A PRESENTATION ONENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES IN THE EVANGELICAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANAATTHE WORLD COMMUNION OF REFORMED CHURHCES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CONFERENCE HELD AT ABOKOBI, ACCRA, GHANA ON THE 8TH MAY, 2013.
Background • Historically the Evangelical Presbyterian Church had been engaged in agro forestry work some fifty years ago in Northern Ghana. However, this activity was intensified when the church launched its Agenda 21 Programme for the Upper Northern Presbytery (Northern Region) in 2002. • This project became necessary due to the unacceptable levels to which the issues of sanitation, nutrition and environment had gotten to. The initial and continuous support of funds came from Bremen Mission, AWO and the Lippe Church all in Germany for which the EP Church is forever grateful.
Under the AGENDA 21 Project, three development modules were piloted in the areas Sanitation, Health & Nutrition, and Environment. • Under the Sanitation module, food vendors were supplied with food cages from which meals were served to keep away flies and other disease causing vectors, and they were also trained in food safety and delivery to school children and the general public in addition to community clean – up exercises that were undertaken periodically.
Under Health and Nutrition, the use and application of a nutritious plant called MoringaOleifera was introduced to communities and families. Workshops were held for rural women and households on the appropriate utilization of Moringa as a protein fortifier and a highly nutritious vegetable. • On the Environment, communities and individual farmers were trained in agro forestry and supplied with tree seedlings from the three EP CHURCH agricultural stations where nurseries were established for that purpose.
The end of project evaluation clearly stated that the environment module performed the best and recommended its continuation. This vote of confidence was taken seriously by the EPC, which started to look for partners to continue with this laudable project.
Major Activities • The Agenda 21 project adopted appropriate and positive strategies to achieve its main aim of restoring degraded lands and promoting afforestation through the establishment of community woodlots. • Whenever a community was identified to undertake a woodlot project, fire volunteers were first selected and trained by the Ghana National Fire Service in basic fire education and fire fighting methods.
These volunteers became the policemen and women who protected the woodlots from wild and uncontrolled bushfires that are rampant in the Northern Region of Ghana, and constitute the biggest threat to afforestation activities. Through this intervention, the EPC established over 60 acres of woodlots in 3 administrative districts of the northern region, namely Saboba, Yendi and Chereponi over a five year period and trained over 200 Fire Volunteers to date.
EPC / ARC Collaboration • In 2005 contact was established with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation of the U.K. through the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi, Kenya about environmental activities that the EPC was engaged in. Discussions on the issue continued until 2007, when proposals were called for, and very little financial support began in 2010 as part of ARC’s Africa campaign that seeks to promote environmental education and conservation in partnership with Religious Bodies.
Out of this collaboration the EPC planted 10 acres of degraded lands within the Ho municipality in 2010 and another 2,500 tree seedlings in the AdakluWaya district in September, 2011.
Since then, the EPC has been represented in 3 international workshops organized by the ARC in Nairobi, Kenya, between 2010 – 2012 during which the tremendous work that Faith Bodies were involved in on the continent, in the area of environmental protection and conservation were presented or displayed for international NGOS, Development Partners, Government and quasi Government organizations, to appreciate and offer assistance to such projects and where new partnerships were sought.
Climate Change • Policy on Climate Change • In 2011, the EPC adopted a policy on Environment and Climate Change at its 3rd General Assembly to demonstrate the seriousness it attaches to matters of the environment. The main thrust of the policy is the promotion of education, management and conservation of the environment through activities that include massive tree planting, establishment of nurseries, water harvesting and storage techniques, and solar disinfection of water among others.
The policy also enjoins all structures of the church to undertake various activities that gave expression to this policy thrust. Ever since, the EPC intensified its environmental protection role by initiating new projects, while consolidating old ones.
RELBONET (Religious Bodies Networkon Climate Change) • In 2010, the Religious Bodies Network on Climate Change was formed in Ghana, with the EP Church as the lead organization in recognition for its leadership role exhibited during the formation stage. RELBONET is an inter Faith Platform that has over 13 mainline religious organizations in membership which also include the officially recognized Muslim Organizations, the Chief Imam’s office and other Faiths.
Some of RELBONET’s affiliated institutions include: • Christian Council of Ghana • National Catholic Secretariat • Council of Independent Churches • Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council • Ghana Muslim Mission • Tijanniya Movement • Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission • Office of the National Chief Imam • Institute of Environment and Sanitation – University of Ghana • Pan African Climate Justice Alliance • Ghana Climate Adaptation Network • Climate Action Network.
The objectives of RELBONET among others are: • To become lead advocates and actors on the issues of climate change • To advocate for good climate policies through regular engagement of policy makers and implementers. • To inform educate and communicate accurate and relevant information on climate change to Religious Bodies • To undertake tree planting and growing activities to mitigate the effects of climate change in Ghana.
Since formation, RELBONET has carried out National Workshops on Climate Change for Religious Leaders and participated in stakeholder consultations that resulted in the formulation of a National Policy and a National Adaptation Strategy on climate change that currently awaits Presidential assent. RELBONET continues to seek and occupy any available space that is created in Ghana for climate change discourse and practical activities.
In February and May 2012, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation in collaboration with TREE AID, another U.K. Charity and in partnership with the Forestry Service, held a 3 day workshop for Religious Bodies in Tamale, Northern Ghana.
The workshop was held on the theme, ’The Role of Religious Bodies in Tree Conservation and Management’’. The workshop provided the opportunity for representatives of churches, mosques and other Faiths to be educated on tree planting in drought stricken environments and also have a ‘’hands on’’ training in nursery management skills, after which the ARC supported RELBONET through the EPC to procure and plant 20,000 trees in the 3 Regions of Northern Ghana and 5000 seedlings at AdakluWaya in the Volta Region.
In addition, the EPC established nurseries at Dambai and HO in the Volta Region with a total of 15,000 tree seedlings that will be used as planting materials for this year. • This year, we shall plant a total of 36,000 tree seedlings throughout Ghana with support from congregations and partners and increase the size of our established nurseries. This action is employed to make the EPC self-sufficient in planting materials every year.
ECO CLUBS • Another positive intervention the EPC introduced is the establishment of Eco Clubs in basic schools. To date, we have established 15 Eco- Clubs, two of which have participated in tree planting activities at AdakluWaya and PekiDzake in the Volta Region as pilot projects. We have also trained over 50 School Teachers and Heads on the need to form these clubs and how to run them successfully. We shall scale up the formation and support to Eco Clubs this year with the assistance of partners and in collaboration with the Education Department of the Church.
The EP University College (EPUC) was supported last year to plant 2000 teak trees at Wumenu, a newly acquired site to demarcate their land boundaries. This year we shall continue with the support to the EPUC with 1000 teak seedlings to protect their land boundaries.
Eco Congregations • The concept of promoting Eco Congregations as part of the EPC’s environmental protection activities has also been introduced and is catching up fairly well. This concept was recommended to the EPC by her partners from the Church of Scotland in 2010.
The EP Elom parishes at Ho and the PekiBlengo have signed on to undertake massive tree planting activities on lands that they have acquired for the purpose. The AG. 21 Programme will support them with tree seedlings to kick start their projects and train them on nursery management skills to enable them establish independent nurseries this major season. We expect many more congregations to follow their example.
Long Term Plan • The EP Church has drawn up a long term environment plan for the next seven years with assistance from the ARC which was launched alongside other plans prepared by selected Faith Bodies in Africa in Nairobi, Kenya last year. In that plan, EPC proposes to plant 7 million trees with adequate financial and technical support from partners and collaborators
The ARC is in consultation with some international NGOS and benevolent countries to support these long term plans of faith bodies in Africa. This intervention is the Faith Bodies’ contribution to climate change mitigation in Africa if the required collaboration and support is received from all stakeholders.
National Engagements In Ghana, the EPC as lead organization in RELBONET participated in the ff: annual consultations • Civil Society Organizations’ Annual Review Workshop of the Natural Resource and Environment Sector Programme. • Validation workshop on the National Climate Change Policy • Annual reviews of The Adaptation Learning Programme by CARE INTL. • Validation workshop on the REDD+ Preparedness Plan
Consultation workshop for CSO’s on the Forest Investment Plan by Forestry Commission • CSO’s De –Briefing Workshop of COP 18[Post Doha] Climate Summit. • TREE AID Stakeholders Forum on a E U Proposal • Ghana Climate Adaptation Network [GHANA CAN] –Advocacy Strategy Development Workshop.
International Activities • Participated in the Global Climate Change Summit [COP 17] of 2011 – Durban South Africa • International Symposium on Climate Justice – Germany 2010 • Annual General Meeting of Eco Congregations of the Church of Scotland – 2012 • Climate Justice and Sustainable Peace in Africa – Accra, 2012
Awards • For all these interventions and activities, the EPC has won some enviable recognition both at home and abroad which include the ff: • UN Environment Award presented by the UN Secretary General Ban Kin Moon and Prince Phillip in November, 2009. • National Award for Environmental Protection Activities on the World Environment Day,organized by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana – June, 2011. • Regional Best Community Environment Protection Award – Northern Region of Ghana – by the Environmental Protection Agency - 2010
Challenges • Major challenges facing the interventions include: • Wild and uncontrolled bushfires • Limited community participation( Reduction in community participation spirit) • Inadequate funding • Climate variability – floods and droughts • Inadequate Technical capacity
Climate Justice and Sustainable Peace • The issue of CLIMATE JUSTICE for Africa is a vexed one although very relevant and necessary. Climate science has established that any global mean temperature established as a consequence of emission reductions will manifest in Africa 1.5 times, and which makes Africa the most vulnerable continent on earth. This consequence has implications for food security, health, productivity, energy security and access to water. All the other arguments regarding adaptation and mitigation for which reason the polluting countries are being asked to provide the necessary finance, technology and capacity are very well placed if Sustainable Development and Peace is to be achieved or the Future We Want, attained.
Africa must persist in her quest to exact climate justice since our common atmosphere is also a common good that should not be appropriated by any one nation or community to the disadvantage of many or all. • Religious Bodies must join the crusade and support the establishment of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol which remains the only legally binding mechanism on emissions reduction.
Way Forward • The EPC has positioned herself positively to deliver on its environmental policy mandate. It is important to attract partners and other institutions interested in the vision to offer a helping hand. Dedicated funding mechanisms at all levels need to be introduced or enhanced to enable the long term plan to be realized for the benefit of society. • Aggressive marketing of the environmental plans be undertaken by church leadership constantly in their interactions with partners, government and congregations. Counterpart funding for projects be solicited and advocated for in their meetings at the highest level at home and abroad.
All congregations should be challenged with targets for the achievement of environmental activities at their various stations, and which success shall form the basis of any promotion and/ or recommendations of pastors and church agents.