Joana Francis Adda describes how an NGO in Ghana is using video equipment to enable women to devise community plans for natural resource management.
The area around the village of Naga, in Kassena Nankana district in northern Ghana is well endowed with rich forests and other natural resources. However, the area is becoming increasingly susceptible to drought, soil erosion and annual bush fires, all of which threaten to undermine the livelihoods of its inhabitants.
To prevent further environmental degradation, Participatory Community Development (PACODEV), a women-led NGO based in Ghana, launched a project to help women in the Naga area devise community plans for the management of natural resources. In November 2003, PACODEV provided training for 25 women from five villages to act as community planning facilitators to guide the planning process. Subsequently, a total of 120 women from these villages formed community planning groups, each with 24 members.
Throughout the project, video recorders and cameras were used as a training tool, and to record examples of environmental degradation. The women were then able to use these recordings in the planning sessions to identify areas where action was needed. The equipment was also used to show video documentaries borrowed from the Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Food and Agriculture of Kassena Nankana district.
To complement the video recordings, the women were encouraged to draw pictures of their environment. These drawings helped to widen the discussions in the planning groups about environmental problems, including soil erosion, forest clearance, bush fires, drying streams and depleted fish stocks in the rivers. Since 95% of the women are illiterate, the use of videos and drawings rather than written texts enabled them to participate fully in the training and planning sessions, and make their voices heard in their own language.
The resulting community plans prepared by the women’s groups included measures to prevent bush fires and to exploit natural resources in more sustainable ways. They also proposed planting trees to prevent further soil erosion, as well as to provide fruits, fodder for animals and fuelwood for domestic use.
The women’s plans were then integrated into one plan for the Naga area, which was presented to the Kassena Nankana district assembly. In addition, the plan has been submitted to several NGOs for possible assistance, including the UNICEF-funded Hunger Project and the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF). Two other NGOs, the Community Development and Advocacy Centre (CODAC) and the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC), have already expressed interest in supporting the Naga women.
Joana Francis Adda is the Country Director of Participatory Community Development (PACODEV), Ghana.