Charcoal Production in the Upper West Region: a threat to Environmental security

Charcoal in Upper West.

The weather is sunny and temperature is above 33 Celsius. The children are thirsty; mothers cover their wards with veils or cloths. Fathers sit under tree and there is always a long conversation outside the room to shorten the frustration of not been able to sleep at night.

Why? The temperature is warm at night. In the raining seasons, people complain for erratic rainfall pattern and continue to worry over the prolonged drought and the sunny days.
It is time to find answers to the fundamental course of the problem that has become a monster. One may not understand the debate on the phenomenon climate change; seating with an old man; he narrates how they used to be tree species all over but it has been replaced with buildings and roofed with corrugated sheet. This option may not sound bad as human developed, descent shelter is needed to advance dignity. Although it might contributes to the current happenings – rise in temperature; the quest for women, men to make meaningful livelihood sources push them to sacrifice tree life for income generation. Hence Charcoal burning
In any day as you ride through, Dorimon to Wechiau; Funsi to Tumu; Hain to Gwolu; Nandom through to hamile; Jirapa to Lawra and Kaleo to Nadowli. You are often welcome by hip of charcoal packed a long side the main roads and or heavy trucks that have loaded sugar, cement and other consumables from the South to the North including Upper West region making a return journey to the South with bags of charcoal heavenly loaded. There are basic questions we need to ask ourselves; do we understand the implications for cutting down trees unnecessarily for charcoal production? If our forefathers have destroyed the forest, could we have gotten the opportunity to meet those trees? Have we ever interrogated our conscious to the insecurity we are contributing? Will the southerner cut his or her cocoa tree for charcoal? And if the southern belts have more forest resource than us, why are they not cutting trees for coping strategies as livelihood outcome?
We must feel sorry for disappoing the future generation and be ready to pay the price of shortening tree life. The Shea and Dawadawa trees for instance have provided most homes in the Upper West Region as species for delicacies.

Transporting Charcoal from Upper West

The economic viabilities of the shea and Dawadawa tree species are not in doubt. The (shea & Dawadawa) fruits sometimes serve as lunch for the cow boy.

However, the shea tree in particular has become the most suitable tree spices for the charcoal production. Most community’s that used to have considerable land cover of woodlots cannot boast of such any more. The simple reason is; they have lost it to charcoal production where tree life is sold for Fifty Ghana Cedis (GHȻ50.00) per bag.

We cannot continue in this tangent in our already fragile savannah ecological zone where the impact of climate change in view of rising temperature is greatly felt. Part of the problem should be on the community members themselves who have failed to take advantages of the great economic importance of most tree species but raather finds it convenient to kill a tree for a small amount.

We must also blame our traditional leaders who remained very silent and watch their subject destroy the future of the generation yet unborn. The political leadership in the region obviously are not perturbed because they fear electorates will feel been sabotage and could exercise the power of the thump that will kick them out of power. Ironically, the very actors to even lead the fight against charcoal production are providing market for the business as most household used charcoal instead of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

In this 21st century, we cannot destroy to engage in activities that will destroy degrade our land and future expose us to the threat of desertification and consequently full gear explosion of climate change impact. There are best examples we can learn; our next door neighbour Burkina Faso have inculcated the planting of tree as requirement in setting up building; Rwanda that have existed only 25 years after genocide that nearly brought the country to its knee is building green cities.

The institutional bottlenecks coupled with politics of convenience; greed and lack of sense of patriotism and nationalism are the major course of the environmental degradation. The only way-out is to band the production of charcoal in the region in particular and or in a control manner with strict supervision from the appropriate authorities including the Municipal & District Assemblies (MDAs), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ghana Forestry Commission in the Upper West Region. The Upper West Region may soon become west off than the Upper East Region where there are no even enough woodlots to cut for charcoal production. We need to leadership to engaged women in skill training; business developments; innovation and appropriate scheme devoid of party- politics to empower them in order to end the practice of being the enemy to the forest. We must come together and re- examine the growing effects of charcoal production and find lasting solutions to the menace of else we will be victims of circumstance and the future generation yet unborn will continue to pay for our crime and surely posterity will indeed judge us.

Writer: Tahiru Lukman
Tel: 0209154057 / 0551018778
Email: lukmantahiru@rocketmail.com

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