and yam – are projected to remain stable under moderate and extreme climate change scenarios.

“This study tells where, and crucially when, interventions need to be made to stop climate change destroying vital food supplies in Africa,” said Julian Ramirez-Villegas, the study’s lead author who works with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

“We know what needs to be done, and for the first time, we now have deadlines for taking action,” he added in a statement.

For example, the study warns that around 40 percent of maize-growing areas will require “transformation”, which could mean changing the type of crop grown, or in extreme cases even abandoning crop farming.

Sorghum and millet, which have higher tolerance to drought and heat, could replace maize in most places under threat.

But for 0.5 percent of maize-growing areas – equal to 0.8 million hectares in South Africa that now produce 2.7 million tonnes – there is no viable crop substitution, the study said.

In a few places, the need to adapt to climate change is already urgent, the researchers said. Those include pockets in highly climate-exposed areas of the Sahel in Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Banana-growing regions of West Africa, including areas in Ghana and Benin, will need to act within the next decade, as the land is expected to become unsuitable for bananas by 2025.

And maize-growing areas of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania also have less than 10 years left to change tack under the most extreme climate change scenarios, the study added.

“If we don’t do anything now, farmers are no longer going to be able to grow certain crops in certain sites,” Ramirez-Villegas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Colombia.

“But we know there are several adaptation options … with which farmers should be able to carry on growing these crops for a longer period of time than we project.”



Those options begin with shorter-term actions like improving irrigation and weather information services for farmers, and developing new varieties of maize and beans that can better tolerate heat and drought.

Such measures are already underway in parts of Africa, including the “Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa” initiative that has released 160 varieties, benefiting up to 40 million people in 13 countries.

But governments will still need to re-assess agricultural and food security policies to see whether bigger transformations are needed, such as switching to different crops or livestock.

If so, they will need to help farmers access markets or build processing and storage facilities for new crops.

CCAFS researcher Andy Jarvis, a co-author of the paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, noted adjusting national policies can take decades.

“Our findings show that time is running out to transform African agriculture. This will require not only increased funding but also a supportive policy environment to bring the needed solutions to those affected,” he said.

A separate study released on Monday, by researchers from Brown and Tufts universities, suggested scientists have overlooked how two important human responses to climate will impact food production in the future: how much land people choose to farm, and the number of crops they plant.

Looking at Mato Grosso, a key soy-producing state in Brazil, they found a temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius was tied to substantial decreases in crop area and double cropping, accounting for 70 percent of the overall loss in production. Only 30 percent was attributable to falling crop yield.

“If you look at yields alone, you’re not looking at all of the information because there are economic and social changes going on as well,” said Leah VanWey, professor of sociology at Brown and one of the study’s senior authors. “You’re not taking into account farmers’ reactions to climate shocks.”


(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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Hydrogen Power in Mali

Comments (1) Africa, Business, Featured


Green power in Mali from hydrogen gas wells could power the future.

Hydrogen power refers to the use of hydrogen fuel as a zero emission fuel, since burning hydrogen with oxygen emits no carbon dioxide (only water). It sounds a bit futuristic perhaps, but the physics behind it are valid, though up until recently there have been very few practical examples. This is due to hydrogen power relying on either some kind of hydrogen fuel cell or on hydrogen gas, which until recent times, wasn’t believed to be in the earth’s crust in great quantities, nor in the earth’s atmosphere in clean or usable form.

In a new book about natural hydrogen entitled Natural Hydrogen: The Next Energy Revolution?, the the authors assert that natural hydrogen seeps or wells are abundant almost everywhere on earth and are a real viable alternative to fossil fuels. The book is written by acclaimed geologists Alain Prinzhofer and Eric Deville. With this new book it is clear that hydrogen power is no longer the technology of the future, but rather the technology of today.

In July 2015, three years after their first successful test, the Petroma Company demonstrated how hydrogen gas can be used to generate power, by lighting up part of the village of Bourakebougou not far from the capital Bamako in Mali, the eighth largest country in Africa. This has created almost 100% clean electricity in a poor rural area that did not have any access to electricity, something that would have hardly seemed plausible only a decade ago. In doing so, Petroma is not only reigniting the debate about alternative energy, it is also showing the world that even a poor African country can be innovative and turn to renewable fuels and prevent the massive pollution that comes with the fossil fuels used today.

The man behind this new venture into the field of hydrogen power is 56-year-old Aliou Boubacar Diallo, who is the president of Petroma Inc and also the leader of the Democratic Alliance for Peace. Aliou Boubacar Diallo is the driving force behind the new push for green energy in Mali, where he is a well-known player in not just politics and the energy sector, but also within gold mining and peace brokering.

HEC Feasibility Study

In the field of hydrogen engines, Petroma turned to well-known experts from the Hydrogen Energy Center in the US to perform a feasibility study. HEC is on the forefront when it comes to hydrogen energy and hydrogen power generators.

The study conducted by HEC was to check if it would be possible to harvest the hydrogen gas and use it in generators and generate at least 100 megawatts of power. Furthermore the study was to determine whether it would be better to have many small plants or one larger plant. The power would be used by local villages as well as the capital Bamako and its surrounding industries.

This study was the basis which Aliou Boubacar Diallo used to start the hydrogen power revolution in Mali. The first generator was built and demonstrated in July 2015 and will be followed by many more, as ten wells are on the way. Once those ten have been successfully installed, another almost 300 are planned in the first major phase of the project, quite possibly with more to come.


Power in Mali

While Mali is a large country in terms of land size, it is a poor country with around 15 million people, of which half live below the poverty line. More than ten years ago Mali was already quite green by most standards, as half the country’s power came from the use of hydroelectricity, though only about half of the citizens could be reached by the network.

Today these numbers are not much higher, as expanding the hydroelectric capacity of the country beyond the current level is expensive and many locals are still not connected with the grid.

It was pure luck when Petroma found the hydrogen well at Bourakebougou, as they were in fact drilling to get water to the village. Instead of clean water they found almost pure hydrogen, which will continuously power the generator for as long as it lives, without exhausting the hydrogen gas. In fact, while scientists don’t fully understand this seeping hydrogen gas phenomenon, some believe it could be stable enough to last for thousands of years.

With the numerous massive and almost pure hydrogen wells already found in the country, it will perhaps be feasible to convert the country to almost exclusively to renewable green sources within a foreseeable future. This has proven almost impossible for much richer and more technologically advanced nations, as their power needs are much higher.

Time will tell if this adventure into alternative energy can deliver as much as it promises.

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