Aaron Kaah Yancho
At the Dourum community in the Far North Regions of Cameroon very close to the Lake Chad river basin the planting season is in the offing. The local farmers out there need no scientist to remain them. By indigenous knowledge and design it will just be a repeat of an old aged tradition to plant at this time of the year.
Optimistic farmers like Mme. mama Binta, 63 and mother of 6children have being cultivating their dusty farm fields hoping to sow millets and groundnuts seeds once the first rains fall. Like all her community mates farming for food and family incomes, Binta has taken urgent measures to “select” the planting seeds at best make them ready for sowing. Women working in small community mobilization groups, do all they can to help one another catch up with the coming of the first rains. This month like any other in the farming calendar present a glaring statistics of the gender inequalities between women and men as primary food producers and providers. .“I leave home early enough to do the man’s jobs and the wife work” Mme. Binta says proudly holding an old blunt matchet. This woman clears and hoes her fields dreaming of reaping the fruits of her labor in times of harvest.
This year the rains have signaled their presence over the entire neighborhood. There is joy not only with the farmers like Binta but the grazers who have been seen walking the red dust in the hills and valleys of the community wondering where next to tend their cattle. In these tiny villages of mud houses all the peasants always wish to be correct in issues of farming. Two to five bags of millet grains are a family primary source of food and money security for a year. Yet over the years it is not only hunger that has beaten the communities, the rains too have become unpredictable resulting to the soils being unfertile and unforgiving. “This has made farming a very tedious job” Binta complains. Farming without manure leaves the soil too even more depleted and barren in this region of Cameroon. Financially not viable, affording farm inputs is a puzzle and dreaming of ever getting any kind of irrigation for their crops is a joke. The task of farming for 90% of the population has gotten more harder, demanding and not rewarding .
CLOUDS WITHOUT RAINS!!!
Farmers in this regions of Cameroon as well as along the Lake Chad River basin utterly dependent on rains to grow crops. But the sustained decline in rainfall since 1980 had long thrown the farmers in to confusion. For many months Mme. Binta and her community has to absorb the shocks if not deal with the realities of the changed pattern in rain fall. Every sunrise the farmers wait hopelessly looking at the starry skies. “And all what we just see is heavy cumulus dark clouds in the horizon but no rains, cold winds and breeze”. Binta remarks. Strange enough, this dull unpredictable weather also has its bearing’s on the community. A lot of kids and women have caught common cold and cough. Shortly before sunset a cluster of these sick kids are at a local health care unit. Only God alone knows when a bucket of water trapped at a camel’s back arrives the unit before these kids are administered a highly priced dose of paracetamol.
Waiting and wondering in her farm field Mme. Binta only anticipates why the rains have become irregular every day. This woman’s woes present the classic challenge of farmers in the Far North region of Cameroon and around the Lake Chad river basin plaque by climate change. Many years back these very farmers could proudly look at the weather and tell when it will rain. Now the whole community has been thrown in to a crisis of rain if not water. A community leader by name Yayah Mallam is urging the local farmers to hold on in this uncertainties “may be, just may be the unexpected will happen –the rains will fall” Mallam opines. According to experts walking the region and who are they to help educate the likes of Mallam these are the climate changes that scientist have been predicting that have and will hampered food crop production world wide and leave Sub Sahara Africa and the Lake Chad river area one of the poorest regions in the world today. In a report to confirm the change in the climate at the ministry of Agriculture and Rural development in yaounde Cameroon researchers in 2010 explained that when the first rains come and the farmers plant in this region and the Lake Chad river basin which constitute part of the North of Cameroon …… the rains disappear again for good making these poor farmers even poorer as seeds for the next farming season are lost. “The results have being over bearing” A staff of the world food program in the region cries. Low food crops yields lead to abject poverty, hunger and misery.
Binta’s husband Jaillaya Mohammed is a grazer and polygamist with 2 other wives. In this case their problems are exaggerated. “Our big family now has to face the temptations brought in by the climate changes, how to feed and to acquire money for our immediate needs in a big worry”. Binta said. The grazing of livestock cattle on the small pasture on which this family depends for cultivation means the worse is yet to come.
Not far from Binta’s grass roof thatched house lives a wiry woman Amina Anre’ in her late thirties as she struggles with a six months pregnancy. Amina’s potential hopes are on two fowls perking on the sand next to her hut. The hut she calls home relatively will not survive the end of the next drought as the already decompose grass and bamboo’s fall off each time a strong wind blows. Community members like Binta don’t blame themselves or fellow mates like Amina for living on next to nothing. While Binta blames the weather for their predicaments, Amina and her 2kids have a plethora of difficulties. Her husband died a long time ago from an infectious disease. “My capabilities to cope in the tormenting climate weighed down to almost nothing” Amina explained. This girl later sort help from a women mobilization group and built her present “abode” doing almost all the manual labor alone. Amina’s two teenage girls who have not gone to school and will never as she put it because of poverty. After her husband death she was left with a long stretch of red dry land and a few sheep to depend on for food, income and the education of her kids. The poor yields and the longer dry seasons left her almost miserable in the face of the challenges. “The options for me like a widow to improve my livelihoods have been very slim” Amina said in tears.
Women like Amina and Binta are every where in the world especially in communities where the change in climate has hit. They form the majority of the world’s poor that turn to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In an Oxfam report published in 2008 and titled Oxfam Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Resource -these poor women are affected in their multiplies roles as food producers and providers , as guardians of health, care givers and economic actors. In the report women like Amina work extremely harder to secure their basic resources ………and this means that they will have less time to earn an income, get an education or training.
To guard against the worse times Mme. Binta and other 21 women like Amina who faced similar problems have come together in their community under a self help group to share their workload, joy and sorrows. Many development organizations in their localities are raising awareness on climate change and how to cope in the extreme weather conditions -what is it and how to adapt. These women have lobbied for aid and are trained on integrated livestock management, gardening and compost manure application, income generation activities as an alternative to source income and food crops. Though trying hard to fend together their challenges are still unshakable. The high levels of inequalities among men and women in these communities and the soaring levels of illiteracy among these women and girls as well as low participation in decision making cycles is hampering this effort. Very few women have dared to venture in to business and whether by design or tradition they have accepted their roles as house keepers. Their only asset is landed property. while men like Mallam Yaya- Binta’a husband may leave home annually to trade in cotton, the task can be scary, harsh and excruciating for women like this who are always home when the troubles of climate change like droughts, floods, and fire outbreaks strike.
WHERE IS THE HOPE !!!
In search of hope girls of school going age in these region tend to follow their mum’s to the farms to lean support on food security. At family levels they trek with their mothers through long distances to crouch in the empty river beds digging up muddy water for drinking and washing on the same spots where livestock cattle drink under the biting heat. In a report on climate change mitigation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation entitled: What do We Do?, 2008 and the Oxfam international the “Right to Survive” and the humanitarian challenge of the 21th century , the world is warned that the impact of the climate change in areas like this will continue to worsen and for people already affected the need to adapt is urgent. Farmers and communities mentioned above fall in this poster.
By working to help farmers coaxing a living in this arid lands, strategies for implementing these solutions need to be rooted in an understanding of how these people sustain their livelihoods. Working at community levels like what the peasants are doing along this shrunk Lake Chad river basin can not be sufficient response enough to support effective adaptation. Climate change is a long term issue for people living in poverty and by supporting tree planting campaigns like what the Ghana research institute for Agro forestry is doing in Kumasi, encouraging farmers with farm inputs and small financial
schemes to farm with trees can go along way to bringing some remarkable solutions. The government of Cameroon and the other states surrounding the Lake Chad river basin on a surface area of One million square miles with an estimate of 42million people can play a fundamental role in also reducing these communities vulnerability to climate change by ensuring the proper use of carbon credits and by putting in place visible structures at grass root levels to coordinate actions and intervention. From experiences scanty resources breed conflicts for grazing land and water sources. Citizens especially women who are the most affected in climate related issues most talk their husbands to put down their arms and to work with them in order to sake common solutions as a long term measure of achieving this development goal.