On Wednesday 17 February, Friends of the Earth-Ghana was honoured with a visit from Diane Abbott MP, UK Member of Parliament and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, and her Political Advisor, Bell Ribeiro-Addy.
After personal introductions, Ms. Abbott said the purpose of her visit was to find out about FoE-Ghana’s projects and other activities. Dr. Theo Anderson, Director of FoE-Ghana, gave a brief background to our major projects currently funded by the UK Department for International Development and the European Union. These included a project to help women farmers adapt to climate change as well as provide water boreholes for marginalized rural communities in the Brong Ahafo Region; two forest projects – one national in Ghana and the other regional across four countries of West and Central Africa – ensuring timber exported to the European Union is legally verifiable; a project building the capacity of communities to use new technologies to monitor their forests for illegal logging; and another to build the capacity of rural marginalized communities to demand that their rights to services such as water and sanitation are fulfilled by their District Assemblies.
Friends of the Earth in the UK works very closely with civil society. Ms. Abbott was keen to know whether we also take the same approach in Ghana. Mr. Eric Lartey, Coordinator for the Forest and Biodiversity Programme, outlined how we work closely with many civil society organizations and networks, such as Forest Watch Ghana, Care International and Tropenbos Ghana, in our actions to combat illegal and corrupt practices in the forest sector. This led to a discussion about the worrying depth of corruption in Ghana and how it impedes our work and our goal of sustainable and equitable development.
Ms. Abbott expressed a particular interest in gender issues, given that the majority of women and girls in Ghana, as in many other countries across the world, still lack a voice, still endure deep inequalities, and still face greater challenges in fulfilling their needs and ensuring their rights are met. She was interested to know which projects we favoured the most. Ms. Valerie Offori, Gender Programme Officer, is especially keen on the women’s empowerment projects where we train women and girls in alternative livelihood activities to reduce their reliance on – and overuse of – declining natural resources. Ms. Monica Obeng Mensah, Accountant, likes the projects providing water boreholes because access to clean water has such a huge and positive impact on the lives of rural communities. Mr. Lartey favours the regional forest project that is ensuring timber exported to the EU from West and Central Africa is legally verifiable. Mr. Nehemiah Tettey Odjer-Bio, Assistant Programme Coordinator for Forests and Biodiversity, outlined the Lake Bosumtwe project that built the capacity of local school children to monitor the lake for pollution impacts and also raised communities’ awareness about how to minimize damage the lake and the surrounding environment. Mr. Chris Manu, Technical Coordinator, discussed our Tafi Mador Monkey Sanctuary project where we supported local communities to protect the forest for the mona monkeys so the people could benefit from ecotourism. The Director favours the water and sanitation rights and advocacy project supporting communities to demand accountability from the District assemblies because this is critically important for ensuring good governance and reducing corruption.
We then had some time to ask questions of Ms. Abbott, which led into perhaps the inevitable discussion of political issues in both Ghana and the UK. We found it a very rewarding and fruitful meeting, and we are very grateful to Diane Abbott MP and to Ms. Bell Ribeiro-Addy for taking time out of their busy schedule to visit us while they were in Ghana.