Gloria Owusua has seen firsthand the benefits of planting teak trees.
The 27-year-old farmer and mother of three wants to one day send her youngest daughter to nursing school. But to do that, she’ll need more rain to successfully grow and sell her crops.
“The teak trees help us a lot with the rainfall,” she said.
Gloria lives in Mem, a community five kilometres outside of Atebubu, in the Bono East Region of Ghana. Its inhabitants are mostly farmers who rely on crop yields to support themselves and make a living.
This means they are particularly vulnerable to changes in their environment, especially ones that could impact their harvest. Before a mitigation measure was put in place in 1991 to plant teak trees, strong winds routinely tore through the community, destroying crops and houses alike.
Now, more than 30 years later, the trees have grown to their full height and successfully blocked most windstorms.
And that’s not all. The teak trees are part of a long-term plan to address other issues as well, including unfertile soil and the scorching heat waves that prevail from September to May.
Teak trees are not indigenous to Ghana — but they are being promoted by the Ghanaian government as one solution to many environmental issues.
A fully grown teak tree has a massive canopy that shelters the soil beneath from the dry season’s unforgiving sun, turning the forest floor into a nutrient-rich habitat for other plants.
By planting many of these trees near the community, Mem benefits from an increased level of shade and wind protection and, according to community members, precipitation. It’s been so beneficial, the community members have begun planting other trees around their homes, including mango and cashew.
The increase in moisture is proving vital, with many farming communities in Ghana facing shorter, unreliable rainy seasons due to climate change. The planting of these trees is a Nature-based Solution that applies knowledge of the local environment to the problems at hand.
Samuel Owusu is a 48-year-old farmer and businessman who was born in Mem and has lived there for most of his life.
“The trees have helped my farms in particular because we are experiencing drought everywhere but not so much here,” he said.
Samuel, who has three children, is currently farming maize, beans, garden eggs, okra and cassava. Without rain, his crops can’t grow.
And without crops, the community can’t make the necessary sales they need to sustain themselves. For Gloria, these sales mean an investment in the future.
“The income I get from selling crops goes back into more farming as well as the education of my children. One of the things I have bought for them includes their uniforms, and the other necessities that I am asked to pay by the teachers,” Gloria said.
While the trees have lessened the drought, both Gloria and Samuel said Mem can still go long periods without rain due to the wildly shifting climate, most apparent during the dry season.
“During that period, listening to the radio program has helped us a lot […] the radio helps remind people not to rush into farming,” Samuel said. “It tells them to wait a while because rain during this period is not enough to cultivate.”
That radio program, known as a farmer’s program, is one of several created with input from Farm Radio International Ghana to help local farmers cultivate successfully.
The radio station that airs their program, Atoobu, is also producing a radio documentary on Mem to further highlight the Nature-based Solutions implemented by the locals here.
Despite the climate challenges at hand, the combination of hard work and Nature-based Solutions is giving farmers like Samuel and Gloria time to dream of a bright future.
“I dream of one day becoming a big woman in farming and also to own a lot of farms. Like others are doing, like the men,” she said.
What are Nature-based Solutions?
Nature-based Solutions are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously benefiting people and nature.” In short, they’re ways of working with and learning from nature to adapt to climate change.
About the project
The On-Air for Gender-Inclusive Nature-based Solutions project is a 5-year project led by Farm Radio International in partnership with the Government of Canada that will use high-impact radio programs to work with local communities in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia to identify, share and support local Nature-based Solutions and amplify those solutions to a network of 3,500 broadcasters across 38 African countries so they can be duplicated across the continent.
About the author
Manuel Baechlin volunteered as a journalism intern for Farm Radio International in Ghana in summer 2023 for our project about Nature-based Solutions to climate change.