Plastics

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.

plastic-waste-at-the-banks-of-the-muni-lagoon-ramsar-site

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.

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ANTI-PLASTIC CAMPAIGN AND OUTREACH

Organizers of the event.

Organizers of the event.

The anti-plastic campaign has been formulated to build the capacity of coastal communities about the various effects of plastic waste on their ecosystem. This project was developed due to the acclimatized usage and habitual inappropriate disposal of polythene bags and other plastic items by community dwellers in coastal communities in and around Cape Coast.

Among the many coastal communities in central Ghana, Duakro was our first visited community. The Duakro community is only about 100 meters from the sea (Gulf of Guinea) and inhabits about 800 native people – they are well known for the production and selling of gari (a very common and favourite Ghanaian food) thus, their basic source of income aside fishing. The town also accommodates some mangroves as well as other coastal organisms.

Despite the sensitivity of the ecosystem Duakro and its inhabitants find themselves in, indiscriminate and inappropriate waste disposal is a habit of community folks. Upon visiting the town, plastic waste, especially used polythene bags, were found on in and around houses in the community. At the beach and shoreline were also plastic wastes which can easily find its way into the sea and destroy some aquatic species. Ghana depends so much on the fisheries sector and thus a need for an education program for coastal dwellers on the ecological function of the coastal ecosystem and its protection through proper waste handling and disposal.

GAYO together with partners.

GAYO together with partners.

To ensure effective communication and resourceful capacity building, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) built partnership with Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), A ROCHA – Ghana, Department of Environmental Science (ENSSA) and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Science (FAS) of the University of Cape Coast. With a coalition of environmental groups with diverse focus and resources, the campaign which occurred on the 21st of September, 2015 was nothing else but a success.

The anti-plastic campaign and coastal community capacity building event brought together 63 volunteers – a mix up of students (youth) and adults who has interest in environmental advocacy. At 6:30 am, volunteers gathered at the University of Cape Coast where they were educated on the ecological function of coastal ecosystems by the department of fisheries and aquatic science and the department of environmental science. GYCC also gave a lecture on how inappropriate handling and disposal of waste contribute to air pollution and induce climate change. A-ROCHA Ghana highlighted and drew the attention of volunteers to some species in the coastal ecosystem which needs conservation.

At this point, volunteers were equipped with all the knowledge they will need to speak against the excessive use of plastics and proper disposal of its resulting waste. Green Africa Youth Organization led the last session by emphasizing on the need for environmental sustainability and the role of youth in environmental advocacy in Ghana. Joshua Amponsem, executive director of GAYO and the 15th Eco-generation Regional Ambassador to Ghana also announced support given by Samsung Engineering and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Educating gari sellers on proper plastic waste disposal

Educating gari sellers on proper plastic waste disposal

At 8:30 am, volunteers and organizers set out to Duakro community to campaign for a cleaner and safer environment. The community leader announced our presence and mission and pleaded that community members should welcome us for a fruitful interaction. Afterwards, we divided ourselves into 6 groups with at least 2 people in each group who understands and can speak proficiently, the local dialect of the people of Duakro. Two groups were assigned to the gari preparation site of the community, one group was assigned to children found wandering in the community and three groups were assigned to households. We campaigned for reuse of plastic items, reduction in the usage of plastics and refusing to use plastics.

We expected to spend at most 10 minutes in each house since we will be covering about 70 houses. However, low illiteracy on the side of community folks resulted in groups spending up to about 20 minutes in some houses. After 3 hours of outreach, our target of coverage had been met and Eco Generational Ambassador to Ghana, Joshua Amponsem, called for a gathering to document feedback from community inhabitants on the campaign and to discuss a long term sustainability project for Duakro.

Brainstorming for long term environmental sustainable project for community

Brainstorming for long term environmental sustainable project for community

Members of groups brought out community concerns:

  • The community has one open dustbin and which is not being emptied frequently. During our campaign, the dustbin was full – open to flies and other insects – and about 50 meters away from the shore.
  • Most adults in the community mentioned that the government should ban the production and importation of unnecessary plastic products.
  • Youth, especially females, raised concerns about the lack of toilet facility in the community.
  • Gari sellers and most women also pleaded that we provide them with jute bags which will serve as market and shopping bags for them in place of the polythene.

Joshua Amponsem, on behalf of GAYO suggested a joint project with the collaboration of all organizations present. This project was discussed and a stakeholders meeting has been scheduled for late October. The focus of the project is to solve the concerns and challenges faced by the people of Duakro community and enhance effective waste management and hygiene.

Dr. Michael Miyittah giving closing remarks.

Dr. Michael Miyittah giving closing remarks.

Dr. Michael Miyittah (Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at University of Cape Coast) our dignitary, later graced the occasion with words of thanks to all volunteers and organizations who made the anti-campaign a reality.

GALLERY.

Educating food seller to sell in bowls. NO MORE POLYTHENE!

Educating food seller to sell in bowls. NO MORE POLYTHENE!

store talk

Educating store keepers about proper handling and disposal of plastic wastes

Entering households campaigning for Reuse, Reduce and Refuse

Entering households campaigning for Reuse, Reduce and Refuse

final pictures