TOWARDS THE ATTAINMENT OF MDG7 – THE NEED FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION PRESENTED BY SAKEENA K. BONSU, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, EVERGREEN CLUB OF GHANA, AT THE AFRICAN LOCAL SUMMIT ON THE MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDG’s). HELD IN KUMASI, GHANA, APRIL 2-4, 2012.
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TOWARDS THE ATTAINMENT OF MDG7 – THE NEED FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATIONPRESENTED BY SAKEENA K. BONSU, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, EVERGREEN CLUB OF GHANA, AT THE AFRICAN LOCAL SUMMIT ON THE MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDG’s)
HELD IN KUMASI, GHANA, APRIL 2-4, 2012
Effects of disappearing natural forests: Loss of biodiversity, including medicinal plants which research might never have discovered, etc.
Impact of unsustainable environment much harder on developing countries especially, Africa, due to reasons of poverty, high illiteracy rates inducing lack of knowledge and skills, poor management of projects, etc.
Target 7C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation .
Economic Growth - :
The growth has not been as strong and sustained at 7% or above as required to achieve the MDGs.
From 2000 to date:
This rate fell again in 2007 to 5.1% . Following the deepest global financial crisis and economic recession in late 2008 and early 2009, the estimated economic growth rate for the sub-region was around 4.1% in 2009 (UN-ECA-WA, 2010).
The impact of slow economic growth or lack of it has made the achievement of the MDG’s fundamentally challenging and MDG7 in particular exceptionally challenging.
According to UNCTAD, poverty estimates show that on average, one citizen out of two in the least developed countries lives on less than US$ 1 a day and projections show that this number will increase instead of reducing until 2015, if current trends persist.
. Consequently, it is evident that a global approach is required for helping the “bottom billion” to escape from poverty and achieve the MDGs (UNCTAD Report).
In the area of biodiversity and forests management in particular, reports indicate that most of the countries in the West African sub-region are not meeting their targets; the exceptions to some extent are: Cote-Ivoire, Cape Verde and Gambia where forest management appears to have improved significantly.
The reason for our choice of emphasis on forestry, sanitation and hygiene issues under MDG7 is because it beats the mind how governments, political and community leaders, or any people playing leadership role in this sub-region can set aside these issues and pursue others if they claim to be serving the interest of the people. These are the areas which render the people most vulnerable.
The rural people depend on the forest for their livelihoods while sanitation and hygiene in both urban and rural areas are about health isssues and fundamental to the survival of the people. Is it any wonder that our efforts at development appear not to yield desired results? The priorities are misplaced.
But perhaps, that’s leadership in some parts of the world. Let us look at how other strategies might assist in the attainment of MDG7.
In this section of our presentation, we will crave your indulgence to share some of our unique experiences with young people in our efforts to contribute our quota towards attaining environmental sustainability.
The point we are trying to stress from these examples is that education and the involvement of the people works and in our effort to ensure environmental sustainability we must emphasize these two issues alongside others.
Yes, they are mentioned in the outcome documents, such as Agenda 21, and in the project proposals etc., but environmental education is still treated as some kind of discreet affair, and first to be reviewed when the budget for projects come under pressure.
Our proposition is that if the efforts at attaining MDG7 is going to succeed, then we must of necessity let the various publics know and be informed by guiding them to pose and find answers to the relevant questions or raise the relevant issues as for e.g.:
The questioning factor opens the doors for further learning and a lot of natural wisdom also come to the fore.
Traditionally, in Ghana and many African countries, environmental protection was everybody’s business. Consciously or unconsciously, community members observed the so-called “taboos” pertaining to the protection of the environment, notably, forests and water bodies.
It was common knowledge that forest areas designated as sacred groves were untouchable, and hunting was prohibited in certain areas. Some river bodies could not be visited for any purpose on a particular day of the week, while farming activities were strictly prohibited around river bodies and on designated days of the week, etc. etc.
While the reasons for these so-called taboos were shrouded in secrecy, the overwhelming evidence from the state of the environment then, suggest that many of the taboos were instituted to ensure environmental sustainability. To what extent are we making use of indigenous knowledge in the efforts at attaining MDG7?
Working within policies and institutional frameworks, we need to revisit the wisdom of the past and bring the relevant information to bear on modern education of communities.
To ensure environmental sustainability, it is imperative to incorporate environmental education in the school curricula.
Catching them young and hoping to change attitudes, the ethical and moral aspects of the content and delivery should come handy.
Fields trips and after school green activities should also be encouraged as well as greening of the school facilities.
Need to intensify these efforts to manage the remaining fragile forests and savanna lands (note: at the turn of the century, Ghana had 88,000 sq.km’s of moist forest. This has been reduced to mere 19,000 sq. km.)
Sanitation: This is one of the most critical areas under MDG7 that requires lots of intensive education and involvement of the people in the affected communities.
Decisions and interventions affecting this target should be devoid of politics. There should be clear commitment and involvement of all especially on the part of community leaders.
Share suggestions from Seminar on Religion and Status of Sanitation in Ghana:
The importance of education and community participation towards the attainment of MDG7 cannot be over-emphasized.
Current economic trends as pertains in the sub-region are unable to support the attainment of the MDG’s generally.
The right attitudes and actions from the affected individuals and communities are going to be key issues in the attainment of the MDG7 in particular.