On one faithful Saturday morning this writer was on his retinue jogging exercise on the Wa-Kumasi road to share some kilograms and burn out the impurities in the system to keep him fit and healthy.
On several of such occasions, he came across many articulator vehicles and various trucks hauling charcoal to the southern part of the country.
Sometimes, he could count about 20 vehicles moving with the product to their destinations. In some of the occasions, this writer shook his head to stop the avalanche of thoughts from coming. But tried as he did, he failed because the environment which is critical to the survival of the people is under serious threat of depletion.
At night, the environment echoes with emptiness; all the rosewood, mahogany and other tree spices, in the entire region are gone through illegal lumbering. The activities of illegal timber merchants have added to the overwhelming destruction bushfire caused to the environment on yearly basis.
And in recent times, the shea tree which serves as one of the most valuable economic trees of the people is besieged. Charcoal producers, “Pito” local drink brewers and “Waakye” (rice and beans sellers) have turned their energies towards the wanton destruction of the shea tree despite its economic values and usefulness to the people.
The shea tree nuts provides butter for the lighting at home, its products are used for the production of cosmetics, medicines and several others while its fruits are edible and very helpful to the body. It is one of the most outstanding economic cash crops likened to cocoa for people in the north
But going round “pito” brewing centres in Wa, the shea tree branches are heaped in large quantities and used us firewood for the brewing of pito. The same is with Waakye sellers. The youth, especially women are burning the shea trees in large scale for charcoal production even though it is one of the cash crops in the north that benefits women most.
The Upper West Region has now become a leading producer of charcoal in Ghana despite its desertification nature. Charcoal production has become a commercial activity of the youth in the communities and if some measures are not put in place to address the menace, sooner than later, the region would become a desert.
Because of the critical state of the environment, if we don’t act quickly there may be nothing left at all for us to even want to protect. We cannot continue the trend like this forever and stop whenever if we want to save the environment.
Desertification, which often results from felling too many trees and damage that occurs from such activities as cattle grazing and bushfire, are affecting the well-being and livelihoods of several people in the communities.
Precious fresh water supplies are also drying up, such as aquifers under major towns and villages have been reduced to a trickle for much of the year.
There are tens of thousands of rivers and lakes dying all over the region. People are leaving their villages, because they don’t have any more water to drink and in search for fertile lands to farm. Decline of wildlife due to species extinction is so rapid that there is no modern comparison.
The region in recent times has been experiencing worsened droughts that make it difficult to plant crops, thus adding to food shortages and prices rising. Increased temperatures mean erratic rainfall – either too little or too much at a time – so we have ravaging floods that drown the crops and fires that burn the forest. If we don’t change our disaster-breeding, provoking way, then disasters will never end.
The physical evidence up to date shows that we don’t have much time. Even later on, if want to save the environment, it won’t be successful.
Some communities have to cope with worsened drought situations. The way it is going, if they don’t fix it, in four or five years’ time, finito. No more. It is really that urgent. We need to tackle the root problem now by stopping the greatest contributors to our environmental crisis.
We must focus on to stop the destruction of the environment and stop talking around the subject but talk to the point: charcoal burning in commercial quantities and felling of rosewood and other tree species as well as the perennial bush fires must all have to stop now.
Without this main, most time-effective change, no matter what we try to do, it won’t be enough to repel the worst consequences that we have accumulated. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to the protection of the environment.
So, in order to solve the problem that we are facing right now, we have to reverse our actions. And instead of deforestation, we have to plant trees again. Take care of whatever environment that we have.
If humanity does not respect other forms of life, then the life of humans will also be in peril, because we are all interconnected.
Trees attract rain, keep the soil, and stop the erosion. And they give oxygen and shade, and give a home to the environmental forest friends, animals, which in turn, also keep our planet going in a good, ecological way.
Everything on this planet, including us, is integrated, and we help each other to make our lives here comfortable and liveable. Every time we fell a tree, we are killing a little part of ourselves.
The leaders of the region must do something. Just because we can still sit here pretty and talk, just because in our area, there is not yet water shortage or food prices going up does not mean it will not happen to use soon.
The government have to explain to people that it is truly harmful now and this is an emergency that people should stop destructing the environment. It is not a matter of personal choice anymore. It is a planetary life- and death matter.
We only have this one home; earth. If it is destroyed, another one cannot be built. Therefore, the most important thing for the government to do is to spread information to the public. We have no other choice – either we change or we will all go.
The thing is, the leaders should know that is a priority. What is the use of worrying about war or about position or about anything else when the environment is going to be ruined?
So, right now, all the leaders must concentrate on saving our environment and must concentrate on spreading information and making new laws for people to live a more benevolent life.
Our environment is a house that is burning. If we don’t work together with a united spirit to put out the fire, we will not have a home anymore. We have to be the change we want to see, change the environment by changing ourselves.
Avoid self-destructive habits now or else, major negative consequences awaits us soon. Let us try harmless ways to calm our poverty anxieties. Balance our time. Many find it helpful to alternate periods of poverty with temporary breaks activities that temporarily distance them from their poverty.
The government is aware. It is just perhaps the government is putting priority elsewhere. Government must launch a crusade to deal with the wanton destruction of the environment for commercial charcoal production in the region as it did with the illegal mining menace in the country.
In deed all that the region has is the environment which serves as the “soul and spirit” of the people and needed absolute protection now and forever.
By Bajin D. Pobia,