Climate change is one of the most pressing issues to world leaders today. The increasing call for a global partnership to help tackle the problem now is however undermined by high level of ignorance in some parts of the world. I had a first-hand experience of how thus global issue seems to be ignored while on a tour of some coastal communities in my home country, Ghana.
I sat in the warm sand with one fisherman and began to ask him questions on the sea erosion. The size of the meeting grew as men, children, and a few women stopped by to listen to the discussion. I asked an old man, “What’s happening? Your buildings are being destroyed by the sea.” The question triggered a series of lamentations and complaints from the people. This did not come as a surprise. From my little experience working on the field as a research assistant, I knew that was very typical of a Ghanaian society, because the locals believe that the government’s response to their problems are facilitated by complaints and agitations.
Probably thinking that I had links with the central government or perhaps a journalist, some of them began telling me to inform the president about their problem. The gathering was thrown into chaos when I asked the simple question: “So what do you think is the cause of this severe coastal erosion erosion?”
There were series of views on the cause of the problem. Some of the women had no say because they were told to remain silent when the men were talking. The elderly men debated the topic with a number of arguments, while others believed plastic wastes and other forms of human pollution had occupied the sea leading to an overflow hence the erosion. On the other hand, others believe it is only when the right sacrifice is made to the gods that their suffering will be lessened.
“The wickedness of mankind in the form of abortions and other killings are to blame for the coastal erosion,” one elderly man retorted. Pointing to a stack in the sea, about 100 metres from the beach, he said it used to be their standing ground for their so-called ‘hook fishing’ during his youthful days.
Surprised, I asked what he meant by wickedness. He explained that the gods of the sea and the ancestors of the land were annoyed because of the evils of mankind.
A young gentleman told me that he was taught in high school that climate change and something called the gravitational force of the moon could force the sea to rise. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to continue with his comment because he was one of the youngest at the meeting. A middle-aged woman who also tried explaining what she thought might be the cause of the increasing coastal erosion was also stopped from speaking.
COASTAL EROSION IN ADA-FOAH
Ada-Foah is a fishing community in the Greater Accra Region. Like Dutch-Komenda, Ada-Foah is also a fishing community. This community also has the estuary of Ghana’s largest river called the Volta. Ada Foah is not only vulnerable to coastal erosion from sea level rise. Part of the community is submerged annually because of the swelling in volume of the Volta especially in the rainy season. Over the years, the people have adapted to this but the unpredictable nature of the climate continue to expose them to the dangers of flood.
At the time of my last visit, a company from Cyprus called Dredging International was on site undertaking the construction of a sea defence wall in Ada-Foah. According to the people of the community, the construction of the defence wall led to more flooding because of an expansion of the mouth of the Volta river making room for the stronger force of the sea to enter into the land through the river.
While there were various divine reasons attributed to coastal erosion here too, not much is known about global warming, climate change nor global goals.
TOURISM IN ADA-FOAH
Apart from fishing, tourism in Ada-Foah has also been affected by climate change. Most resorts, especially the smaller ones owned by the natives have been destroyed by coastal erosion. The major resorts that are still in business are owned by foreigners.
ADAPTATION AND MIGRATION IN ADA-FOAH
Crop cultivation in Ada-Foah continues to be difficult. The unreliable and unpredictable climate has become very difficult to read. The very few farmers who are still into cultivation do it at the highest risk. The major food crops cultivated here include maize and cassava. Some farmers mix these with pepper, tomatoes and sometimes onions. While some farmers have made dug-outs in their farms to store rain water, a few others pump water from the river onto their farms. Some farmers who could not afford irrigation have resorted to other means of survival.
Transport business using the motorcycle is booming in Ghana as a whole. The story is not different in Ada-Foah. Most of the youth are engaging in this business now because fishing and farming are no longer lucrative. It is very common to become a motor rider in Ada-Foah after Junior or Senior High School. A chunk of the youth, often men, have already migrated to the cities in search for ‘non-existing jobs.’
Ghana, like some other African countries is more vulnerable to climate change. This is not only because the economies of most countries in Africa are highly dependent on agriculture and climate-dependent sectors like ecotourism but high level of ignorance in addition to high cost of adaptation. A bottom-up approach of empowerment and education will promote mass participation in addressing this global challenge locally.