Climate change may wipe out some cultures and food crops – researcher

The impact of climate change is according to research negatively impacting the cultures of certain groups of people. It is part of the adverse effects of the human-induced global phenomenon that is striking hard and precise on humanity’s core areas of life.

Research has long established that climate change affects agriculture and livelihood with food security issues rising in areas where the impact has not been properly handled. East Africa has recently experienced the heavy-handedness of the consequences of the Industrial Revolution that took place between the 18th and 19th centuries. Drought and flood are just a few of the naked examples of the havoc rained on humanity by climate change.

While Africa was no direct player in the revolutions centuries ago and still plays an insignificant role in it now, the continent has remained at the mercy of the past. China is the world’s leading polluter now, having annexed the top spot from the United States since 2006.

In this article, we caught up with Raymond Aitibasa Atanga, an environmental scientist and a climate change expert from Africa who is currently in China. Our goal was to find out from him how China and Africa can use their positive relationship to promote climate action. Our discussion also centred on the impacts of climate change especially in Africa and how African countries can take the fight head-on.

Responding to a question on how climate change is impacting certain regions in Ghana, Mr Atanga noted that climate change apart from its widely known impacts has also raised its rod of destruction against cultures in certain regions in the continent. He said the changes in weather and seasons mean certain cultures are either irrelevant or risk being phased out.

Giving an example, the Ghana-based sustainable development researcher said recent research in the Upper East Region of Ghana has shown that some people are considering the modification of greetings in the area. The reason he said is that the changes in seasons have made some season-related greetings meaningless.

“I come from a part of the Upper East Region that when you greet somebody good morning, that is ‘fo bulika’, the response is ‘La fɔ ɔɔrɔ. I did an intergenerational analysis and the results show that there is no longer cold. Parents spoke about their parents and grandparents talked about cold. That usually in those days usually in November and December they have to gather stock and warm themselves. And then the nature of the buildings were [sic] such that their doors were small and you have a small window because of cold. Now there is no longer cold. One of my respondents told me that maybe we have to change the greetings because there is no longer cold. When you say good morning and then you say ‘your cold’, there is no longer cold.

Additionally, Mr Atanga expressed concern that climate change is causing so many people on the continent to lose their livelihoods. “Agriculture – farming is at a threat of getting extinct, especially certain indigenous crops,” he noted. He explained that the irregular rainfall pattern has affected the cultivation of some crops especially indigenous ones which have not been modified to be climate resistant.

“There is a crop in the Upper East Region. If I am not wrong, Upper East is the only region in the whole world that grows it. It is called ‘Naara’ [Naad-kohblug/Waapp-Naara/Afribeh-naara]. Naara is at the threat[sic] of being extinct because of changes in the climate.

“Now…the findings show us that the season[farming], normal season especially in Northern Ghana; the Savannah, Guinea Savannah and the Sudan Savannah; the rainfall, the farming season has been reduced drastically. So you need fast-growing drought-resistant varieties to be able to survive but many of these farmers still rely on the indigenous varieties because they have no options. Government is not promoting or developing new improved varieties of the local staples. So, it is [a] very serious thing,” adding, “fishing is becoming very unsustainable. Many fishermen have lost their jobs and as I said farming is becoming an unprofitable venture.”

According to the social policy expert, in one of his research projects, a respondent told him the interplay between droughts and floods is like a gun and a bomb. The drought will hit and the floods will come and clear all that is remaining.

Enumerating some other impacts of climate change in some regions he mentioned that heat is working so much against human lives due to climate change. Heat, according to him has become a problem in most areas and can lead to cardiovascular diseases, cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) and even heat stress which can all result in fatalities. “Water resources are declining, even underground water is declining,” he remarked.

Sylvestor Demuyakor, co-host of the show who said he consulted for a Chinese salt mining company this year confirmed the adversity by sharing his experience. He said the company he consulted for uses the evaporation method depends on the weather specifically the sun but due to the irregular seasons of rain, this year production could not go on from April to November to rains. The results he said were the loss of jobs of the people who earned their livelihood by providing labour for the company. Prices also skyrocketed because the supply was limited as compared to the demand. He said all these are due to the adverse effects of climate change but on the surface, many do not see it that way due to limited understanding of what climate change is about.

A brief about our guest, Raymond Aitibasa Atanga

 Mr Raymond Aitibasa Atanga is a lecturer at the Department of Environmental Science at the C. K. Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences and a researcher with interests in environmental planning, climate change, social policy and sustainable development which you can follow at Atanga’s publications. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), Beijing, China and has authored several papers centring on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. Mr Atanga appeared as a guest on the maiden edition of a yet-to-be-aired series by africansonchina which discusses issues around the world with a specific focus on the African-China space. He was speaking on the theme: Navigating the Intersections: Climate Change, COP28, and China-Africa Relations.

Editor’s Notes

  • Naara is a local crop predominantly grown in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Some villages in Southern Burkina Faso which border Ghana also cultivate the crop. At the moment we cannot confirm if there are other places in the world where it is cultivated.

Note: The full interview will be made available soon but you can watch excerpts from the attached videos below.

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