State and local governments in the Niger Delta have been called upon to come up with action plans and policies that will enable them key into existing national plan and international funding opportunities for effective mitigation of climate change in their localities.
Executive director of Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, Obonogwan Emem Okon made the call all in a post-event interview with journalists in Port Harcourt. She stressed that though communities in the Niger Delta are vulnerable to the now annual ravages of climate change, there are not in place, policies and frameworks for addressing the menace.
Said she: “There is need for local governments to take more action on climate change issues and set up action plans on adaptation on mitigation and encourage community leaders as well as community women leaders to be proactive in making demands on climate change response.”
The Kebetkache boss whose organization has been advocating for serious attention on how climate change impacts the Niger Delta region said the region is vulnerable and that women are most impacted.
“Everybody in the Niger Delta is vulnerable to climate change particularly the women. The gender roles women play in the family and community gives them the responsibility of taking care of everybody-the primary responsibility of getting water for the family, providing food, taking care of the elderly, the children, the sick, all linked to climate change impact, which adds more burden on women.
“Considering the fact that women do not have access to decision making processes and that they are also impacted by poverty, you begin to see the vulnerability of women,” she stressed.
According to her, the plight of Niger Delta women is further compounded by the new annual flooding which not only disorganizes their natural farming and fishing livelihood, but also displaces them further deepening their poverty.
“Because of the peculiar nature of the Niger Delta, issues of farming and fishing are disturbed and then the experience of flooding every year displacing farmers and also displacing people in flood impacted areas; people go back to their homes from internally displaced persons (IDP) camps after the flood and then next couple of months flood is coming again.
“In all these movements, women are most impacted and in the IDP camps where flood victims stay, women struggle with having access to water, how to feed their children; the pregnant women struggle to cope with the demands of pregnancy and issues of hygiene, ” she added.
Emem noted that most IDP camps lack necessary amenities. “Most of the IDP camps are not the government- set up camps- these are primary school buildings in rural communities. Most of them are dilapidated – the sleeping places are bad, there are no doors, no windows and then the IDPs stay there for weeks, may be months, as long as the flood lasts in their communities.”
She lamented that despite the trauma from losses and displacement, “there has been no positive response from government or any stakeholders” which is why Kebetkache is putting this programme together to get related authorities to take needed action.”
According to her, in line with other nations, the Nigeria government has developed policies and frameworks for addressing gender climate change impact and that provides room for opportunity for accessing international climate change mitigation funds but states and local governments in the Niger Delta though most seriously impacted, are yet to key into the processes thus denying affected communities impact of these responses.
“We are looking at advocating for our local authorities to reassess available policies and framework opportunities that are there at the national and international levels to enable our governments access funding to implement the programme.
“While we are doing this, we are also preparing our governments to put in place necessary framework and policies that will enable them participate in this.”
She said, though community women leaders have been trained on climate change advocacy to local authorities, Kebetkache is yet to engage government on climate change to link them properly with national and international actors in the climate change fund chain.
As elections campaigns for 2023 get set, the gender and environmental justice advocate also called for climate change and environmental justice to be made critical campaign issues. She advised that only these who can feel the pains of the people and are ready to push to bring about necessary change should be voted into office in 2023.
“This season in critical election period, the election is coming. We should make climate change an election issue to ensure that those who we will vote into offices are those who will take interest in ordering climate and environmental people who will take interest in addressing these crisis at the international level and translate outcome at the local level because any governance which does not address the development challenges of people at that level is deficient.”
Emem pointed out the need for government to know that local people, women especially, provide food security as the big companies may be producing genetically modified (GMO foods which are “poison” and therefore, consider ensuring the environmental and economic well-being of rural women important.
Women provide food for society, all the big companies, buy food can be GMOs but these farmers provide the food that we know, So there is need for programmes that will enable them provide for healthy food for national food security.