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Climate change is allegedly one of the most reputed threats to community development due to its impacts on health, infrastructure, houses, agriculture, food security, and various ecosystems. At the same time, most people living in the rural communities of Cameroon are poor, half educated (especially those at adult age have only elementary education) subsist barely on farming. In the past they owed to themselves they largely depended on ancestral beliefs for interpretations of natural and human-induced disasters.
In light of this, climate change seems very ambiguous, mysterious and new to them. For instance, I discovered that trying to convince a traditional leader, who is much attached to his traditional norms that prolonged dryness is caused by this foreing concept, climate change, was like forcing him to go through a complex course and reject everything he had previously believed. Indeed, many rural agriculture/forest dependent people (communities) believe that crop failure, floods, landslides, pocket rains, intense heat, scarcity of medicinal plants among other impacts are the results of: their mistakes in performing the appropriate traditional rituals; the abundance of evil and witchcraft; and finally the anger of their ancestors. Yet, these beliefs are costing them their livelihoods.
Community leaders have corrected the procedure and norms of rituals to appease their gods with no fruitful return. With increasing uncertainties and perceptions, coping with the “obvious unknown” is already hard enough for these communities. As such, there must be a paradigm shift to meet with emerging climate challenges in order for communities to remain competitive and on the survival fence. It will not be a question of managing the physical impacts of climate change but correcting the perceptions that impinge on the social, economic and political responses by these “societies” . Involving all actors – local government, businesses, farmers, consumers etc- will go a long way in influencing the development environment and assuring future economic growth.
What is happening to our“colocasia” (soft Xanthosoma)?
Many communities in Cameroon especially of those of the South West and North West Regions, coloccasia known commercially as Ibo cocoyam” constitute an important staple. It is a tuber and entirely rich in carbohydrates. It is prepared in a number of different ways for consumption. Some people cook Ibo cocoyam with the cuticle and peel only when it is ready and some others peel the skin with a knife before cooking. Once cooked, it is either consumed in slices or pounded into a paste known as “achu”. Each form is accompanied by different sauces and soups. Two years ago, this important agricultural species, suffered stem and leaf decay resulting to failure in harvest. This was very overwhelming to farmers and consumers as there was a complete break in an important food value chain. This impacted negatively on food security, the local economy as well as the social welfare of ibo cocoyam eating communities. That same year, there were allegations of poisoning from the consumption of affected Ibo cocoyam in the North West and South West regions. There was a temporal stop in the consumption of the affected crop. People in the urban communities, were able to understand that acid rain was the cause of the decline but those in peri-urban and rural communities were hesitant to believe that Ibo cocoyam failure was a negative impact of climate change. To date, some still hold that the disappearance of Ibo cocoyam in their farming system can only be the angry expression of their unappeased ancestors. Nevertheless, other causes besides acid rain attached to the Ibo cocoyam leaf rot require investigation.
Is Pawpaw (Carica Papaya) alsogoing to disappear?
In July 2011, pawpaw (Carica papaya) trees faced similar leaf and fruit rot. This reduced the sources of fruits intake by the indigenes of the South West region. Some farmers attributed this physical phenomenon to witchcraft; some believers said that it is the anger of God and other persons said that it was as a result of too much and continuous rainfall. In the midst of all these allegations, it was difficult to agree on steps to take to stem this trend. And yet, the solution lies in the perceptions and foundations of the affected populace. It has become clear that the impacts of climate change will be greatest in rural communities with low capacities and skills to adapt to the changing climate.
Climate change is already making physical impacts on rural communities as evidenced by an increasing disappearance of Ibo cocoyam and pawpaw. Plantains (Musa sapientum) are not spared by climate change. Leaves dry off before bunch production and this is equally causing panic amongst rural people. This year also, poultry farms were reported to be closing down in many parts of Cameroon as a result of poor corn yield that forms a major components of many animal feed especially poultry. Corn is a major staple for rural people. The shortage of the crop has resulted in a strong competition between human and animal consumption. Coping with these effects is going to be hard especially if rural people have to change their mindset towards the reality of climate change and begin to open up for the opportunity to receive capacity building to adapt to these changes. Climate change adaptation and mitigation is a fight we must commit to as its threats o the future of corn production have become an increasing source of concern. Furthermore, an independent study carried out by the Center for Rural Development and Environmental Protection Common Initiative Group on their garden snail farming reveals an increasing death toll in young snails as a result of drought and predation. These uncertainties are becoming too real for rural population to tie them to either religious or traditional beliefs.
An independent studycarried out by the Center for Rural Development and Environmental Protectioncommon initiative group on their garden snail farming shows increasing deathtoll in young snails as a result of drought and predation. These uncertaintiesare becoming too real for rural population to tie them to either religious ortraditional beliefs.
The way forward
Existing experiences and models attest that there are many climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives taking place around the world that can be replicated in the rural Cameroon. To begin climate initiatives in rural communities of the South and North West regions of Cameroon require but not limited to (i) climate change baseline studies, (ii) funding youth-led climate awareness programs and climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives (agroforestry projects), (iii) enabling organizations through organization support to advocacy, non-profit services delivery, and policy framework land tenure). But more importantly, we must debunk these myths that have cost us our daily bread for so long. We must promote fact-based discussions on the effects of climate change which will lead to more collective and effective actions to mitigate these challenges.
Article written by Godwin Ade Tanda. He is the Exeutive Director for the Environmental Protection and Development Association in Limbe, Cameroon.
Please read article also at http://www.harambefarmland.com/?p=1431