By Isaac AIDOO, Accra
IN many places around the world, floods, droughts, cyclones rising sea levels, soil erosion, desertification and changing rainfall patterns have become more frequent and severe.
Ghana, in West Africa, is no exception to the impact of climate change shocks.
The World Bank Group’s new Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR)for Ghana estimates that at least one million more people could fall into poverty due to climate shocks, if urgent climate actions are not taken. Income could reduce by up to 40% for poor households by 2050.
Climate action responses
The World Bank’s CCDR called for pursuing a development pathway that builds resilience to climate change and fosters a transition to low-carbon growth through a combination of policies and public and private investments.
On that score, in Ghana, development and environment friendly Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been involved in climate activism with support from the World Bank, the European Union (EU) and other partners.
The Delegation of the EU to Ghana has sought to foster the initiatives of some CSOs in their bid to address economic, social and climate-resilient issues through innovative interventions that contribute to the sustainable management of ecosystems and the empowerment of women.
In 2019, the CSOs in Research and Innovation for Sustainable Development (CSO-RISE) programme took off with funding from the EU and technical assistance from the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance.
The €9 million project which ended in June, this year, was implemented in the northern, middle and coastal regions of the country.
The CSO-RISE programme was implemented by ActionAid, Cerath Development Organisation, Centre for Local Governance Advocacy (CLGA), and Cooperazione Internationale Sud Sud,
ActionAid, a development-oriented non-governmental organisation, has been at the forefront supporting communities in Ghana to reduce poverty and improve their access to basic services.
Through the Northern Ghana Integrated Development Project (NGIDP) implemented by three partners, ActionAid, TreeAid and Urbanet, it was realised that most of the farmers in the district were burning bushes indiscriminately, cutting trees, poor land preparation which contributing to land degradation with the attendant climatic effects.
The objective of the project was to reduce rural poverty through economic development and sustainable agricultural practices.
One of the components of the project was to build the resilience of small holder farmers to respond to the impact of climate change through the mapping and implementation of community climate adaptation plans.
It is to increase smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate change through biodiversity preservation and sustainable agricultural practices
Manager of the project, Mr Ayuba Abukari, said climate change had affected small holder farmers especially in the northern part of Ghana.
The project had supported some 300 communities across northern, Upper East, Upper West, Savannah regions to develop climate adaptation plans.
“These plans guide them to respond to appropriately to climate change and have improved on their livelihoods,” Mr Abukari noted.
Communities grapple with climate change issues
Mr Jonathan Naaba is the Country Programme Manager for Tree Aid Ghana a charity that works with communities in northern Ghana to tackle poverty and the climate crisis.
He laments the effect of climate change on the livelihoods of people in communities up north.
“Currently, we are experiencing climate shocks, communities are struggling to survive, poverty is very high and we are experiencing floods, soil fertility is very low and farmers get less from their crops,” Mr Naaba told this reporter.
He says many communities are experiencing destruction to their livelihoods, food security, homes and security as a result of these natural disasters.
“These days we have realised that climate change is impacting agricultural activity which leads to crop failure or low yields which contribute to food insecurity,” Mr Naaba says.
Avoka Francis Mbabilla, a blind vegetable farmer from Gozeisi, in Ghana’s Bawku West District laments the impact of climate change on his life and his community.
“The effect of climate change is enormous on me. Trees of certain species have vanished and most of them with medicinal properties are no more,” he says.
According to Francis, termites and other species that were harvested for his animals had all vanished, adding that “our animals no longer get grass to feed on and this has affected our farming.”
Inhabitants, mostly farmers in northern Ghana admitted that prior to interventions by the NGO, they did not know that “cutting down of trees affects our rainfall and we also didn’t know if the rains come late we had to know the type of seeds to plant to be able to get a good harvest.”
According to Suzzie Afedaba , a farmer and nursing student at Kanjaga, Janingsa in the Builsa South District of Ghana recalls that “the effect of climate change before Action Aid came to our community was that we were not getting normal rains which meant that our crops went dry culminating in poor crop yields.”
Adoption of agro-ecological farming methods
To promote sustainable agriculture, the project managers instead of applying imported chemical fertilizers, weedicides, pesticides that pollute the environment have adopted agro-ecological farming as the only farming system in their communities of operation. The project implementers have appealed to government to invest in district and community-based compost production for sustainable soil health. They are confident about the prospects of boosting agriculture in those deprived parts of the country since the project had seen about 10,700 smallholder women farmers adopting the use of compost and organic manure.
Localized Disaster Relief Fund for Famers
Smallholder farmers do not get the needed support when they lose their farms to climate variabilities such as floods, droughts and windstorms, widely known as loss and damage. To lessen the impact of these challenges on the poor farmers and help them recover from such natural disasters, ActionAid and its partners established a localized disaster relief fund with seed money of GH¢50,000 from the project.
The project implementers continue to mobilize resources from philanthropies, faith-based organizations into the fund to help poor farmers whose farms are destroyed to recover and build back better.
After five years of implementing the CSO-RISE project, the organisations behind various projects have appealed to government to help deal with challenges identified in the communities and to help sustain the successfully piloted projects.
They are advocating for government to promote smart agriculture, be conscious about agro-ecology to protect the environment and help cure the climate crisis.
Team Lead for the Technical Assistance team for the (CSO-RISE) programme, Mary Tobin Osei wants government to support the work done in the communities by the project grantees.
She stressed, “we are asking government to promote sustainable agriculture, so that instead of chemical fertilizers and imported weedicides and pesticides we produce and promote our own fertilizers which will not destroy the environment.”