Mahama Aminatu, a 27-year old mother is a resident of Jawani, a farming community in the East Mampurusi District of the Northern Region of Ghana. It is about 68kms away from Gambaga, the district capital. Gambaga is an ancient town in Ghana and noted for the Witches Camp.
The Gambaga Witches Camp hosts about one hundred women mostly, old, widows and children who are banished from their communities with the accusation of witchcraft. The alleged witches live in deplorable conditions.
However, it is extremely hard to see Wizards (man accused of witchcraft in the camp). These women and children constituted the larger number of women and children callously accused, abused, marginalized and banished. Banishment is a popular punishment meted out to somebody or group who committed unpardonable crime such as murder. It is being practiced by some tribes in Northern Ghana.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Jawani and adjoining communities. It has no electricity, portable drinking water or good road. It however has a health center, but lacks health workers. There is only one trained nurse in-charged of over 26,000 people made up of Jawani and its adjoining communities.
Malaria, malnutrition, snakebites are the commonest and frequent diseases recorded in the center. Maternal and infant deaths are relatively high. The clinic can only admit and handle minor sicknesses. The serious illnesses and those demanding surgical operations are referred to the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, about 32kms. The clinic has no ambulance or vehicle to convene the sick. All of these referred cases are transported either on a motorbike or bicycle including women in labour.
Aminatu, like other women in the community are responsible for the livelihood of the family. She is nursing a 2 Year old child, Ayeshitu. Ayeshitu like other children is malnourished and frequently fell ill.
“This year we had poor yields because of the rain failure”, Aminatu said as she stared straight into the frying pan. Aminatu once lived in a town of Gambaga and learnt how to prepare local cakes with soy or babara beans. The fried cake is a delicacy to the villagers. It is uncommon to see this stuff often in a typical village like Jawani.
Aminatu told me her husband’s maize farm had failed because the rains failed to come in abundance this year. “There is no hope for now except we find one”, she said. She pulled a container to block Ayeshitu who was dangling closed to the fire. “Stand there, the oil will burn you if you come close” she commanded the two year old child while concentrating on the frying material. She just want to ensure it is perfectly fried. She knew her customers taste. The frying of bean cake for sale is a coping strategy. The effects of climate change dealt a blow on their livelihood. Your farm failed so how are you going to manage through? I asked childishly. She smiled and said, we are used to it, and God will surely provide something.
"i am however part of the community banking system, thanks to ALP support. all is not lost yet", Aminatu is part of one of the village savings and loan (VSLA) group in Jawani.
For now Aminatu and the entire family had no hope except to rely on the Heavenly intervention and VSLA to make it through. Aminatu will always come out to sit under this tree to fry daily to enable her gather some coins to be able to buy food for the family.
The plight of Aminatu’s family points out the devastating impact of climate change on livelihoods. Climate change is no more a new science. The new science certainly is about the options of adaptation techniques processes.
Jawani certainly would need climate resilient agriculture policy intervention to escape this crisis.
Whether we accept the existence of climate change or not, vulnerable people like Aminatu definitely would need helping hands to cope. We must take action or perish in disease, thirst, drawn in floods or roast in extreme heat, and or starved in hunger. We must take action now or never. While we continue to drag our feet towards the mitigation and adaptation processes, the vulnerable people’s livelihoods continue to deteriorate.
What is important and urgent now is how to help this vulnerable groups build their adaptive capacities to reduce their vulnerabilities.
It is against this background that CARE INTERNATIONAL Adaptation Learning Programme in Africa (ALP) intervention in the hard to reach communities in five African countries is laudable and worthy of replication.
ALP has successively developed various models of adaptation strategies and trained communities to use of the models. Dubbed Community Based Adaptation (CBA), it uses simple approaches to teach basic climate science, livelihood diversification an
d coping strategies for vulnerable communities.
Community Adaptation strategies (CARE’s models)
The CBA processes are currently being used by the communities in ALP operational communities in Ghana. ALP communities are five deprived communities each in the West Mampurusi and Garu-Tampane districts in the Northern and Upper East regions of Ghana, ALP intervention is yielding positive result with adoption of the community adaptation models such as the Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP), Village Savings and Loans (VSLA), Community Adaptation Action Plans (CAAPs) and Community Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (CVCA).
Participatory Scenario Planning (PSP)
This is a weather information dissemination techniques that uses both indigenous weather prediction knowledge and scientific weather forecasts. Under the PSP, the project works in partnership with the Ghana Meteorological agency (GMET) at the community level. The agency and communities share their predictions on when to expect rains: onset, drought spell, normal and abnormal. This enables farmers and the communities at large to plan their farming activities. In all the ALP communities rain gauges are installed and manage by the community monitors who record the data and send to the GMET for analysis and predictions.
Village Savings and Loans (VSLA)
This is often called community banking. The VSLA are introduced to encouraged community savings and banking. The loans are advanced to the group members, majority of who are women for petty trading with an interest rate of 10%. The savings are helping community members to pay their children school fees, buy food, establish scale businesses and for emergence purposes. Each group has what they termed emergence fund that seems to be helping members in terms of need. Most young girls do not leave the communities to urban centers to undertake head porter job to be able to buy their needs. It has also encouraged communities’ savings.
Climate Vulnerabilities and Capacity Analysis (CVCA)
This technique is a data gathering tool used to assess the vulnerability of the community using community hazards mapping (identification of resources, diseases, flood prone area, changes of seasons, livelihood etc) this enables the community to develop disaster risk reduction plans to deal with the issue.
Community Adaptation Action Plans (CAAPs)
The communities use this techniques to plan for community needs and need projects. All the ALP communities in Ghana have since developed their community development plans and presented to the local governments authorities for action. Before ALP the local authorities decide which project should be executed at which communities most of which did not meet the need project of the communities. The project also work closely with the department of agriculture that provide improved seeds for farmers. Improved seeds such drought tolerant, disease resistant, high yielding and early maturing crops have adopted. Farmers particularly those in the Upper East have adopted the dry seasoning gardening (onions) that has helped reduce the poverty level among the households.
The CAAPs is also an advocacy tool use by the communities to access their priority needs from any decentralized departments. Currently ALP communities worked directly with the local government authorities on their need project. Decision making in ALP communities are not a preserve of men only but both men and women. Some communities, women are chosen as leaders (community monitors), chiefs and group leaders.
The models are simple and easy. What are currently working is to ensure these models are integrated into
the local and national development planning, says, ALP Manager, Romanus Gyang. He said impact of ALP on social cohesion, livelihood diversification, community planning and decision making, advocacy and weather prediction cannot be overlooked. “We need to offer the same opportunities to other communities to benefit” he said.
The National Advocacy Manager of CARE Ghana, Baba Tuahiru said the government of Ghana was responding positively on the integration of CBA into national and community level planning. “ALP is household name in Ghana. It got us into the National Steering Committee as a member on Africa Adaptation Programme (AAP), the government of Ghana Climate change programme where we offer technical advice to the committee”, he said.
Madam Fiona Percy who was impressed after making a field visit to the ALP communities said, “Evidence of ALP impact is visibly clear: women in active decision making, changed livelihoods, community plans and banking, collaboration between communities and local government authorities, adoption of improved seeds and best agronomic practices as coping strategies ar clear evidence that CBA is working”, she said.
At the Annual meeting in Bolgatanga in the Upper East region of Ghana, ALP project officers from Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, and Niger met to review the project and to assess the impact of the project on community adaptation. CARE currently leads the pack in community adaptation with easy and adoptable tools for all (literates and illiterates). The models developed have been tried and tested and proven reliable. the tools used are a must adoptable if Africa is to make headway in climate change adaptation. The evidence of positive impact of CBA on community livelihoods adaptation was massive and makes CBA tools the best option for the vulnerable communities.