Earth’s ecosystems are in crises. Many people are living in poverty and continue to use the land in such a way that it will continue to degrade natural ecosystems. This affects everyone. The powers that are governments and aid agencies are all looking for the big answers but really if we start at the back door and work out we can start to solve the problems. We all think “I would like to help but what can I do?”
There is a solution and it’s really very simple. We can start to work on fixing the problems. How can we start? Most of the houses and villages we can see these days have no gardens, few trees and little shade. They are surrounded by hard, bare earth. But do you know in most cases we can grow plenty of fresh food around the homes and in community gardens? We can replant community managed forests to provide all our needs for building material and firewood, and still have plenty left over to leave to nature for the wildlife to enjoy. Healthy ecosystems are fundamental to successful sustainable business and to vibrant social communities.
All we need to do is train people to develop the strategies for food security systems. All it takes is direct action on the ground using permaculture design and education. Permaculture is a well proven common sense design strategy for earth and people care.
Major Problems in Ghana
Savannah encroachment and desertification
In the North of the country, the drier, savannah region is creeping down into the greener forested areas. This is a result of logging, bush fires and also the broadscale drying out of the land from inappropriate agricultural practices such as monoculture and over-plowing.
Further north again, in the older savannah areas, the land is getting even drier and increasingly irregular and unpredictable rainfall can cause crops to fail and people are at constant risk of famine. Overgrazing from livestock and high demand for firewood also means that tree cover is reducing. These things combine to create an increasingly barren landscape where the soil cannot hold water or nutrients – this is desertification.
Permaculture teaches many effective, diverse and sophisticated natural techniques to reforest and reverse this degradation, that anyone can learn and carry out with local resources – and without the need for complex technology or expensive and harmful chemicals.
Poverty and rural-urban migration
People in the rural areas often lack access to services, opportunities, employment, resources and education. This causes strong pressures for people, especially the youth, to leave rural areas to look for better lives in the cities. However, this puts too much pressure on the cities and causes overcrowding and other problems, often leading to the growth of slums, unemployment and crime.
By turning around spirals of environmental, social and economic degradation in rural areas we can revitalize them, making them abundant productive places that produce materials the cities need, and which also have their own vibrant local economies that add value to their own products. Importantly, they can be beautiful, clean, peaceful places where one can live a dignified life with all needs met.
Lack of access to education for sustainability
Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge is lack of power.
Lack of access to education is a big problem for people, particularly in practical sustainability that is directly relevant to their lives. Once they have the right knowledge and skills, anybody can turn their land into an abundant paradise full of food and materials, to meet all their own needs and still have a healthy surplus to sell. But how to get this knowledge? And who has time to study or money to pay for courses or books or travelling to training centres or colleges when they are struggling just to get their daily bread?
Once we teach people permaculture, they start to share it with their neighbours. It is a practical system and a hands-on knowledge that even illiterate people can engage with, and once people see the positive results it delivers, then they want to try it too.
We want to train more local permaculture teachers to go into rural communities across Ghana to take sustainability education to the people, where they are, and make it accessible to them. This will give them the tools they need to redesign their homes and their communities to solve their problems.