Climate change, which has been described as the most defining human development issue of today’s generation, was the focus of the 21st Mole Conference (Mole XXI) which came off in Accra from 20th to 23rd July, 2010. The conference was on the theme: Global Climate Change: A Challenge for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Sector in Ghana.
At the end of the conference, participants issued a twelve-point communiqué, which among other things, urged government and civil society to actively promote rainwater harvesting as one of the practical adaptation options in the water supply, agriculture and construction industries, among others.
According to participants, “this can support in minimizing over-reliance on ground and surface water resources.”
They specifically tasked CONIWAS, the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) to take responsibility for this proposal.
The Mole Series, as it is known today, has evolved from what was primarily an NGO forum into perhaps the most important multi-stakeholder platform within the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector. The series is named after the Mole Game Reserve where the very first conference was held in 1989. Mole is the biggest game reserve in Ghana, situated just 18 kilometers from Damongo, the District capital of the West Gonja District.
In 1989, the Reserve was chosen by a group of non-state actors in the water and sanitation sector in Ghana as venue for a national conference with the hope of bringing together policy makers and practitioners in the sector. Over the years, the conference has attracted government actors, donors and other stakeholders (including local authorities) on an annual basis to deliberate on critical issues affecting the sector. This year, the organizers – the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) – chose to focus on Climate Change.
Mole XXI was attended by sector-wide stakeholders including the Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Dr Hannah Bisiw, the Member of Parliament for South Dayi, Hon Edem Asimah, officials of the Water Resources Commission, and other state agencies as well as the CONIWAS fraternity.
UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, is on record to have stated that, “climate change is a serious threat to development everywhere; indeed, the adverse impacts of climate change could undo much of the investment made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”
Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choices. This negative impact is clearly of global concern but the adverse consequence is felt across the entire geographic and political divide, from mega-cities through small towns to grassroots rural communities.
CONIWAS and its partners cite the above as compelling reasons why joint concerted actions at all levels are needed. For example extreme water related events like floods, droughts, melting glaciers and rising sea levels are becoming more frequent due to climate change. Globally, no less than 1.7 billion people are suffering from water scarcity, and if climate change continues the figure will rise to 5 billion by 2025.
The world’s poorest people are hardest hit by climate change although they have contributed least to causing it. In Ghana, it is predicted that reduction in precipitation (which is already being observed and is expected to continue as a result of climate change) will negatively impact surface and groundwater sources, potentially limiting availability. Floods may also impact water availability as sources may be contaminated. Dwindling availability of water will also affect agricultural and livelihoods activities and access to energy.
As part of efforts at adapting and mitigating impact, the communiqué issued at the end of Mole XXI proposed that “there should be intensified awareness creation campaigns to bring to the general populace, including children, the opportunities, dangers and challenges of climate change and the need for behavioural and attitudinal changes.”
The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and Civil Society were tasked with the responsibility of creating awareness.
Another recommendation was that government and civil society should incorporate and implement climate change adaptation strategies and action plans in various policies, strategies and projects to insulate Ghana from the threats of climate change.
Earlier, at the official opening, Dr Bisiw encouraged CONIWAS to use its medium to sensitize communities on the impact of climate change.