Professor David Millar, President of the Millar Open University, has called on government and other stakeholders to strategically invest in grass production to green the environment and boost the economic fortunes of the country.
He said grasses were multipurpose natural resources that could help curb desertification, land degradation, and other environmentally related issues, adding that with some introduction of value addition to the grasses, so much could be derived from it.
Prof, Millar was addressing members of the Greening Northern Ghana (GNG), an environmental voluntary organization, established to encourage the growing of trees in communities in the north of Ghana to reclaim degraded lands and prevent the dessert from creeping aggressively into the target areas.
According to Prof. Millar, such environmentally friendly method of greening the north would further create employment opportunities to absorb the high numbers of unemployed youth in the area.
GNG is a group of voluntary and selfless individuals, state institutions including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forestry Commission, Non-Governmental Organizations among others who have ploughed their energies together to green and advocate the adoption of grass planting as a significant tool to develop the five regions of the North.
In March this year, the group together with Madam Paulina Patience Abayage, the Upper East Regional Minister launched the environmental project in Bolgatanga with the aim of greening the five regions-Northern, Savannah, North East, Upper East and Upper West Regions to protect water bodies and curb other environmental challenges.
Prof. Millar explained that “In our part of the world, grasses are seen as nuisance, however, in other countries like Ethiopia, Australia and Rwanda, grasses are put into good uses and generating income for individuals, and developing these respective economies”.
Prof. Millar, who is also one of the Founding Members of GNG, stated that grasses were good alternatives to deal with the plastic menace confronting the country as it could be used to manufacture paper bags.
He disclosed that apart from food and medicine that could be obtained from grasses, charcoal, toilet rolls, papers among others could be produced using grasses of any kind.
Prof. Millar, who took the media and some stakeholders to the University’s demonstration field, saw some charcoal made from grass and indicated that using such charcoal was healthy, clean and very economical.
He noted that investing in grass production particularly the straw called ‘vertebra’ would not only make material readily available to the basket industry, which employed a greater number of people, especially in the Upper East Region, but create employment avenues for the people and encourage the youth to venture into the sector.
This, he added, would cut down the cost of transporting the straw from the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions, which were usually expensive.
He suggested to government to consider grass production in its flagship programme “One District One Factory” and establish grass processing factories in some districts particularly Northern part of the country to add monetary value to grass production to serve as motivation for people to grow and protect grasses.
The Professor indicated that his University, which is also known as Millar Institute for Transdisciplinary and Development Studies, had sent proposals to the then Savannah Accelerated Development Authority and the Northern Development Authority now, on the need to grow a grass economy to accelerate sustainable development, create jobs and improve on livelihoods.
He proposed to government to advance policies that would allow schools, institutions and hospitality facilities to adopt the use of grass charcoal, to encourage more people to go into grass production.
Madam Yvonne Wonchua, an Assistant Director of Administration at the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council advocated the need for authorities to make greening a requirement in the provision of building permits.