Women from Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State under the umbrella of Mba Okase Eleme Initiative trooped out Saturday December 18, to mark the 2022 Niger Delta Women’s Day as they lamented the damage that climate change has done to their livelihood and environment.
Convener of the group, Dr. Patience Osaroejiji, who addressed the women at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Alode, said climate change has distorted the traditional rainy and dry climate seasons in the area.
“We no longer know when it is rainy season or dry season,” she said, adding that a lot of traditional food and cash crops cultivated by the women in Eleme have now either gone extinct or no longer yield well.
She said Eleme women were joining all women in the Niger Delta to mark the day in view of the colossal damage that the last flooding did to households, women and children in particular.
“More than 1.3 million people were displaced by the floods, 603 people were killed while 108,393 hectares of farmlands were destroyed by the flood,” she stated.
Dr John Osaro-ejiji said the situation in Eleme and the rest of the Niger Delta was peculiar because the climate change situation in the region has been worsened by pollution from hydrocarbon emissions from oil and gas operations.
She said the situation has brought untold hardship on the people while poverty and hunger have become rampant in the region, with women who have the first responsibility of providing food for the family, bearing the direct consequences of the crisis.
To make matters worse, Dr. Osaroejiji said, poverty and hunger have led many youths to crime, raising security concerns.
“A woman told me that she cannot leave home again for the farm because her crops were being stolen and robbers were laying ambush to rob and rape women in the farms,” she said.
Some members of Mba Okase Eleme Initiative, who spoke to National Point, lamented that women in the area have been badly impacted by climate change.
One of them, Pastor Edith Tetenwi from Alesa, said, “Before now, every year we had what we call harmatan, Okrika in Eleme language. There was a difference between when the rains stopped and when Okrika started and women went in for okabi e’o, which is the last weeding in the farm. But now, even last week Tuesday, there was rain in December, which was not the case before.”
Tetenwi said indiscriminate disposal of domestic and industrial waste in the area have not only led to health issues, they have also polluted both surface and underground waters which the people previously depended on for domestic use.
She added that all manner of people have because of high cost of kerosene and gas, now invaded the farmlands and forests in the area and are cutting and carting away firewood thereby destroying the environment.
Chief (Mrs.) Peace Oyor from Ogale said the frequent flooding and low yields from the farms were results of climate change in Eleme.
“Before we used to uproot a tuber of cassava but now we cannot get it as it was before. There are some other crops we used to plant like the three-leaf yam, adun, chachaama, those ones, you cannot find them again because climate change has taken over the environment,” she said.
Mba Okase Eleme Initiative made a number of demands from government, ministries, community leaders and key stakeholders.
The demands included the reconstruction of roads and link roads washed away by the flood; medical treatment and outreach to communities affected by the disaster; provision of seedlings and other farming tools to aid agriculture recovery in the areas affected and the involvement of women in the needs assessment activities as stipulated by the Petroleum Industry Act and other plans for implementation.
They also demanded that climate change finance facilities should be made assessable to community women; that the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs should include community women in its climate change adaptation programme while the Niger Delta Development Commission should provide adequate relief materials to impacted communities.