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  • Michael Batame, Sabina Abuga and Noela Yakubu

Ghanaian YouthMappers and the BRECcIA Experience

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

On this faithful day 16th April, 2019, Michael Batame and Sabina Abuga woke up to see an interesting opportunity email sent by Dr. Patricia Solis. The email was on a project called Building Research Capacity and sustainable water and food Security in drylands of Sub Saharan Africa (BRECcIA), a UK Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) project. We applied and got selected for the workshop. The study area of the project was in Talensi District, Upper East Region of Ghana. We introduced this opportunity to our chapter members and Noela Yakubu who is in UG YouthMappers got selected to participate in the workshop. The workshop was held from 3rd to 6th June, 2019 at Comme Ci Comme Ca in Bolgatanga, Ghana. This workshop aimed at equipping participants knowledge in participatory research methods and value of engaging with local land users, identifying drivers of land cover and land use change, concept of land degradation, land tenure and land restoration, able to design and conduct semi- structured interviews and Focus Group discussion and making use participatory research tools such as transect walks, natural resource mapping and household diagrams.

Participants for BRECcIA Workshop 2019 in Bolgatanga from 3rd to 6th June, 2019.

On day one, participants and facilitators had a meeting where each participant was expected to do a brief presentation on their field of study. As YouthMappers, we presented on the activities of YouthMappers in Ghana and its impact towards national development. Other stakeholders present were very impressed with our contribution towards national development. These great activities of YouthMappers ignited the interest of a lecturer from the University of Development Studies (UDS) to inaugurate a YouthMappers Chapter in her institution. After each the presentations, a theory lecture was delivered by Matthew Kandel who is a research fellow at University of Southampton UK. His lecture emphasized participatory research methods including transect walks, resource mapping, focus group discussion and In-depth Interview (semi- structured interview). A presentation was delivered by a facilitator called Thomas Addoah on Participatory Action Research (PAR) which was significant for the next day’s activity.

Presentation by Ghanaian YouthMappers

Day two was a practical session where we spent the whole day on the field. We practiced everything taught in day one we had a transect walk around Datoko where each YouthMapper was assigned to taking co-ordinates using the GPS. Informal interview was conducted between the farmers and the researchers. Farmers in the Datoko cultivate groundnut, beans, soy beans, millet and maize as well rear livestock. Some of the trees that used to be in the olden days are hardly found in recent times such as Nakwala. The dug out in the community is for fishing purpose and women are part of the fishing committee. When they sell the fish and make profit, the profit is shared among all the households in the community. The local farmers in Datoko buy the subsidized fertilizers now. It used to be for free unstill some of the farmers started smuggling the fertilizers to sell. Local farmers give out some of their lands to immigrant when they come and asked for it but the local farmers harvest the shea nut in the morning while the immigrants harvest it in the afternoon. The farmers practice mixed farming method as well practice Farmers Managed Natural Restoration. The women cultivate rice both in their compounds and other places. The farmers depend on the shea tree for economic purpose. The shea nut is used to make shea butter which fetch them substantial amount of money.

Interviewed women in Datoko about their livelihoods (Right). Noela interviewed the farmers about the land restoration on Farming Managed Natural Resource (Left).

In the afternoon, we visited the Duusi community to have focused group discussion with the people. The women in the community do not own land but have access to land. Women face financial problems so they do not have the capacity to cultivate variety of crops. Some women from different sections of Duusi were dissatisfied with FMNR implementation but others in the focus group were supportive. Those women who were dissatisfied were unhappy because they were not selected on the basis that their husbands are part of the program. Some women were annoyed because when the authorities had their expected number of beneficiaries, the rest were not selected. While, others who were in the program did not see the benefits of the program because they wanted money so they withdrew from the program. Women are not bothered about the gender inequality in terms of land ownership. The people mapped all the natural resources and landscapes as well as social facilities on a flip chart and they were excited to do that exercise. There are no alternative jobs for the women and the men as well as the youth. The women are financially empowered to employ more laborers on their farms.

Michael took note on the livelihood strategies of women in Duusi as well assisted them to map all resource in the community.

Sabina interviewed the local people in Datoko about the variety of food crops they cultivate.

Youth mapped all the resources in Duusi with Noela

On day three, we made a visit to Duusi to do a transcect walk with the farmers and household interview. Duusi is a rocky community and the farmers cultivate groundnut, maize, and beans. The Duusi has a dug out or a dam which the livestock feed on and was built by the MP and was about eighteen (18) years ago. The lands are mostly inherited from their grandfathers or ancestors. There is no restriction for someone to let his livestock graze on the farm. This free range has led to the overgrazing of some part of the land. The storms too have uprooted some of the shea tree. They have leased part of their lands to the World Vision and EPA for FMNR program but did not receive any incentives from those institutions. Some reported that the EPA did not consult the people about what kind of tree species do they want as well as protective measures of the trees with them. They do not know whether those FMNR trees are fruits or not because the trees had not yet regenerated enough. But one of the farmers preferred those trees to have been fruit trees. Members of the community who pass by at the FMNR and EPA land area can plough some of the shea but must leave the nut under tree after eaten. Only visitors can send the nuts away because they do not know the norms in the community. There is galamsey (illegal small-scale mining) on going which is usually done by youth, children and young women but the old men and women are not interested. Bush fires and indiscriminate cutting down of trees for fuel wood have caused the decline of trees especially shea trees. The shea tree is found in the forest. The women and children walk for about four to six (4-6) hours to the forest to fetch fire wood. They sometimes cut the branches of the FMNR trees for fuel wood. The farmers only sell the farm produce when they do not have children in the family but basically for consumption when there are children in the family.

Michael took note on the farmers’s experience in Duusi (left); YouthMappers with pre-mapped natural resources in Duusi (right)

On day four, we came out with the key findings of the visit to Duusi and Datoko. We did presentations on the key findings and these are as follow. There are no alternative jobs for the people. The dug out in Duusi is used for farming as well as serving as a source of drinking water to livestock while the dug out in Datoko is mostly used for fishing. The Youths are moving from agriculture to mining. Most of the people are poor and produce crops for household consumption. Certificates were given out to participants and that was the end of the workshop.

Participants with certificates showing completion of the workshop (left); Vote of thanks given by Michael (right)

In conclusion, Sabina, Noela and Michael would like to express our profound gratitude to the BRECcia Team especially Matthew, Yaw and Thomas and Rahina for giving us the opportunity to be part of the workshop team. We would also like to thank Patricia, Chad, Marcela and other YouthMappers staff for this selfless and unflinching support for always giving us the opportunity to contribute to the development of our society.

Sabina Abuga, Michael Batame, and Noela Yakubu

I am Michael Batame, the President of UG YouthMappers had a great and memorable time with BRECcIA. The exposure I had was marvelous and enjoyed the quality time I spent with the local people in Duusi and Dakoto. I have learned and practicalized participatory and focus discussion research methods. I was excited to have engaged in the transcect walk and focus group discussion with the indigenes. I have established networks and I am proud of being an agent of transformational change through YouthMappers and thanks to BRECcIA.

I am Noela Yakubu, UG YouthMappers member and participated in the BRECcIA. The BRECcIA experience was fulfilling and my experience at the BRECcIA as a YouthMapper was super fulfilling. Working with people from different institutions and organization like World Vision was a great opportunity and platform for me to learn and network. As a YouthMapper, my experience at BRECcIA gave me the opportunity to appreciate my skills of mapping and as well gave me the opportunity to use my skills to do research on societal issue. I am much grateful to BRECcIA for this experience and I am forever proud to be a YouthMapper.

I am Sabina Abuga, UCC YouthMappers member and participated in the BRECcIA. Opportunity, they say comes but once but opportunity to participate in BRECcIA workshop on Participatory Research method is indeed a life time experience. During the workshop, I had the opportunity to meet stakeholders that have impacted greatly in one way or the other to national development. My visit to communities under study (Duusi and Datoko) has really informed my decision as a YouthMapper to look for ways of solving their problems through mapping. I forever remain indebted to BRECcIA and YouthMappers at large for their impact in my life.

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