Kitty from Oxfam’s communications team has seen what one magical gift can do for a community – and how badly another community needs it.

Fields in Ghana

Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

“CLIMATE CHANGE. IT’S NOT TYPICALLY THE MOST FESTIVE TOPIC.”

But with flooding, climate strikes and bushfires grabbing the headlines, there are many reasons we may be considering the environment more today than during Christmases past. Given the climate emergency, that’s got to be a good thing.

Small changes like ditching wrapping paper are so important. But imagine if we could also help families battling the harshest impacts of climate change right now? Imagine if there were a #GreenChristmas gift that could transform life for a whole community?

Well there is. And I’ve seen it.

Right now, In northern Ghana, increasingly unpredictable weather is putting the lives of entire families at risk. Erratic rainfall, drought and failing crops mean many people don’t have enough food to eat or safe water to drink. The climate emergency is hitting hard. It’s causing hunger and sickness – and making parents fear for the lives of their children.

Crop stumps in Ghana
The dry seasons in northern Ghana are eight months long, and families are struggling to see it through to the next harvest. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

BUT IN A COMMUNITY IN THE REGION OF GARU, SOMETHING INCREDIBLE IS HAPPENING.

Fields are filled with vibrant green crops, even during the dry season. Families have food to eat. Classrooms are filled with children making big plans for the future. And it’s all thanks to something so simple – a brilliantly devised solar-powered water pump.

The magic starts with Joshua, who takes care of the solar panels for his community.

Joshua washing solar panels in Ghana

Joshua looks after solar panels that power a water pump installed by Oxfam. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

THESE SOLAR PANELS THEN POWER A PUMP, DRAWING CLEAN, SAFE WATER UP FROM THE GROUND…

A solar-powered water pump in Ghana at sunset
The pump provides fresh, clean water to hundreds of families through the tough dry season. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

THE WATER FLOWS FROM THE TAPS – PROVIDING SAFE WATER TO DRINK AND TO WATER THE CROPS.

It means the people of Garu – including Joshua and his wife Felicia – can grow food not just sporadically, but ALL YEAR ROUND.

Joshua, Felicia and baby Ruth in Ghana

Joshua, Felicia and their youngest daughter Ruth. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

IT DOESN’T STOP THERE.

This is just the beginning of an amazing chain reaction. Because crops can be picked and sold all year round, parents can feed their families AND their children can go to school.

Abass headteacher at a school in Ghana

Abass is headteacher of the local school. Now communities have clean water and better harvests, the students are dreaming big about their own futures. Photo: Kitty Norwell/Oxfam

Myma smiling

Myma is Joshua and Felicia’s 16-year-old daughter. Now they have the pump she spends less time collecting water and more time on her studies. She is so dedicated to her family and determined to have a bright future. Photo: Kitty Norwell/Oxfam

AND BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER HAVE TO SPEND HOURS COLLECTING WATER EVERY DAY, PEOPLE LIKE FELICIA HAVE TIME TO EARN EXTRA INCOME.

Felicia, by the way, is a genius with a needle and thread and makes beautiful dresses to sell. Here she is in action…

Felicia at her sewing machine making clothes to sell at the market

With her new-found free time, Felicia makes additional income from making and selling clothes. Photo: Kitty Norwell/Oxfam

ALL THIS FROM ONE WATER PUMP.

A community brought back from the brink. I was so moved. It was incredible to see that fighting climate change – side by side with the people most affected by it – can be a real possibility. Heart-breakingly, in the next community we visited I saw the harsh and frightening reality of life without enough water.

Yabarago is just an hour’s drive from Felicia and Joshua’s village, but life there is very different. I visited at the start of the dry season and the struggle to grow food was already evident. It gets so hot and dry, so fast, that some of the crops were already starting to wither. Temperatures get into the high 30s at the height of the dry season.

Without enough water for drinking, cooking and washing – as well as growing food – families are really struggling. The changing climate is leaving lives on a knife-edge.

Dirty water in Ghana

Grace draws dirty, murky water from an open well in Yabarago, northern Ghana. During the dry season, this becomes a last resort for more families. Photos: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

BECAUSE WATER GETS SO SCARCE, MANY FAMILIES IN YABARAGO HAVE TO USE A DIRTY, OPEN-AIR WELL. I SAW PEOPLE DRINKING THE FILTHY BROWN WATER.

It’s heartbreaking to think mothers have no choice but to give it to their children. Within the community, children regularly get sick.

I met a mum called Ruth, who has to fetch water from another murky well, a bike ride away. She has to go ten times every day. It takes so much time and energy and the water’s so terrible. Ruth has a two-year old child – it’s painful to realise what this dangerous water could be doing to them both.

Ruth in Ghana

Ruth lives in the village of Yabarago. A solar-powered pump could transform her community. Photo: Nana Kofi Acquah/Oxfam

IT’S INCREDIBLE TO THINK SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS A SOLAR-POWERED WATER PUMP COULD TRANSFORM LIVES IN YABARAGO.

Where communities have that pump, instead of crops failing, they’re thriving. Instead of illness, there’s hope for the future . Instead of desperation, celebration. It’s all thanks to people like Joshua and Felicia and their determination to make solutions like the water pump work.

The brilliant thing is that together, we could help communities like Yabarago achieve all this as well. We can be by their side in the battle against climate change. And help spread happiness and hope when families need it most. To me, a Christmas gift doesn’t get more magical than that.

Explore Garu and see how you can help more families fight back against climate change this Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

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