BY FRANCISCA DICKSON ARHIN
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are playing an important role in the global effort to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities.
One of such organizations is Hen Mpoano (a Fanti expression meaning our coast). Established to provide technical, policy and extension support to coastal communities and government institutions, Hen Mpoano is working in collaboration with district health directorates, as well as population health and environment (PHE) champions, to strengthen community resilience amidst Covid-19 pandemic in remote smallscale fishing and coastal communities in Ghana. Currently it is working in communities in the Western Region. These communities include Adelekazo, Eziom, Ajomoro Eshiem, Kukuaville and Sanwoma in the Nzema East and Ellembelle districts.
Working in collaboration with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the USAID/Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project over the past few years, Hen Mpoano has supported these communities to develop sound estuarine fisheries management practices and sustainable management of adjacent mangrove ecosystems. Furthermore, through Hen Mpoano’s interventions, trust and relationships have been established between district health services and PHE volunteers.
Unfortunately, as the Covid-19 pandemic takes its toll on these communities, their natural resources will likely witness pressures of harvesting as they are the only sources of survival for these remote and poor communities.
According to the Deputy Director of Hen Mpoano, Stephen Kankam, ‘’we just have to understand that these communities already are constrained in terms of health care access and delivery because they are located within some of the remotest parts of Ghana and the physical barriers against access to healthcare means that within the framework of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will even be crucial to receive the necessary support and services to ensure that their health system is resilient going into the future.” One of the key constraints of these communities, he said, was that given that Covid-19 was disrupting the market and supply chains of the livelihoods of residents in these communities.
It is against this background that Hen Mpoano facilitated the supply of seedlings, Veronica buckets and other items to enhance community preparedness to fight the pandemic. In the words of Hen Mpoano’s Deputy Director, these communities have demonstrated self-sufficiency by investing money from proceeds generated from a community-managed boat donated by the USAID/Ghana SFMP to procure these items.
For his part, Gabriel Otuboa, a community health nurse at Dameakwa Health Centre, says ‘’We work with Hen Mpoano to provide health services to the reverine communities in our catchment area. Through Hen Mpoano’s interventions, we are able to get to the community to communicate to them the key issues about Covid-19 pandemic in the country, educate the community people to be abreast of the issues concerning Covid-19 so that when they move out of the community to the marketplaces or wherever, they would help minimize the spread of Covid-19.
Hen Mpoano is also working with over 23 communities in the coastal landscapes of southwestern Ghana to support management of biologically rich and diverse ecosystems spanning three districts and covering over 50,000 hectares.
Daniek Doku Nii Nortey, Programmes Manager at Hen Mpoano, indicated that ‘’over the last five years, Hen Mpoano, as a local NGO, has received financial support from the United States Forest Service and IUCN French GEF initiative. He indicates that with these funding, Hen Mpoano is working with community-based structures in these 23 communities that are currently deploying various tools and approaches for sustainable landscape management. This includes mapping CREMA core areas to safeguard biodiversity in these areas.
Moving forward, they are supplying communities with some timber wood species like the mahogany as a form of agro-forestry so interested farmers can plant these trees on their farms and that these trees in the long-run can provide some form of shade, become timber in future, and serve as a resilience for the ecosystem and the landscape.
Hen Mpoano is working together with the farmers and traditional leaders of these communities and hope that in the near future what we are today will go a long way to benefit future generation and generations yet on born.