A Greener Ghana Is a Better Ghana

“Ghana was ‘green’ long before there was a Green Movement.”

That’s one of the expressions my Green friends and I have often smugly repeated to one another. Our pride is in a Ghana that just 30 years ago was so verdant and eco-responsible, it put Norway, Denmark and all those other northern European countries who now boast the top spot in the Earth’s friendliest nations to shame.

I took this picture about 50 feet from the beach
I took this picture about 50 feet from the beach

There was a time – and I’m only 36 mind you – that you could drive for miles without seeing a single piece of trash on the street. Truly, I promise you! Oh sure, there was a carelessly dropped newspaper here or a pile of dog crap there, but overall, people respected the environment. There was this understanding that we ALL share this space and that it doesn’t just belong to you or I; we are merely tenants of what God and the ancestors gave us to look after until the next generation comes. I vividly remember going to shop for groceries with a woven basket to put all our foodstuffs in. Canned goods were at the bottom, rice or gari in the middle, eggs and tomatoes were at the top. When you wanted a drink, a girl selling ice water would scoop it from the bucket on her head from a calabash and pour it into one of 5 or 6 cups dangling precariously from the side of said bucket.  Very rarely was there a need for any sort of plastic material to get ones food from the market to the house. And then suddenly, like crack in the Black American ghetto, plastic was everywhere.

And I do mean everywhere.

Now there is a plastic bag for everything. If you buy an egg, it’s robed in plastic. If you buy a bag of rice, it’s cloaked in plastic and then secured in yet another bag of black plastic. One has merely to look down any main street in Accra to see how much drinking water the metropolis consumes. Empty sachets of Everpure and Ahenfie Nsuo clog gutters and drains like opaque boils waiting to be lanced. Ghana embraced the benefits of the Industrial Revolution without the assumption any of responsibility. It’s been 54 years after the first plastic bag was used for consumerism, and we still haven’t implemented a plan for proper disposal.

I don’t need to rehash the problems that come with failed (or lack of) waste disposal policy. You can see the results for yourself on any given street in Accra, Tema or Kumasi, or simply take an hour’s drive in either direction of those cities to the villages where Ghanaians from big cities have their garbage dumped. What else are we to expect from a government whose Speaker of the House does not know that GMOs are obtained through genetic engineering or whose Deputy Minister for Gender, Women and Social Protection recent relevant job experience includes standing on the road with a tripod making B-movie Kumawood class films. Heaven have mercy, do we need new leadership in this country! Did you hear what John Mahama said in Davos about his government’s failure to implement a windfall tax policy on mining because the big mining companies threatened to lay off workers? Say what you want about Mugabe, but he would never brook such blatant impudence! You come to my country to mine gold and won’t “let” me tax you?! How ludicrous!

Okay, okay. That’s for another day.

Let’s talk about what Ghana can do differently. There are a few individuals who are making small scale impacts on the environment with green initiatives that I disgustingly proud of. Green Ghanaian (@GreenGhanaian on Twitter) regularly sounds the alarm about destruction of forests, rivers and lakes and lagoons that often go unmentioned in mainstream media until all the fish have died and the children have contracted unpronounceable diseases. Golda Addo  works tirelessly in the field of renewable energy development for Ghana, and has devised creative ways to repurpose discarded materials such as empty juice cartons and ice cream wrappers for practical uses. I recently discovered there was a bamboo bike manufacturing initiative going on in Ghana, although it’s hard to say how many people have embraced the idea.

These are just some of the small steps that can and will implement change and bring economic prosperity to many more Ghanaians if we have the right people leading the charge. Let’s take a simple problem and solve it here on MOM today. Are you ready?

Eggs.

How do we get eggs from the seller to our houses now? Some of you reading will send your house girl to the shop to buy for you, but for the rest of us who are forced to do our own grocery shopping, we buy them either in crates of singly in plastic bags. What if instead of cardboard crates (which I have no problem with because cardboard is biodegradable) and plastic bags, we each carried our own dozen or half dozen egg container to the market with us? What if that container was manufactured in Ghana, using technology implemented by Ghanaian polymer scientists who have studied how to reuse that discarded plastic in our streets and mold it into something useful? What if the government actually rewarded Ghanaian innovation, instead of begging Swiss and German contractors to fix our 18th century problems (i.e. how to dispose of our own poo)? Suddenly, we’ve got a new industry that can train and empower people, and solves the problem of ecowaste. Will people still litter? Of course they will – but their trash would eventually and inadvertently serve as the nation’s treasure.

You know what would make my nipples sit on edge? Is if parents and teachers would start talking to kids about creative ways to birth new industry in Ghana. Kids are full of wonderful ideas, and I daresay there are many primary 4 pupils who could run Ghana just as well as if not better than many of our sitting MPs. I know at least 3 dozen children who have told me they would harness the power of the sun to power all of Ghana’s houses, cars or bicycles if they could. Someone should look into that. Someone with some decision making power. Someone who is bloody fortunate enough to live on the equator…

Some of you reading are from Australia, Japan and other parts of Africa. You can’t hide. I checked my stats this morning. What green innovations have you seen in your countries? Are they working? And finally, what steps have you taken to make the earth a cleaner, safer place?