Heightened levels of environmental degradation in northern parts of the country, which are contributing to diminishing crop yields, have been attributed to lack of political will to crack the whip or implement stricter measures, a study has said.
With human activities such as sand-winning, deforestation/lumbering, bushfires, overgrazing and charcoal-burning identified as the lead causes of environmental degradation in the north, farmers believe that the inability of political leaders and state agencies to enforce relevant laws is a major contributory factor.
The study – conducted by the Institute of Climate and Environmental Governance (ICEG) and titled ‘Effects of environmental degradation on agricultural production, livelihoods, welfare, and climate change in the Northern Region of Ghana’ – revealed that the commitment of political leaders to the strength of environmental governance systems, and the level of public involvement, are critical factors that determine the effectiveness of efforts to control and mitigate environmental degradation.
The study found that about 50 percent of the respondents strongly agree that political authority has the power to control degradation, while about 53 percent strongly believe that politicians are unwilling to control environmental degradation.
“Political will is a potential tool to control and regulate natural resources utilisation in every economy. Political influence shapes the development and implementation of environmental policies and regulations. Governments have the power to establish laws, standards and regulations to control and mitigate environmental degradation. Effective policies can provide guidelines for sustainable resource management, pollution control and conservation efforts,” stated the report.
The Kumbungu District Assembly (KDA) and Community Water and Sanitation – two public institutions with the primary responsibility of addressing issues of environmental degradation – when interviewed for the report in relation to activities like sand-winning and others that degrade the environment in Nawuni, a community in the Northern Region, touched on the dangers of sand-winning leading to increased turbidity of the White Volta, hence costing more to process the water; and pollution of the water-body by fisher-folk and farmers.
The officials cited existence of the District Assemblies’ bye-laws on sand, stone and gravel winning; minerals and mines regulations; and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on mining, which they admitted have not been enforced.
The farmers believe that political actors have failed to protect the environment, hence the need for private-public partnerships (PPP) as one of the climate change mitigation strategies in the study area.
“PPP is essential in combatting climate change, as it enables mobilisation of resources, fosters innovation and technology transfer as well as enables scalability and market integration, facilitates multi-sectorial collaboration, and supports coordinated policy development,” the report emphasised.
Measures to mitigate degradation
Measures to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation include sustainable land and water management; adopting sustainable agriculture practices; transitioning to renewable energy sources; implementing effective waste management systems; promoting environmental education and awareness; enacting and enforcing environmental policies; conserving and restoring ecosystems; and fostering international cooperation.
About 91 percent of the farmers said regulating sand-mining, for instance, is among the best strategies to combat climate change impacts in the northern part of the country. Some 97 percent also indicated that promoting agroforestry is critical for combatting climate change’s impact on household livelihoods.
The majority of farmers, 68 percent, responded that controlling or regulating agro-chemical usage is an important way to address the fast rate of depleting soil nutrients, and to increase productivity and climate change mitigation strategies.