Feature

World Wetlands Day 2017

“Happy World Wetlands Day to everyone who works to protect global wetlands” – From Our Founder, Joshua Amponsem.

Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog. To be called a wetland, an area must be filled or soaked with water at least part of the year.

As wetlands are continuously threatened by human activities, this is a day to spread awareness on the importance of wetlands and call on more people to join hands in protecting wetlands.

In Ghana, we are loosing our wetlands (especially, Mangrove wetlands) at an alarming rate despite the many projects carried out by conservation groups. During 2015 World Environmental Day, I coordinated the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition to join a tree planting exercise at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site in Winneba – which is globally  known for wetland Turtle conservation. It was sad to see plastics all around a ramsar site which accommodates over 13o species of organisms. In other places across the country, mangroves at some wetlands are being harvested for fish smoking. Interaction with fishmongers reveals that smoking fish with the mangrove gives the fish a better taste. This act has led to the loss of mangrove vegetation in the Central Region, and parts of the Volta Region.

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At the Kakum estuary in Cape Coast, which is surround by a mangrove wetland, it is heartbreaking to witness the frequency and speed at which people are encroaching the wetlands. People are erecting buildings so close to the wetlands and some sitting right on the wetlands. This has contributed to a chronic flooding events within some parts of the Cape Coast metropolis. The Kakum estuary alone contains over eighteen species belonging to 18 genera and 12 families of marine, brackish water and freshwater fishes. If the wetland surrounding the estuary is threatened so is the estuary. Additionally, as a very sensitive ecosystem, it is disturbing to find people practicing open defecation and throwing refuse (mainly plastics) in an around the wetland.

Why protect Wetlands?

  •  Wetlands function like a sponge, soaking up water that comes in with the tides, or from periodically flooding rivers. In fact, they control floods much more effectively and efficiently than any flood wall.
  • Wetlands are Carbon Sink. Because the soils found in wetlands can store carbon for hundreds of years, they play an important role in fighting climate change.
  • Aids in Sea Level Rise Mitigation. As global warming increases and sea levels rise, wetlands are the first barrier to protecting people living closer the sea and within flood zone area.
  • Recreation and Tourism. Spanning from bird watching, biking, hiking, and kayaking, wetlands provide people with many ways to enjoy nature. In Ghana, we receive migratory birds at our estuaries and wetlands – this is something the Ghana Tourism Authority needs to look at.
  • Wildlife Nursery. Because of its unique location between water and land, salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter a wide range of vulnerable species while serving as a breeding site for many organisms. Without wetlands, a huge number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, and other mammals just wouldn’t exist.
  • Fertile Farm Land. The staple diet of half the world’s population is rice, which grows in wetlands in many parts of the world.

There are many more benefits of wetland that cannot be mentioned. The frequent flood events in most coastal cities in Ghana can be attributed to destruction of wetlands. As we celebrate Wetlands today, I call on all global citizens to advocate for the protection of wetlands.

GAYO Co-Founder Awards Eco-Learners

“Yesterday was my birthday (08-08-2016) and I awarded a Tunza Eco-generation branded storage device to the most participating student during my 3rd  talk on global warming at the Amudurasi community school.
During my 2nd talk on global warming, I awarded Solomon Eshun a school bag for being very participative during the talk. His communication and commitment towards environmental protection and energy efficiency after my visit to their school is said to be commendable. In view of this, I decided to award another student during my 3rd talk on global warming at the Amudurasi community.
After talking to the students on Global Warming, I concluded by selecting the most participating student to summarize all that I have taught them during my presentation. He was able to talk about Global Warming in his own words and I was very pleased.  Although the staff of the school were not pleased that he was not able to summarize my talk in English, I was personally happy that he could explain to his colleagues using their native language – which illustrates his true understanding of Global Warming and his ability to educate illiterates on the need for a cumulative action towards our warming planet.
I announced to the school and his colleagues that I will award him a Tunza Eco-generation Branded 8 Gigabyte storage device when I visit the school again. Last Friday, I was there to give him his award and named him as my second Eco-Leaner in Ghana. Together with Solomon Eshun – first Eco-Leaner (whom I first awarded a school bag) I will train them to be environmental advocates in their community”.

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Ecological Footprint

Have you heard the word before, “Ecological Footprint”? Do you understand it? Do you know your footprint or that of your country or continent?

I will like to introduce you to Ecological Footprint:
Conceived in 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia, the Ecological Footprint launched the broader Footprint movement, including the carbon Footprint, and is now widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, individuals and institutions working to monitor ecological resource use and advance sustainable development.

Ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land (land that is sufficiently fertile to accommodate forests or agriculture or fishing grounds– they do not include deserts, glaciers and open oceans) and water needed to supply the people in a particular country or area with renewable resources and to absorb and recycle the wastes and pollution produced by resource use. It is measured in million/global hectares.

If a country’s or the world’s total ecological footprint is larger than its biological capacity to replenish its renewable resources and absorb the resulting waste products and pollution, it is said to have an ecological deficit.

The per capita ecological footprint is the average ecological footprint of an individual in a given country or area or how much of the earth?s renewable resources an individual consumes. In 2005 there were 13.4 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water available and 6.5 billion people on the planet. This is an average of 2.1 global hectares per person. Due to rapid population growth, this figure is decreasing.

Causes of global increase in ecological footprint:

Cultural changes have increased our ecological footprints. Culture is the whole of a society?s knowledge, beliefs, technology and practices. Man used to live by hunting and gathering but in recent times three major cultural changes have occurred:

  • Agricultural revolution (About 10,000-12,000 years ago)
  • Industrial-medical revolution (About 275 years ago) and
  • The information-globalization revolution (beginning about 50 years ago).

Each of these cultural changes gave man more energy and new technologies with which to alter and control more of the planet to meet our basic needs and increasing wants. Increase in food supply, longer life span, pollution, etc. have increased our footprints.

Current Situation:

Our current global situation: Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year.

It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

We maintain this overshoot by liquidating the Earth’s resources. Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and one that is not adequately addressed.

By measuring the Footprint of a population—an individual, city, business, nation, or all of humanity—we can assess our pressure on the planet, which helps us manage our ecological assets more wisely and take personal and collective action in support of a world where humanity lives within the Earth’s bounds. (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/footprint_basics_overview/)

According to Global Footprint Network and World Wildlife Fund, if the current exponential growth in the use of renewable resources continues, it is estimated that by 2050, humanity will use twice as many renewable resources as the planet can supply. This means that by 34 years from now, all of us on Eco-generation will need another earth to survive. For example, USA has exceeded the earth’s biological capacity by 25% since 2006.

Global Footprint ecological footprints are grouped under the following thematic areas: Food, Building and living, Gardening, Mobility, Energy, Recreation / holidays, Personal care.

Which of these thematic areas do you fall victim to? Which of these thematic areas increases your daily footprint? I am guessing Energy (electrical gadgets, phone, laptop, etc.) and Personal Care (Soap, detergent, earring, clothing, make-up kits, pomade, etc) will be the answer to most youth on this platform.

By: Joshua Amponsem.

Recycling In Africa

Globally over 1 million plastic bags are used and disposed every minute but I think the quota of India and Africa of the 1 million trash is much larger than that of America, Europe and Australia – comparing population. In Africa, I will congratulate Rwanda as the only country which has been able to ban plastic bags. Other countries like Ghana has once mentioned and made an attempt to ban plastics but to no avail.

In Ghana, drinking water comes in plastic sachets rather than bottle, amounting a large amount of plastic waste in the country. In 2013, a report conducted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicates that 1,200,000 Ghana Cedis (/ $400,000) can be generated in the country every a month, if the plastics go through various stages towards recycling. According a local news platform “The Ghanaian Times”, the research was submitted to the local Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology’s Committee on the Ban of Plastics in Ghana and following that, a there has been a rise in plastic recycling initiatives.

The Accra Compost and Recycling, Jekora Ventures, EnviroPlast, are some of the performing companies dealing with recycling and composting in Ghana. Additionally, there are some amazing initiatives by NGOs, Non-Profits and other small and medium scale enterprises that are championing recycling at small scale. Trash Bag is one of these organizations. Trash Bags collects water sachets from streets and recycle them into sustainable fashion products – handbags, laptop bags, market bags, etc. In other parts of Africa, these sachets are used in art making.

Plastic waste recycled into handy bags and laptop bags.

In Kenya, group of individuals are converting plastics waste into poles and road posts. Started in 2015 and documented by Aljazeera, this initiative in Kenya is gradually creating employment and reducing (if not eliminating) plastic waste – Watch video here:

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http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/recycling-kenya-plastic-poles-manufacturing-151123051310205.html
In Central and East Africa, a paper recycling industry is also recycling waste paper into toilet rolls, tissue paper, egg crates and many more usable products. Chandaria Industries Limited provide livelihood and employment for over 5,000 people in Kenya from waste paper recycling. Comparatively, paper and metal recycling in Africa is much industrious than plastic and e-waste recycling.

South Africa is another country that is performing relatively better than most countries in Africa – with over 50 recycling firms operating at a larger scale and converting plastic waste into chairs, pipes, polythene bags, etc.

Waste generated in middle income country is somewhat much than high income countries and I realized it is so because developed countries have more recycling initiatives than middle income countries. In Central, East, West and some parts of Northern Africa, waste is a menace. It filth our streets, choke our gutters and causes land pollution. In 2014, Agbogbloshie dumpsite in Ghana was listed as the World?s largest e-waste dumpsite. Despite several reports concerning the health hazard of the electronic waste dumpsite, the site is still home to thousands of individuals – including scavengers, smelters and market women.

Gradually, I anticipate investors and entrepreneurs to see the business opportunity in recycling electronic waste in Africa.

Ghana Postpones Construction of Coal Power Plant

The Government of Ghana is expected to solve the country’s energy crisis through the construction of a 2x350MW supercritical coal fired power plant in Ekumfi Aboano in the Central Region of Ghana.

The project, which was initially scheduled to commence in August 2016 has been postponed to April 2017. The first phase of the project will see the import of 2 million tons per year of coal from South Africa and Colombia, and the construction of an administration block, offices, networks, turbines and a coal handling bay. According to Volta River Authority, the second phase of the project will generate 1,300MW of power and finally about 2,00MW of power to be generated during the final stages of the project.

The concept of supercritical coal power plants is basically to eliminate pollution from power plants and ensure air quality. However, there are severe environmental concerns on behalf of citizens since the concept of ‘supercritical coal power’ or ‘clean coal technology’ is very expensive and difficult to be practiced. With a current investment of $1.5bn, many energy access practitioners are having doubts on the utilization of funds to reduce externalities and ensure proper environmental and social performance.

The VRA has been very transparent in incorporating the concerns of the general public into the project development. VRA invited a number of advocacy groups to explain the concept of supercritical coal power plant and also to enhance public acceptance of the project. At the meeting, VRA confirmed that they cannot ensure zero pollution, however, they will do their best to reduce pollution to the very minimal. Despite the promise, the ‘#NoCoal2Ghana’ campaign being led by the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement, Green Africa Youth Organization and the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition, is continuously growing over the social media and threatening the prevalence of the commencement of the project.

According to VRA, it has become necessary to invest in coal power primary to meet the country‘s increasing demands (7% Growth – GRIDCo) resulting in energy demand of 47,342 GWh by 2030 and a peak load of 7000MW. It also seeks to improve supply reliability with a base load plant, matured and proven in technology to provide electricity with unrestricted fuel.

The supercritical coal power plant is a joint venture between the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Shenzhen Energy Group of China and estimated to cost $US1.5bn – funded by the China African Development Fund.

Farming Palm Weevils as an Alternative Livelihood and Combating Food Insecurity.

Ansah Boatemaa is an environmental activist in Cape Coast, Ghana. She is the Programs Manager for Green Africa Youth Organization in Ghana and a teaching assistant at the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about food security and climate change. Agricultural waste management and climate smart agriculture – aiming at combating climate change through sustainable agricultural methods, are my research interests.

Together with the entire Green Africa Youth Organization, we came up with this project which focuses on introducing insect (Rhynchophorus spp) farming in Ghana and envisions a cheap, readily available nutritious source of food for local impoverished communities.

Palm weevils, Rhynchophorus spp, are excellent low cost sources of essential nutrients.  They have low carbon footprint if farmed as a commercial enterprise. In Ghana, Palm weevils serve as a traditional meal for natives of most rural societies (especially within the southern sector) but are not farmed for consumption. Palm weevil farming is a cost-effective enterprise in terms of supplies and labour. The larvae reaches maturity within three to four months and can be harvested for consumption – very rich in protein.

The project will partner with the Department of Wildlife and Entomology of the University of Cape Coast to provide students and researchers insight on insect farming for human consumption in Ghana. Also, Traditional Leaders, Local Government Representatives of Communities, Local Trade Union, Palm Farmers and Palm Wine Tappers within the community will be integrated as stakeholders to ensure project sustainability and effectiveness.

Palm trunks, which are regarded as agricultural waste, will be used for farming to provide larvae stage of the Rhynchophorus spp (consumable) with a natural habitat. The trunks will be cut into logs. The logs will be fed with fermented palm mash, upon which adult palm weevils will be introduced to mate and produce eggs. Feeding activity and entire life cycle of the immature stages (eggs, pupae and larvae) are harboured in the palm trunk. After about 4 months, the first lop of weevils will be ready for harvesting.

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Image II: Matured larvae for human consumption.

Prior to the first harvest of the farm, the entomology department will give scientific insight, and ensure the ecological health and quality of the habitat to be provided for the palm weevils. As a delicacy, unemployed youth will be trained on how to prepare palm weevil larvae as food for trade. This will be done through a workshop for community members. The project is long term and very sustainable. Income generated from harvest will be used to further the project and scale up in other rural communities. Eventually, it is expected that the project reaches all rural areas – providing affordable food and alternative livelihood.

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Image II: Palm weevil larvae used in cooking rice.

The farming technique is cost effective and environmental friendly as it utilize agricultural waste as a resource and enhance food security. Moreover, the mash used in rearing the larvae is rich in nutrients and will be sold as compost for crop farmers in amending infertile soils. Also, after six months, the hollowed palm logs used for rearing and have been burrowed by the larvae will be utilized as containers for gardening and growing ornamental plants.

This project was developed and inspired to combat chronic malnutrition in rural areas within the Ashanti and Central Regions of Ghana. There is no interest by farmers to farm palm weevils due to lack of skills and technical knowhow.  The project will provide skills and knowledge of Palm weevil farming and trading to communities and create alternative livelihood for dwellers.

The project’s success will be measured by: the availability of affordable nutritious food (palm weevils) to rural communities, number of youth engaged in palm weevil farming and trade as alternative livelihood, income generated from first harvest of the farm which will also indicate the number of consumers. Additionally, impact measurement will also include the number of crop farmers interested in purchasing the nutrient-rich compost for farming following eventual usage of palm trunk as habitat for palm weevil larvae.

The project is currently seeking partners, sponsors and technical support. We will be glad to have you on board. Contact Us.

Written by: Ansah Boatemaa.