Sunday, June 30, 2013


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.

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