Learning to Cope: Rural Communities in Ghana Take Basic Science Course on Climate Change
“We are not learning in order to sit for exams, but to understand the basic science of nature and environment,” says Tipoa Adjei, one of the more than 650 rural Ghanaian women who’ve never had formal education. They are now enrolled in a programme that teaches them some basic science as part of preparations for climate change adaptation.
The project, called Community Based Adaption (CBA) process and implemented by the non-profit Care International, is part of the efforts geared to equip rural farmers, particularly women, with basic education on the environment and agriculture.
According to Adjei, her local Zambulugu and its adjoining communities have been experiencing food shortages for the last few years, but could not explain the observed changes in the weather system. Farmers would be expecting rains that never came, Adjei recalls, and when they did, their patterns fluctuated and were difficult to predict. This makes preparing farmland and sowing crops very difficult.
“We used to think that our gods were angry with us,” Adjei says. “Now that we have learnt from sciences that human activities play a major part in the current weather situation there is the need for us to look for new ways to cope and learning basic science is part of that.”
Adjei says women are becoming more vulnerable to economic, social and natural disasters. “When we are just about to pick up and wrestle shoulders with our male counterparts, climate change seems to be derailing that effort.”
“Farming has been extremely disappointing, so we are looking for alternative ways to diversify our livelihood activities,” Adjei says. “That’s why we have to integrate basic learning as part of the diversification process.” According to her, the women in the communities are already changing their attitudes towards their livelihood activities as a result of the CBA programme.
Today, Zambulugu has a rain gauge, climate change-resilient livelihood activities, a disaster risk management plan, local adaptive capacity and the know-how to analyse underlying causes of our vulnerability. The village has also established Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), a community banking system that enables its members to save money. “This has brought us some economic relief,” Adjei says.
Currently, eight communities in the Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana are benefiting from the capacity-building and training under the auspices of Care’s Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP). Thomas Ayamga, the Monitoring and Evaluation officer for Care International Ghana, says: “This is a strategy aimed to prepare the most vulnerable group to climate change adaptation process in Ghana.” Community action plans involve, for example, the decision not to burn bushes or cut trees.
According to Baba Tahiru, national advocacy manager of Care International Ghana, the aim of ALP is to help reverse the existing challenges of poverty, land degradation, deteriorating environmental conditions, disease, hunger and starvation, food crisis, institutional lapses and governmental pitfalls, among other things.
Tahiru says that the CBA approach hinges on four key elements: promoting climate-resilient livelihood strategies; building capacities of local and public institutions; disaster risk reduction strategies and addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability through social mobilisation for empowerment and advocacy to influence policies enactment and implementation.
Although Ghana contributes little to climate change through its low carbon emissions, the country is bearing the brunt of the consequences of a warming climate. As Tahiru put it, “Climate change does not discriminate, but the fragile group of persons, particularly women, suffer the most because their activities are directly linked to their livelihood.”