A Climate of Change in Africa

Ford fellow JohnBosco Sumani, MS ’08 is clear as to what his aims are. “For me,” he says, “I want to always contribute to poverty alleviation by ensuring environmental sustainability.” In the summer of 2007, Sumani returned to his home country of Ghana to undertake research for his master’s thesis and to work on a practicum for a local non-governmental organization (NGO).

A second-year Resource and Conservation Management student, Sumani returned home to investigate the possible role of climate change in human migration. As he explains, human migration in Ghana has tended to see citizens of the north heading to the southern parts of the country, in part because British colonial rule favored the development of mining and other resource extracting industries in the south.

Most studies of local migration patterns have used economic yardsticks to account for the flow of people toward the south, identifying the need for a workforce to support past colonial interests as a main driver. But Sumani wonders whether other factors may play a role. “Even though people could migrate for economic reasons, there are other reasons, and one could be for environmental reasons,” he says. “Specifically, climate change and climate variability, because over ninety percent of the people of northern Ghana depend on agriculture, and you cannot have agriculture without good rainfall and temperature values.”

JonhBosco Sumani conducting interviews.
To carry out his research, Sumani interviewed households in the communities of Duomg, Fian, and Oqwlo in the Nadowli district of northern Ghana. He also interviewed experts within Ghanaian government agencies and universities and collected hard data on population and climate trends from both sources. As a final piece of his research methods, he even adopted the role of radio call-in host for part of a day, thereby extending his research to the farther reaches of northern Ghana.

While in Ghana, Sumani also undertook a practicum for the non-governmental organization Harnessing Youthful Talents for Rural Development (HAYTAFORD) to investigate local funding for the disabled in the Nadowli district. The Ghanian government directs community funding to local authorities known as District Assembly councils. “Five percent of the District Assembly’s common fund is supposed to be used to promote the welfare of people with disabilities,” Sumani says. It was his task to determine whether or not that was indeed happening. He organized community members into a small team and together they crafted a plan to approach and question local authorities about programs or projects that would help the disabled. With high hopes, they set to work.

“We approached the district assembly, but they refused to respond,” he recalls. “They used a lot of bureaucratic tactics. They were delaying.” It soon became evident that a direct approach to the local assembly would be fruitless. It was time for a new plan.

After a bit of brainstorming, he and his coworkers decided on a tactic that would get them out of their jam. “The way out was to go to the field and find out whether there are projects the District Assembly spent monies on, and also to interview people with disabilities to find out whether they have been getting support and benefits from the District Assembly,” he says. And so they did, discovering in the process that, as might be expected from their stonewalling, local authorities had not spent a dime-or, in this case, a ‘cedi’-on any projects. Sumani says HAYTAFORD and a sponsoring NGO will publish his findings and use them hopefully to shame the assembly into action.

Sumani’s fellowship requires him to return to Ghana for at least two years to put his skills to work for his home country. He looks forward to returning and perhaps initiating a climate project of his own on his return. Still, he allows that he hopes to return to AUNE, or, as he says, “I’ll be looking and I’ll be praying… if I find funding, I’ll be back at Antioch to complete a PhD.”

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