3.2.2. Disaster Coping Practices
(a) Drought Coping Practices: Awareness, Usage, and Perceived Effectiveness
Among the identified coping practices, the household questionnaires showed that all of the respondents in both communities are aware of the application of cattle dung on fields to mitigate the effects of drought (Figure 3
). Regarding the perceived effectiveness of drought coping practices, the practice of applying cattle dung on fields was considered to be effective by 73.3% of the respondents in Yoggu and by 81.1% in Chietanga (Figure 3
). Similarly, we noted high awareness and perceived effectiveness for the “use of drought-adapted seedlings” in both communities, but the usage level was very low. Respondents complained about the high cost of these drought-adapted seedlings and about the insufficient quantity of seedlings that are distributed free of charge by the agents of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA). High general awareness and usage levels were found in all the other drought coping practices in both communities; however, the perceived effectiveness varied among the different practices (Figure 3
The key informant interviews and participant observations showed that communities allow for cattle to feed and sleep in fields before the planting season. This is done to permit cattle dung (droppings) to be deposited on the fields. The fields are later plowed before planting to enable mixing of the cattle dung with the soil. This increases the fertility of the soil and is considered to be a substitute to inorganic fertilizers. It also gives crops a form of resilience during drought periods, speeding up maturity and increasing resistance to short droughts. When droughts are predicted in Yoggu, farms are weeded to prevent competition for moisture between the crop and unwanted weeds during a dry period. However, farms in Chietanga are not weeded when droughts are predicted because the farmers believe that weeding exposes the plants and soil to heat, and thus the available moisture evaporates. Local communities in both districts also make soil heaps around crops to preserve the available moisture for the crops and provide the crops with stamina. To mitigate drought effects, farmers avoid planting early in the wet period. They wait until almost the middle of the rainy season before planting to elude droughts. In addition, in cases where drought occurs later in the season, this ensures that the soil will be sufficiently moist to enable the maturity of existing crops. In Yoggu, there are dugouts within the community to trap the freshwater that is used by locals and livestock during the dry season. To mitigate the effects of droughts on these dugouts, local people avoid cutting trees around dugouts, even during the driest periods of the year when fuelwood becomes very scarce.
(b) Flood Coping Practices: Awareness, Usage, and Perceived Effectiveness
In Chietanga, 82.9% of the respondents were aware of the practice of building flood barriers around farms to mitigate floods, and 68.6% of these respondents use this method to mitigate the effects of flooding (Figure 4
). Despite the higher awareness and the usage of all three identified flood mitigation practices, their perceived effectiveness is generally low (41.7% for flood barriers, 12.9% for water channels, and 17.9% for mud heaps around crops).
To mitigate the impacts of floods, Chietanga’s residents build flood barriers made from mud around their farms to prevent water from flooding their crops. Floodwater usually submerges all crops, particularly in farms that are near the river. The fate of these crops generally depends on the flood’s duration. Residents also create water channels in their farms to allow floodwater to circulate without washing away crops. Mud heaps are made around mature crops to prevent crops from being washed away.
(c) Pest and Disease Coping Practices: Awareness, Usage, and Perceived Effectiveness
Several different types of pests and diseases affect crops in the study area. The lack of science-based pest control mechanisms means that residents of the study area turn to traditional methods to secure crop yields. Table 3
shows the most common pests and diseases that occur in the study sites.
In the case of pests and diseases that were affecting plants, study results show that the residents of Yoggu and Chietanga crush the leaves of neem trees (Azadirachta indica) and mix them with water. This solution serves as an insecticide, which is applied to crops. Crushed neem leaves are also used to store grains and are mixed with grains before storage to prevent insects and bacteria from attacking the grains. Grains that are generally stored in this way include maize, cowpea, and Bambara beans. Additionally, communities mix seedlings with crushed teak (Tectona grandis) leaves before planting. The resin of the teak has an oil that is highly water-resistant, which protects the teak from decay and insects and bacteria attacks. Wood ash from the kitchens is also often mixed with grains before storage to prevent insects from eating the grains. To scare away insects and birds from farms, it is common among residents to rub or sprinkle fresh animal (cattle and sheep) dung on crops and in farms. In cases of a disease outbreak on livestock, residents feed animals with mahogany leaves and bark.
In Yoggu, 87.5% of the respondents were aware of the practice of using crushed neem leaves to prevent insects and bacteria attacks, but only 42.5% applied this practice. Similarly, in Chietanga, up to 82.9% of the respondents were aware of this practice, but only 74.3% used it (Figure 5
The perceived effectiveness of the different practices to adapt to pests and diseases varied within and between the communities. The effectiveness of the resin from teak leaves in preventing insects and bacteria attacks on seedlings and grains was acknowledged by only 16.7% of the respondents in Chietanga, whereas 50% of the respondents in Yoggu believed that the resin from teak leaves is effective in preserving seedlings and grains (Figure 5
). The perceived effectiveness of the different coping practices varied depending on the communities, although usage and awareness levels were generally higher in Chietanga when compared to Yoggu. For instance, the practice of “mixing grains and seedlings with crushed teak leaves” had higher awareness and usage levels in Chietanga, but the perceived effectiveness was higher in Yoggu.
(d) Bushfire Coping Practices: Awareness, Usage, and Perceived Effectiveness
Key informants commented that they created fire belts around their farms in order to prevent bushfires from traversing into local farms. These belts were constructed by completely clearing the vegetation around farms to disconnect the vegetation in the farms from that out of the farms.
The household survey showed that 62.5% of the respondents in Yoggu were aware of the creation of fire belts as a mitigation strategy against bushfires, but only 25% of the respondents in Yoggu implemented it in their farms. Household survey participants claimed that creating fire belts is labor-intensive and time-consuming, hence the low level of their implementation. In Chietanga, all of the household respondents were aware of this practice, but only 65.7% of them created fire belts around their farms.
All of the household respondents in Yoggu believed that fire belts are effective in mitigating bushfires. However, the perceived effectiveness in Chietanga was not unanimous among the respondents, with 87% of those who practice this strategy believing it to be effective. A study by Jasaw et al. [32
] on the adoption of mucuna pruriens
as a land conservation strategy in northern Ghana provides empirical evidence on the usefulness of this practice to households in the study area.
(e) Windstorm Coping Practices: Awareness, Usage, and Perceived Effectiveness
Despite measures being inventoried in the area by this study, not all residents were aware of or used such measures to cope with windstorms. In Yoggu, 82.5% of the respondents were aware that trees around the village are used to mitigate windstorm effects (Figure 6
). Likewise, in Chietanga, 80% of the respondents were involved in tree planting around homes to mitigate the effects of strong winds (figure 6). The household interview results showed a high perception of effectiveness to the different windstorm coping practices. In Chietanga and Yoggu, 90.3% and 69.2% of the respondents, respectively, considered that the placement of weights on rooftops was effective against windstorms. The coned-shape structure of many houses in Yoggu was responsible for the lower usage levels and perceived effectiveness.
Key informants of the study indicated that windstorms have become pertinent in Yoggu and Chietanga with varying consequences on livelihoods. Soil erosion and damage to rooftops are the principal consequences of windstorms; therefore, the residents resorted to planting small patches of plantations around their villages to counter such effects. Many also placed weights on their rooftops to prevent them from being destroyed by strong winds. The majority of respondents perceive these practices as effective.
(f) Other Disaster Response Measures
In Chietanga, household questionnaire results showed that all of the households sampled sell livestock as a coping mechanism when yields are low due to disasters, to be able to provide food for the family (Figure 7
). Fishing activities also intensified during disaster periods in the study area, with 55.9% of the respondents attesting to intensifying their fishing activities during disaster periods. It was also common for residents to obtain financial and material help from friends and family during such periods. This was the case for 97.1% of the households. In Yoggu, 87.5% of the households sold their livestock during disaster periods to fend for their families. Charcoal production for commercialization was also common in 37.5% of the households that are involved in this activity.
Local farmers planted different varieties of crops on the same piece of land, thereby increasing the chances of better harvest and livelihood security. There was also a gradual shift to crops that were more resistant to droughts but were not previously cultivated in the area. As such, there was a gradual shift toward crops like cassava, sorghum, tobacco, and pepper, which are considered to be much more resistant to drought by the key informants of this study. In Chietanga, vegetable and fruit growers are increasing in number and are gradually shifting toward the White Volta River where they can use water pumps provided by the MoFA. These pumps can feed much-needed water to crops during even the driest periods of the year, which is locally referred to as “dry season farming”.