Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Human Tsunami -Northern Ghana

A truck loaded with people leaves Nandom...

The Brutu dam, near Nandom, which has almost dried up....

A Nandom farmer harvests yams.....

Accra's busy Neoplan bus station.....

"In resent years, with economic development taking place elsewhere and erratic rain making, rural life increasing difficult, more and more people are taking to the road. The figures are inexact, but about 20% of those born in northern Ghana are now thought to live in the richer, more urbanised south. In Nandom, the numbers are much higher; half the population has gone. People from the town offer varying reasons for the exodus -lack of jobs, enticing "greener pastures", deteriorating climate -but they agree that it cannot go on indefinitely, this whittling, or Nandom will never prosper.." Sam Knight

I often wonder, -if Accra was in the north of Ghana, -whether northern Ghana would be as dry, -and about to become a -desert? The 'north / south' divide in Ghana has always pissed me off -and pictures of desert like conditions in northern Ghana has not helped. And so, when I picked up the FT Weekend Magazine (a couple of weekends ago) and saw the above pictures of, -a very parched Nandom [a deserted region in northern Ghana]; -in an evocative but well written [and bleak] piece by Sam Knight called, 'The Human Tsunami' - I felt worse. 'The Human Tsunami' spoke of the grave climate changes ahead for Ghana. It claims that, "10% of the worlds population will be, inundated by a 1 metre rise in sea levels -possibly by the end of this century -while another 30%, more than 2 billion people, live in dry lands, like Nandom, that are vulnerable to endemic drought" -will desert their habitats and become burdens to host communities -like Accra / London etc -changing the landscape of these cities for ever.

I know that the government of Ghana can not control the weather -nor are they wholly responsible for the climate change that is forcing our brothers to flee from the north as "environment refugees" [so called by Sam Knight]. -Because northern Ghana has always been hotter, dryer -with less rain rainfall than the rest of the country. And when the rain does come, -it does more damage than good. But leaving our brothers up north to go-it-alone, -is not working. And as the photographs of [an overcrowded] Accra shows, - mass exodus -is not the answer. Also, the environmental cost -of, deserting the land -is numerable. And if we are not careful -the dry, desert like conditions [of northern Ghana] -will erode its way down to the south of Ghana. But I also know that this is a complexed, and political -and an environmental situation.

"It is striking that schemes in Ghana specifically aimed at reversing internal migration -ranging from resettlement to simply laying on buses to take people home -have tended to fail, and policymakers have noticed. Between 2007 and 2009, the European Commission funded a pilot study, known as EACH-FOR, to examine environmental migration in 23 countries and regions around the world. In its study of Ghana , EACH-FOR advised the government to stop trying to control the movement of the people, and instead to focus on the growing poverty gap between north and south and to improve transport links and trade between the two. " Sam Knight

Northern Ghana needs help and assistants. It needs 'real' irrigation knowledge to cultivate the land. They also need different types of employment -and I guess the government must help to re-direct businesses to the north. But what of overcrowded cities like Accra and Kumasi? Will the government sit and watch as the aforementioned cities become overcrowded slums, bursting at the seams with [an ever growing ] "environment refugees -and what of the Cholera outbreaks? Sam Knights talks about two cases of cholera outbreaks in, 'areas popular with northern migrants' in Accra????

Sam Knight ends by looking at possible solutions, -like the help coming from overseas [us in the west] to our families back home in Ghana (this also includes northern Ghanaian living in Accra -sending money home to their families), loans or insurance to farmers to buy seeds, 'if the rain fails' and some government support.

"The Overseas Development Institute, a UK think tank, has shown that money wired from migrant Diasporas -instantly, and straight into the hands of victims -can be just as affective as government -run recovery effects in the wake of natural disasters."Sam Knight

'The Human Tsunami' ends with a real eye opener. -The knowledge that, even though 'mass migration' is fuelling climate change, -it is also the -solution. Because unless these people move to 'richer pastures -and help their families -the situation will get worse.

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