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.
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).
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.
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 (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.