Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change

    | August 25, 2008

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    This week, we are pleased to feature another prize winning script by an FRW subscriber. Kwabena Agyei from Classic FM in Ghana was one of 15 winners of the Farm Radio International-CTA scriptwriting competition: “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change.” In his script “Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change,” long-time friends Benedict and Joyce discuss some causes and effects of climate change that they see in their hometowns – sea levels rising to submerge coastal settlements and forests disappearing due to bush fires, tree cutting, and land clearing. The friends learn from a farmer that mango trees can come to the rescue, helping in more ways than one.

    FRW subscribers Mariama Sy Coulibaly from Radio Convergence Panafricaine in Senegal and Joshua Kyalimpa from Opsett Media/African Farm Radio Bureau in Uganda also wrote prize winning scripts on climate change adaptation. Ms. Coulibaly’s script, “Fissel farmers don’t pick up straw after harvesting, a method that protects land from heat” was featured in last week’s FRW: ( Mr. Kyalimpa’s script, “New Rice Variety for Africa to save wetlands in Uganda,” will be featured in the next FRW. All 15 winning scripts are included in Farm Radio International script package 84, which has been mailed to Farm Radio partners and will be posted online soon.

    Notes to Broadcaster

    Farmers in Ghana have for some time now realized the fact that reduced yields and changes in rainfall patterns with both longer dry seasons and more severe storms that destroy farms are partly due to climate change and the rise in the world’s temperature that is known as global warming. This script talks about planting mango trees as a local initiative which can help to positively change local climates and yields of other crops. However, the idea of planting trees is not appreciated by most farmers – they say it takes too long to realize the benefits. As well, most farmers do not own land, so cannot plant trees.

    The characters in this script – Benedict and Joyce – have been friends for about 30 years, since their school days. They used to visit each other frequently in their respective hometowns. Joyce hails from the north central, whilst Benedict is from the south of the country.

    Host: Good morning (afternoon, evening), listeners. Today we are going to talk about climate change: a phenomenon that has bothered everybody in recent times. Some people have heard or felt the impact of that change but do not know their contribution to the problem or how to deal with it. As you follow the programme to the end, you will appreciate the importance of this issue and how you can contribute in different ways to help fight this threat.

    Joyce is visiting Benedict about ten years after their last meeting. They go to a nearby beach they used to visit in Ada Foah.

    Joyce: What a nice beach. It’s been a long time since I visited a coastal beach like this. But, eh Ben, what is standing there? Look – there – something like a concrete pillar about 30 metres from here. I am surprised – who put it there and for what purpose?

    Benedict: Yes, it’s a concrete pillar, but it’s not new. Nobody planted it there. That pillar is part of a building that housed the local office of the Town and Country Planning of the Ministry of Works and Housing. Have you forgotten that last time you came here when we stood in front of that building?

    Joyce: But why is it on the beach?

    The sea has been moving inland over the last couple of years. Many settlements along the coast have ended up under water over the last decade or so. I have been told by Dr. Kwabena Agyei, one of my lecturers at the university, that it is due to the rise in temperature of the world’s weather. This is called global warming.

    How can global warming cause coastal settlements to be submerged under water?

    Benedict: You see, global warming has caused climate change in all climate zones. Because water expands when it is heated, sea levels are rising. Also, rising temperatures have caused ice caps and glaciers to melt. This too is raising sea levels and affecting coastlines around the world. Carbon dioxide and other air pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, and are trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up.

    Joyce: So, if this process continues for the next ten years, then most coastlines as we see them today would be submerged.

    Benedict: Certainly, but we can take actions to stop it.

    Pause for musical interlude

    A week or two later, Benedict visited Joyce again and they went to a place they used to visit on the outskirts of town, on top of a hill.

    Joyce, do you remember the thick canopy of trees that we could see from here, with those magnificent scenes? We can’t see them anymore.

    Joyce: Yes, over the last couple of years there has been a big increase in bush fires, tree cutting and land clearing. This has caused the thick canopy of trees with its magnificent scenery and cool atmosphere to disappear. My grandmother told me that there used to be rainfall, well distributed throughout the year a couple of years back. She said they could get anything – from foods to snails, mushrooms and other things – from the forest. The forests kept the temperatures cool. There were streams and rivers everywhere that gave water for domestic and agricultural use. But they have all dried up. The edges of these water bodies that were used for all year round planting can no longer be used. In fact, I have seen for myself that there are real changes and movements. You see, Ben, the changing global climate has affected rainfall patterns and caused flooding, drought and other problems. In our part of the world, humankind is being squeezed by two movements caused by a big change in our climate – the desert approaching from the north and the sea submerging coastlines.

    A phenomenal change indeed!

    Joyce: Something must be done to minimize or stop this tide!

    Pause for musical interlude

    Host: That evening, the two friends met again at their usual place in Yamfo, Joyce’s hometown. They were joined by a renowned and successful farmer from the area, Nana Agyei Boahen.

    Mr. Agyei Boahen: Hi, you two. How is life treating you?

    Benedict and Joyce:
    (together) Fine, Nana!

    Benedict: We’re just worried about the rapid changes we are witnessing with the weather and the environment.

    Nana Boahen: Sure, I am worried too. Erratic rainfall patterns, too much heat, disappearance of the forest cover with its animals and plants, drying up of streams and rivers, loss of soil fertility and more erosion – these all lead to low crop yields. It wasn’t like this when I started farming forty years ago.

    Joyce: Hmmm! Then farming was not as costly as today.

    Nana Boahen:
    True. But I have noticed something in one of my farms that I think can be tried and replicated elsewhere. Obviously, it is not a one-stop answer to global warming, but it can help as a local initiative.

    Benedict: What is it?

    Nana Boahen: About six years ago I planted some maize and garden eggs in a portion of my farm where I have 10 mango trees, spaced about 50 metres apart and covering a large area. I noticed that the leaves of the other plants were greener and bore bigger fruits.

    Joyce: Nana, did you say mangoes? I know a lot about mangoes.

    Benedict: Tell us, Madam Mangoes.

    Joyce: Mango trees grow to about 35-40 metres in height, and are about 20 metres wide at the top. The fruit takes from three to six months to ripen. The mango is grown widely for its fruit in Africa. The flesh of a ripe mango is very sweet, with a unique taste. The mango is an excellent nutritional source, containing many vitamins, minerals, and other healthy substances, which aid in digestion and intestinal health.

    Nana Boahen: You seem to know so much about mangoes! But I know something too! Mangoes can be planted 50 metres apart. The canopy can serve as a windbreak, and the dropping leaves can fertilize the soil to support plants in between them. Mango trees are also fire resistant and can surely serve as perfectly as any tree species to support the environment and stop some of the local effects of climate change. Let’s plant more mangoes to green the land again.

    Benedict: Nana’s idea sounds good. I wish that farmers around the world would hear this and practice accordingly.

    Host: Listeners, I wish we could continue to listen to this all important discussion on climate change and global warming, but time is not on our side. However, we know that the submergence of our coastlines and the disappearance of our forest cover and the setting in of the desert are at least partly due to global warming. We also know that climate change comes from our own activities, such as burning coal, oil and gas, cutting trees, bush burning and excessive production of carbon through other means.

    But folks, all is not lost. Plant a tree today and we will be on our way to reversing the trend. Until next week when we bring you issues concerning agriculture, my name is (insert host name), and it’s bye for now.

    Contributed by: Kwabena Agyei, Production Manager, Classic FM, Techiman, Ghana.
    Reviewed by: John Stone, visiting fellow, International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

    Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)