GH Eco Class: – Lesson 1: Ecosystem Services

Introducing the GH Eco Classblackboard a

Are you concerned about the environment and want to know more about ecology and the science behind the issues? There are many aspects of environmental awareness that are based on science and The GH Eco Class will be a series of blog posts that cover lessons on environmental concepts. They will attempt to be relevant to the challenges we face in West Africa and be presented for anyone and everyone. Please leave comments on the posts and please feel free to suggest topics that you would like to be covered. This is meant to be interactive and informative, just like a fun classroom.

Lesson 1: Ecosystem Services

The earth gives us things that we could not humanly produce on our own even with all the technology in the world? Could we create water or air? Could we cultivate all of our fish in ponds and aquariums and feed the nation without depending on the rivers or sea? No, we couldn’t. Many of us have been brought up to see these as gifts from God/nature but we haven’t all been taught that these acts of God/nature are not everlasting and can actually run out if we don’t treasure them and handle them with care.

These are gifts or acts of nature are called Ecosystems Services and as green citizens and learners, we must be aware of their importance and fight to preserve them. Ecosystem services are provided when natural elements (such as soil, plants and animals, air and water) are transformed into things that we value as humans.

There are different types of ecosystem services and they usually fall under the categories of provisioning, regulating and cultural.

The provisioning services produce products that we directly use such as foods, firewood, natural medicine and fresh water.

The regulating services bring the benefits we get from nature staying in balance such as air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination and natural hazard regulation.

The cultural services describe the non-material gifts we people obtain from nature such as spiritual enrichment or worship, mental and emotional relief and development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences.

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So… How does this apply to me?

Imagine going to buy food at a restaurant (or chop bar) and there are no soups or stews on the menu. No light soup for your fufu, no palaver sauce for your yam, no jollof rice. You go to find out why and you are told that there are no tomatoes being sold in the markets to prepare any of these foods. As a matter of fact, there was no tomato harvest on any of the farms in the region this season. Why? One animal responsible for pollinating (fertilizing) the tomato is the bee. Because of human activities the population of these animals has fallen and there are none to pollinate tomatoes hence the terrible crop yield. There are no tomatoes for your kenkey and hot pepper. No tomatoes for your stew for your tuo zaafi. NO TOMATOES IN GHANA. This is a national disaster.

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FloodBut it can get worse. Imagine that the rains have come, as they have come now, and your entire town or city is flooded. Not just some select areas or houses but each and every road and house and compound and store is FLOODED. The land has become such that water has no path when it falls because we’ve allowed the land to become very bare, or cemented or empty of vegetation. Trees and other plants would have absorbed the falling rain and their roots would have created holes in the soil and places for the water paths for the water to seep underground. But they no longer exist. All the cement and paths make the landscape flat, which speeds up the pace of the flood. The gutters created can’t carry the water away into water bodies and the sea fast enough. And so as soon as it rains, it floods. Everywhere.

These images may seem unrealistic but they very well could happen if we lose the ecosystem services that God/nature has gifted us with. Our actions as humans and stewards of the earth heavily impact how these ecosystems survive and work. We must preserve and enhance them.

Eco Lesson

Now that you know what Ecosystem Services are, how does that change your perspective on where our priorities should be as individuals and as a country? Please leave your comments, your questions and your curiosities.

In the next lesson we will identify the major ecosystem services at risk in Ghana and ways that government and civil society can act to preserve them for the growth of the nation and health of the planet!

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Its World Environment Day! Think.Eat.Save.

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Today is World Environment Day (WED) and we here at Green Ghanaian are taking the opportunity to shine light on the theme for this year and discuss how it applies to us here in West Africa.


A brief history

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World Environment Day celebrations started in 1972 by the United Nations. Its used to ‘stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action’.

It has been celebrated in Ghana over the past few years with themes like “Many Species, One Ghana, One Future” in 2010,  Forests: nature at your service in 2011 and  “Green Economy: Does it include you?”  last year.

The global theme for this year’s celebration is Think.Eat.Save. It’s a campaign by the UN Environment Programme against food waste and food loss. “According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted.” One thing the campaign seeks to emphasize is that “if food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost.” This is a serious implication considering the fact that “global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.” A timely theme indeed!


Why Ghanaians should Think.Eat.Save.

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This current global theme of Think.Eat.Save. is an interesting one. It is mainly a western world problem to have people throwing lots of food away. Here in Ghana many homes feed whatever food scraps they have left over to their livestock. Also, we don’t have laws that impede the sale of fruits and vegetables that don’t look perfect as many European countries do. One issue we truly do have is the lack of storage facilities for harvested crops and poor road networks from the farming communities to commercial towns and cities. This is what accounts for most of our food waste and can result in unnecessary shortage of food. I think that government should recommit to solving these issues. Not only for the good of the environment but also for the progress of our economy.


World Environment Day Ghana Style

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Looking for something to do locally? According to the UNEP website, there are a few events happening in Ghana.

In Accra, the Green Earth Organization will have a press conference and tree planting exercise.

In Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo Region, Greenlove Ghana will be planting mango seedlings along the banks of the Pumpum stream (the main water source for the Kintampo waterfalls). They will also clean the surroundings of the waterfalls. Mango seedlings will be distributed to schools in the Kintampo township to promote environmental ethics in the students.

In Tema, the Environmental Health Club will have an Eco-Health Awareness Walk. With banners and placards, the Hon. Kofi Brako, the Member of Parliament for Tema Central will lead their campaign to promote plastic waste separation and recycling.

In the eastern region, the Okyenhene (Chief of Okyeman) Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin chairs the Okyeman Environment Foundation which is celebrating Okyeman Environment Week in the Apinaman/Dwenase Traditional Areas of the Denkyembour District of Akyem Abuakwa. They will climax the week with an environment durbar on Thursday, June 6, 2013 to mark today’s World Environment Day (WED). Their week included tree-planting exercises, educational workshops from the EPA and forestry services division as well as a children’s environment bazaar. Its particularly worth noting that they have themed their celebration differently that what is being used globally: “Promoting Sustainable Use of Natural Resources”. I think this is commendable of the chief considering the fact that it resonates much stronger with environmental issues faced in the Eastern Region such as illegal mining and land grabs
So, get out there and participate if you have the chance. And if not, participate on social media. Use the hashtags #WED2013 and #KeepGhanaGreen to voice your opinions and reflect on the state of our country’s environment. The theme calls for a push from us…How does Think.Eat.Save. apply to where you live or your lifestyle?? Our environmental problems range from deforestation to illegal mining to coastal pollution and impacts of climate change. Have your say.

#WorldEnvironmentDay

#WED2013

#KeepGhanaGreen

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The Reality of Pollution

Two Green Ghanaian contributors, Akua Akyaa Nkrumah and Akua N.M, had the opportunity to be part of a The FG Show, a Choice FM Saturday morning talk show focused on pollution on Saturday, May 18.  Hosted by Abigail Ashley, the one hour and a half discussion in both English and Twi also included members of the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement.  Below you will find a summary of what was discussed.

Pollution in the Ghanaian Context

Polluted waterway

Pollution was defined as the introduction of something that  is poisonous or harmful into any environment. That means if you have a cup of water and someone drops a foreign object inside it, your water is polluted.  Pollution can classified into: air pollution, land/soil pollution, noise pollution and water pollution.  There are additional forms of pollution, including radioactive, thermal and light pollution but those were not covered in the discussion.

Issues pertaining to air pollution were brought home by touching on sources of indoor air pollution such as smoke from  the burning of firewood and charcoal as well as outdoor air pollution caused by indiscriminate burning, fumes from car exhausts and dust from unpaved roads. An article from 2012 cited a World Health Organization report that found that more than 6,500 lives are lost annually in Ghana as a result of exposure to pollution caused by use of inefficient cook-stoves and fuels.  Almost all major cities in Ghana are seeing increases in air pollution with Accra topping them all. Low income areas that have major trotro (public bus transport) routes will see the impact over the years with an increase in lung related diseases and infections such as lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma.

Air pollution

The root causes of land

 pollution were identified as leachate from landfills, chemical discharges from illegal small scale mining activities (galamsey) and the terrible littering habits of Ghanaians.  This took us into the subject of choked gutters and how there will most likely be flooding this rainy season due to uncleared gutters and illegal buildings on floodplains. The mayor of Accra has already called upon citizens to assist in keeping areas clean for the upcoming rainy season.  The last type of pollution that was discussed was water pollution. There was hardly enough time to discussion water pollution and we hope to be on the FG show again soon to highlight potential solutions!

One point that was raised at the beginning of the show was that many Ghanaians have learned about pollution and potential interventions they can implement to help curb pollution in school but don’t seem to apply those lessons to their lives. We here at Green Ghanaian know that pollution is more than just a textbook topic and have asked another Green Ghanaian contributor, Raphael Berchie, to describe how he encountered all four types of pollution on just one trip across town.

Pollution on the Ground

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I woke up on Saturday morning to cloudy skies and poor visibility due the winds blowing dust. If the weather forecast of the previous night was anything to go by then clearly there should have been rains notwithstanding the fact that we were in the month of May (a rainy season month by the Ghanaian calendar).The weather showed strong signs that rains were imminent but when you have lived too long in Accra, your instincts do the prediction of the weather for you not the visibility of clouds. And just as I expected the rains never  as at the time I was leaving home.

At that point I began to ask myself, is this climate change thing real? Growing up in the Garden City (Kumasi), any obvious sign of clouds always ended up in rain. But twenty years later the situation has entirely changed. Nowadays even meteorologists are working harder to regain their credibility when it comes to weather forecast. No one can predict the weather.

With these thoughts I set off from my house hoping for good weather and less of the usual chaotic traffic that Accra typically has on weekdays. Here too my expectations were far from what I got.  Just as I had left my house the weather changed significantly from one of a cloudy weather to that of a sunny  and a very scorchy one don’t know if I can compare that to that of the Death Valley’s.It was so hot that I didn’t need a thermometer to know we have crossed 30 C. So then again I began to ask myself  is this global warming thing true?Now I do not need to see the melting of polar ice caps at Antarctica to believe this.Global warming is right here with me in Accra and I do not need to travel to look for signs.

From that point I began to recall what I had learnt in elementary science about pollution and how it contributes to climate change and global warming. I then decided to pay keen attention of all the forms of pollution I noticed around me.

I have no doubt that Accra is one of the noisiest cities in the world.  Talking about sound pollution I think I will have to take a retrospective look at what happened in my vicinity the previous night.There are almost 10 churches with 9 being Charismatic  in my neighbourhood within about 300m of my catchment area. Friday nights are all night so I rest my case here.I will pardon the drinking bars and joints for today.

When I got to the roadside, it was so noisy. Drives honking their horns indiscriminately and driver’s mates screaming at the top of their voices in their bid to attract passengers,people blasting their multi watts speaker and woofers from their cars,funerals and shops that play music all did their best to tell me that indeed sound and noise pollution are a part of the Ghanaian way of living.

I managed to get a trotro from Adenta to Madina and halfway through this short journey here was I stuck in a Mexico city styled vehicular traffic .Staying in this traffic for even a minute is hell.It was there that I took note of the fact that most of the vehicles on our roads had smoky engines.The fumes from the exhausts of these stationary cars could suffocate you to death.So the air pollution.‎ too has not spared me.The scorching sun coupled with the excesssive noises prompted me to quench my thirst.In frustruation I did not even take notice of the brand of satchet water I bought.It was after I had gulped in a significant quantity of the water that I realised it tasted funny and lo and behold I didn’t need anyone to tell me the water was overchemicalised so just in a matter of five minutes I have come face to face with three forms of pollution.

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In our attempt to swerve the traffic our driver reversed and decided to use a link route.This took us through the alleyways of Madina. I regretted not walking because our route had the worst sites to see. The grounds had tons of litter and partially decomposed garbage with an awful stench. Here I have come in contact with three forms of pollution at a goal, the heavily polluted land,the awful stench emanating from this refuse dump accompanied by the smoke from its burning were testimonies of air pollution. And lastly there was a water body near as well as wells around so water pollution was also within the precincts. So just in a matter of 10 minutes I had come in contact with almost all the forms of pollution as well as their effects on our planet.I will end here in order not to bore you too much  because what I have in store is even more than what I have already said and this is just the beginning of my journey from Adenta to Osu on a saturday morning and Adenta to Madina is not even half of the entire journey.

Yes indeed, Ghana is living with pollution and we encounter different types of pollution on daily basis.  If we do not take care and do our part, pollution will become a Ghanaian way of living.

#WeDeserveBetter

#KeepGhanaGreen

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Does Ghana Have Anything to Fear From Monsanto?

A very engaging post by our friend Malaka on genetically modified foods and Mosanto. Please read and comment!

Mind of Malaka

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Hmmm… I think Ambolley wants me to write about Monsanto. Done!

Does Ghana – or Africa as a whole, for that matter – have anything to fear from Monsanto? The short answer is “yes”. Anytime a huge US conglomerate takes an active interest in developing nations or any geographic area perceived as being bereft of privilege, there is cause for concern.

I first heard about Monsanto while watching the documentary Food, Inc. I have to be honest: it was pretty terrifying stuff. The idea that one company had the power to change the face and nature of the types of food we eat, dictate how our crops are planted, and make farmers solely dependent on their agricultural products because the very nature of that product (i.e. seeds) had the capacity to alter the state of the very soil it was planted in so that nothing else but genetically modified seed…

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A Recycling Plant in Every Ghanaian District?

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On Monday, a story was published on spyghana.com highlighting plans by the government in partnership with Zoomlion to begin a pilot program building 160 recycling plants meant to serve every district in the country. It aims to involve every citizen in recycling and to push them to desist from littering. I think that this indeed is a step in the right direction and would do much to address Ghana’s bulging solid waste management problem. I do also think that announcement should be looked at objectively.

 

 

 

The Good News 
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Despite the persistent trash problem in Ghana’s cities, the awareness and patronage of recycling facilities is actually on the increase. One can spot people picking plastic bottles and pure water sachets along roads and in lorry parks in order to sell them to recycling centers. This proves that the potential for us to properly conquer this problem is in sight.
It is also stated in the article that “if this initiative proved successful, government would then be convinced to introduce an environmental tax for petro-chemical industries and other industrial concerns.” If this tax could be implemented and channeled wisely then I imagine that more could be invested into the recycling/waste management sector.
It looks as if in terms of waste management, industry seems to be driving policy. This is good because it pushes government to use the practical experience of success in industry to shape what’s implemented.
…but let’s be cautious 
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With Zoomlion creating a waste management monopoly of sorts, its influence on policy may work solely in its favor and not for that of all waste management companies or all players in the waste management sector.
Also, there wasn’t a timeline given for this project or much detail about how the system would ensure that its successful. We dont know the implementation strategy or if the initial 1.05 million U.S. Dollar initial investment needed would be given on loan adding to the  GHS 33.5 billion Ghanaian national debt.
We also don’t know what educational/software initiatives will accompany this move. Even with basic education being free in the country currently, not everyone takes their children to school. So what’s the guarantee that this will catch on widely?
So.. we’d like to ask:
If you knew that you could sell your plastic waste for a small profit… would you separate your waste and deliver it to your district recycling plant?
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