SHRINKING NATURAL RESOURCES: THREAT TO LIVELIHOODS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Bolgatanga, June 1, GNA - A woman's work never finishes, as the constant dwindle in natural resources continues to make women more vulnerable to different climatic conditions.
Forests which cover over 6 per cent of the earth's surface have over the years been under threat by human activities and are disappearing fast. According to FAO report, the loss in forest cover poses a threat to over 240 million people living in forests and communities that depend on them for work and for income.
Women who play important roles in agricultural tasks have had to do all the drudgery with little resources. A UN report estimates women's contribution to agriculture at 47 per cent, making women's role in the promotion of trade and food security more crucial.
Women's performance in these sectors have been impeded by the diminishing access to land for cultivation, poor rainfall patterns, drought and floods with the consequent results in land degradation leading to erosion and poor yields.
Consequently, these Women and young females throng to the cities where they live in difficult conditions, mainly on the streets, to work to make money for the home. This phenomenon has created more negative effects on the lives of women and children as they are exposed to poor health conditions because they sometimes sleep on verandas under poor sanitary conditions.
From dawn, women in rural communities and towns spend over five hours in search of water for domestic use which has a telling effect on their families, communities and workers alike whom their services target.
Water from the streams is an important for women in rural communities because they use it for domestic purposes such as drinking, cooking and washing, while others use it to water their animals. However, in the course of time, some of those water bodies have been replaced with heaps of sand and crisped fallen leaves.
Even the twittering, Chirping and singing of migrating birds that came down to share the cold waters and announced the dawn of day at the streams and rivers has disappeared.
This is an indication of the fact that trees that provided shelter and protected the water bodies have either been cut down for fuelwood or dried up as a result of drought. This has led to women spending over three hours in queues at communal boreholes to find water for family use, both in rural areas and cities.
Despite the efforts of women in changing the fortunes of the economy and their families, their livelihoods have been threatened due to the dwindling nature of the natural resources. Their hustle at markets in the cities for their livelihood creates more problems since they are faced with vulnerability to ill health and poor sanitary conditions such as cholera, malaria, and malnutrition.
Floods experienced in Ghana have been attributed to climate variability stemming from the phenomenon of global warming. A report by UN's Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPPC) indicated that recent rises in surface air temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and the sea have been greater than global rates of warming. The report forecasts global average temperature rise of 1.4 to 5.8 Degrees Celsius by 2100, an explanation for the inconsistent cold and longer warm conditions experienced over the years.
Present realities of climate patterns and changes in weather should draw the attention of policy makers to come up with issues that would address the problems of potentially vulnerable people, especially women and children. Mr Johnson Ehiakpor, District Chief Executive of Asuogyaman District said climate change borders on all lives and requires the efforts of all to find a lasting solution to. “Assuming all the rivers dried up, no human life can ever survive on earth”, he said.
This is a wake up call for all to embark on environmentally friendly actions that would reduce the rate of degradation of the environment through concerted efforts.
Agricultural policies of political parties in power should not be prejudiced but should be applied equitably. Even today, many women still have difficulties in accessing credit for their income generation activities because of lack of collateral.
Scarcity of land and lack of access to finance for women's farming activities is drawing back the progress of women and, for that matter, disadvantaging entire families. The Government, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, and Ministry of Food and Agriculture should design programmes that would direct the sale of subsidized fertilizer and other agricultural inputs to women for farming. This should also be supported with tractor and extension services.
Women's continued drudgery forces them to focus their attention on the next available natural resource such as trees, which they cut down to sell as fuelwood or burn as charcoal to be sold for the much-needed cash for the up-keep of the familly. Others also engaging in small-scale gold mining or "galamsey" which is hazardous to their health and that of their children.
There is the need for government to invest in affordable improved cooking stoves as a matter of policy to stem the alarming rate at which trees are being felled for household fuel. There is also the need for government to partner with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) working with rural communities to promote of low cost soil and water conservation practices to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases in the rural communities.
Dr Mustapha Ahmed, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology in an interview with this writer said every human activity has an impact on the environment and that every sector of the economy is affected by the climate. As to what government was doing to mitigate the pollution of water bodies, the deputy Minister said the Ministry had put in place measures to check the hazardous effects of Sodium Cyanide on the environment.
One thing is for sure: If there is food security, the economy would thrive and women and children would have a sustained livelihood.
(A GNA Feature by Fatima Anafu Astanga)