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In the past few months we have been very busy on a number of fronts. It certainly has been hectic but we are now on track to make some real progress in our campaign.
We are pleased to announce that we recently took an office in East Legon. It hasn’t been all plain sailing. We’ve had the usual problems with power cuts of fifteen hours duration every thirty six hours as part of the current load shedding policy. This played havoc with our working practices and after investigating the possibility of installing solar power which we soon realized was far too costly, we succumbed to purchasing a generator. Also trying to get a reliable and fast Internet connection has been a challenge. However we are now settled in and by the time we have added a lick of paint and strategically placed some carpet we should have a base of which we can be proud.
We would also like to introduce you to two of our new permanent office staff, Ibrahim and Mike, who are training to use all the cool Internet and software technology that we are planning to utilize. Their first project which is now complete involved the identification of geographical positioning information for all place names in the UK for a British company Arc En Ciel. Although this was not part of our campaign it did bring in valuable funds to put towards it and help pay for our new facilities.
It may be the case that Africa has contributed little to global warming from fossil fuel usage. However Africans have done their fair share of deforestation which, by best estimates, has contributed globally between 20% and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.
In Ghana this can be mainly attributed to poverty and poor land usage. Before the present export laws requiring timber to be certified as grown in sustainable and managed forests, logging, although detrimental to the environment, did provide some income for rural Ghanaians.
However, these days, because of tighter export rules, keeping the trees just doesn’t put food on the table and over 70% of Ghana’s forests have now disappeared because of subsistence farming, hunting and charcoal manufacture. In other words Ghana’s contribution to the problem has been due in large part to desperation and necessity rather than over-consumption and greed.
In the last few years a new model has begun to emerge – that of carbon offsetting. It may now be possible, with the help of people in the developed world who want to offset their surplus carbon emissions, to make it financially viable for indigenous people to grow back and maintain the forests that once provided such a rich and bio-diverse environment.
There are serious issues to be tackled before embarking on this project. Not least of which is the problem of land tenure and possible future ‘leakage’ of the captured carbon back into the atmosphere. We are currently negotiating with local chiefs in the Afram Plains region and the Eastern Region of Ghana to buy nearly 2,000 acres of previously forested land for a reforestation project.
Buying the land is extremely important so that we can ensure the forest will remain there for at least one hundred years if not longer. As long as the forests continue to provide socio-economic benefits for the communities that live within and near the forests then we believe their long-term viability will be assured.
The initiative is called ‘Carbon Villages’ because we fully intend to not only include local people in the project but to allow forest communities to grow and thrive, obtaining their income from the many by-products that come from forests. We will actively sell carbon credits on the carbon markets on behalf of the communities in order to provide other benefits such as health care and education which in many rural communities in Ghana are hard to obtain.
Left: An exhausted Stuart Gold awe-struck by lady who purportedly has 10 children and who regularly climbs this mountain to get to Anum from her village – but usually carrying a large bowl of fresh fish on her head to sell in the town
Right: Kwabena Osei Bonsu (on right) with guides from Anum who showed us the land we are considering for the project.
Educating people about climate change is very important. However finding ways that Africans can actually do something to help in the global challenge to find a solution is quite another. Over the past two months we have been working closely with government officials of the Greening Ghana Initiative (GGI). The GGI aims to use the Golden Jubilee celebrations as a focal point to resuscitate and restore Ghana’s natural environment.
On behalf of the GGI and the Ghana Forestry Commission, our team transported and distributed, 352,000 seedlings in June – mainly teak with some citrus and mango, to farmers in the Afram Plains region. In order to avoid confusion and to establish an efficient distribution mechanism, the team drew up lists of farmers and posted them in public places in the villages prior to arrival.
As well as our collaboration with the Greening Ghana Initiative and the Forestry Commission we also have a close relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ghana Meteorological Services Dept (GMSD).
In March of this year we took part in an event to celebrate World Meteorological Day organized by the GMSD and in collaboration with them we donated t-shirts to all of the participants to wear on the day. Nearly everyone at the event wore the shirts which displayed the SKU logo together with that of the GMSD and in so doing acknowledged their commitment to the campaign against climate change in Africa.
Lincoln Community School
Three third graders founded an environmental club called www.KidsAgainstClimateChange.com at LCS and decided to do an extra-curricular project on climate change. They raised $350 which will be given to an environmental cause in Ghana by selling specially printed SKU t-shirts as part of World Earth Week. They were invited onto a radio program to talk about their project which was broadcast on Sunday 22nd April. SKU plans to work closely with LCS during the next academic year to develop a tree-planting program with the students.
SKU T-Shirt Task Force
Early in the campaign we gave away thousands of SKU t-shirts in Accra in order to promote our cause and make people aware of climate change issues in Africa. However another important part of our ongoing work is to give away t-shirts to people in areas where climate change or other environmental issues are starting to affect peoples lives.
In addition we also take with us reporters from Ghanaian national newspapers and camera crews from the national TV stations to report on and interview those people. We encourage the affected people to wear the t-shirts, especially during TV interviews, in order to publicize our web site address.
Coastal Towns of Ada and Keta – These coastal fishing communities, Ada in the Greater Accra region and Keta, further east in the Volta Region, have been suffering from coastal erosion and sea level rises for many years. In Ada people will point out to sea and show you where their town used to be – now completely submerged.
In fact, fishing close into the shore is now no longer possible as their fishing nets get snagged on the remains of the houses. As is common in Africa most people don’t know of the plight of the fishermen and their families. In fact some of them have now turned to subsistence farming and in Keta most have turned to fishing in Lake Volta which is now being over-fished.
Little compensation or help is available from government or other sources to help them adjust to this new situation. The reason for this severe erosion of the coast is not entirely clear. Certainly it is known that due to global warming the sea level has risen by approximately 17 cm but this would not necessarily explain the three meter/year erosion that is and has been occurring for many years. Whatever the cause, it is a graphic example of what would happen to coastal areas in Africa if the sea level does rise by the predicted 28cm-43cm this century.
Our trip to Ada and Keta was covered by both GTV and TV3 the main TV stations in Ghana with reports appearing repeatedly at peak times on their main news programs. Articles were published concerning the trip in the two main daily papers in Ghana, the Graphic and the Times.
Afram Plains – The Afram Plains region located in the south-eastern corner of the Volta Basin in the Eastern Region of Ghana is called the ‘bread basket of Ghana’ because of its fertile soil and farms growing maize, peanuts and yam. However, it was previously a major cocoa growing area with mixed forest to protect the cocoa plantations. Since 1983 when there was a severe drought and due to continuing poor land usage, the area has become seriously degraded and there is very little cocoa being grown because of the loss of tree cover.
Climate change is probably not implicated in the problems experienced in this area. More the lack of investment in good land management and the extensive poverty which forced people to employ ‘slash and burn’ techniques to destroy the remaining forested areas. Another problem which is not restricted to the Afram Plains region is the migration of Fulani Herdsmen from the neighbouring Sahel countries in the north who have been coming into Ghana for decades because of reduced rainfall and the consequent lack of grass to feed their cattle. The Fulani bring their herds south where there is grass for grazing but the local people often claim that the animals damage their farms.
There have been some serious incidents which resulted in violence on both sides. A few months ago we were visited by a couple of Fulani men, one of whom has a large herd of cattle, who told us of incidents in which twelve of their people were brutally murdered and their bodies mutilated. We were shown some quite gruesome pictures which they were trying to have shown on the national TV stations. Our t-shirt task force visit to these troubled areas was accompanied by TV crews who showed the footage on their main news during peak viewing hours.
The Fulani migration is a clear indicator of climate change in the north of Sub-Saharan Africa which is manifested by creeping desertification from the north. On our visit to the area we came across a village whose only source of water was from a dammed area of land from which the cattle drink. We decided as part of Gold Coast Projects humanitarian work we would donate thirty water filters to the village. The clay filters are made in Ghana and last up to three years before needing replacement and are very effective at removing contaminants including water-borne bacteria.
Volta Region – Our visit to Nkonya Wurupong and Kpandu in the Volta Region of Ghana revealed serious problems with the small cocoa farms where reduced rainfall has decimated their crops and over-fishing in the nearby Lake Volta is reducing the catches for local fishermen.
One of the farmers, Nana Owusu Ansah II of Nkonya Wurupong told us that he has now given up growing cocoa because of the drastically reduced crop yields and has tried mango and citrus. His attempts at both have been discouraging as he has had no help from government or other agencies and without the necessary pesticides and fertilizers he has lost 70% of his fruit.
If you have any comments about this newletter or our work in general please leave a comment on this blog. We look forward to sending another newsletter before the end of the year. In the meantime keep an eye on this blog which will be regularly updated and on our web site http://www.stopkillingus.com/.
Kwabena Osei Bonsu
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