Communicating climate change: The Fulani experience

landChaibu Boubakar, is a Journalist from Niger, who attended a workshop on a theme “Strengthening Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in the Sahel and West Africa,” in sharing his experience on how Climate change was impacting his country he said:

“In my country, there used to be a lot of youth engaged in cattle rearing and therefore worked as Cattle Herd (Fulani) but these days their cattle do not get enough grass to graze on because of climate change and they are all now coming onto the streets of Niger to sell mobile phones.”

Chaibu’s comment drew a bit of laughter from the participants but then I thought about Ghana and said could this situation be linked to the Fulani’s menace, (for lack of a better word) that we experienced in Ghana latter part of last year and early part of this year?

Fulani’s are nomads from across the West African sub region and it could possibly be, that because they lacked grass to graze on in their countries they migrated to Ghana to graze their cattle and in the process attempted to take over lands of indigenous Ghanaians which resulted in all the hullabaloo that went on earlier.

The issue of climate change, experts says looks bigger than the average person can imagine, however, communicating climate change to the understanding of the ordinary or average person has been the problem.

Sometimes, it is easier communicating climate change with tangible things than the abstract kind of description that no one really seems to relate to.

I remember sometime ago , a scientists talking about climate change said that with the rise in sea level due to climatic variations, the Osu Cattle, former seat of government could be submerged into the sea in about 50 years.

Many Ghanaians related to this and the issue was thoroughly discussed on radio and was on the front page of the Daily Graphic. About 50 percent of Africans and Ghanaians for that matter are likely to attribute climate variations to an act of God.

In an interview with a charcoal seller at Tema Station in Accra, she agreed to the fact that yes there has been some climatic variations or changes in the climate from the time she was a young lady and now but said said in twi (local language) ” It is God who want to do his own thing and what can man do about it, we cannot question God”

On the surface the woman’s understanding sounds funny, but really her case is not an isolation, I have watched a video on climate change where people across the West Africa sub-region attributed climate change to an act of God.

Scientists however say that human’s have the power to do something about climate change when they reduce the level of emissions of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Humans can help reduce emission of these gases by planting more trees and engaging in practices that reduce the amount of gas that is released into the atmosphere, for example instead of burning wood for fuel, one could opt for gas, instead of using electricity, one could opt for solar.

The cost associated with the above mentioned options is a topic for another day.

Experts define Climate Change as changes in climate or weather patterns over 30 years period, they say that changes in weather patterns over a short time could better be referred to as climate variations.

These variations or changes in weather or climate, they say is due to certain behaviours of humans that results in emitting more of the greenhouses gases into the atmosphere.
Mr Martin Banga, Capacity Strengthening and Training Manager , INDEPTH Network, a non governmental organization that advocates better health information, said climate change is the biggest global health threat in the 21st century.

He however said that predicting the impact of climate change on the population was not an easy task.

Professor Osman Sankoh, Executive Director of INDEPTH Network, alluded to the fact that sometimes it is not for the journalists to interpret all the scientific modules developed by scientists rather the Scientists ability to interpret the modules in a way that the journalists can understand could spur effective communication on the subject of climate change to the populace.

He therefore announced a 20,000 dollars grant to the African University College of Communications (AUCC) to help train journalists in the subject area.

The Workshop organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in collaboration with the African University College of Communication and INDEPTH Network aimed at generating knowledge to help address the problem of climate change.

In communicating on climate change issues, experts tend to use terms such as mitigation, adaptation, climate variations, Carbon credit among others and journalists are tempted to repeat such terminologies in their reportage mostly resulting in lack of interest in the subject.
Professor Kwaku Armah, President of AUCC said the University was particularly interested in the programme because of its critical role in training communicators who would in turn relay and disseminate information to the masses.

He said the University intended to discuss with UNESCO after the meeting, to help restructure AUCC’s curriculum to feature lessons on climate change so that students would be well-equipped in climate change issues and report accurately to the understanding of ordinary citizens including farmers.

By Hannah Awadzi

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