Ghana is among countries that have ratified the Paris Climate Change agreement turning their determination to act against climate change into globally accountable commitments. Through these commitments, Ghana hopes to reduce its emissions by 15 – 45% by 2030.
This is to be achieved simultaneously with key socioeconomic development priorities of food security, creation of income, job and enterprise opportunities for youth and the entire population, and expansion of macroeconomic growth as stipulated in Ghana’s long-term development vision.
Among key areas needing action is in forestry. Ghana is recorded as having one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa and under business as usual trends, emissions will increase by 1.4% annually. Because of deforestation, the country loses over $130million every year due to degraded ecosystems.
Harvesting natural forests for charcoal production is one of the key drivers of this degradation, where up to 80% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas depend on charcoal as the primary source of fuel and also provides the major alternative source of income for farming communities. Up to 90% of wood used in charcoal production is obtained from natural forests.
In addition to environmental impacts, the health impacts of indoor pollution from unclean cooking are impossible to ignore. This pollution causes Ghana 18,000 premature deaths each year. Women and children are most affected with up to 2,200 children dying each year.
In response, Ghana’s NDCs set forth ambitious commitments in reversing forest degradation and indoor pollution resulting from charcoal and firewood use. The country aims to expand access and adoption of efficient cookstoves to 2 million efficient cookstoves by 2030. Analytical modelling is done through the UNEP-EU Africa Low Emissions development (LEDS) Project on the impact of this policy move, projects that combining plantation forests with clean cookstoves would sequester 85% more carbon for Ghana – which is much higher than the set target of 45%.
On the economic front, this combination would generate over 6 million direct jobs and cumulative revenues of over $130 million up to 2030. On the social front, the adoption of clean cookstoves and its reduction of indoor pollution was projected to reduce deaths by over 1,400 per year by 2030.
While the primary responsibility of government is establishing enabling policy, it is the role of non-state actors, including individual citizens to invest in operational level solutions that unlock benefit of such policy provisions. In Ghana, as is the case in most African countries, the youth constitute the most significant non-state actor constituency by virtue of their numbers.
Across Africa, through a UNEP- Ecosystem-based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA)-led approach called Innovative Volunteerism, youth are being guided to improve, refine, and adapt their skills and ongoing enterprise actions to work selflessly with communities in delivering solutions to environmental and developmental challenges but through the lens of climate actions and in an enterprise approach. What are called climate action enterprises?
Among the primary criteria for solutions is the need to ensure they are non-capital intensive and can be modelled into marketable solutions. To this end, waste recovery to domestic energy is a leading climate action enterprise area youth are engaging in.
In Ghana, Mr. Maxwell Deladem Xonu is among these Innovative Volunteerism actors. Through their EBApreneur Solutions Ghana climate action enterprise, he and his team of youths are working with cassava farmers to deliver climate solutions aimed at maximising the cassava value chain.
They are developing solar dryers made from locally available material that are up to 200% cheaper and decentralising these to farmers to dehydrate their cassava harvest.
By this, postharvest losses are reduced, and incomes increased as the farmers avoid rushed selling and get to sell during peak demand. They are set to register up to 30 times more in earnings.
But even more innovative is the fact that nothing goes to waste. The cassava waste is converted to affordable clean cooking solutions. Maxwell and his team under their climate action enterprise EBApreneur Solutions Ghana collects all cassava peelings from these partnering farmers, dries them, and converts them to fuel briquettes for the community.
Through continuous product research & development as well as economies of scale, the briquettes are priced at par or lower than charcoal, while offering smokeless fires that burn longer and are more flammable.
Mr. Xonu with his team of over 15 likeminded youth are continually iterating better briquettes. They are working to make the briquettes even cheaper than charcoal, but of better quality – burn longer, more flammable, non-smoky.
They are also innovating around an efficient supply chain of raw materials and distribution channels to ultimately supply the entire country with affordable fuel briquettes and put a stop to firewood and charcoal use to put a dent on Ghana’s high deforestation. Their selfless work is directly contributing to the realisation of objectives of Ghana’s clean cooking policy and NDC commitments.
Not only is this laudable, but also very impressive considering the fact that Mr. Xonu and his fellow Innovative Volunteerism youth are motivated by their selfless desire to apply their skills and talents to see problems resolved.
Through UNEP EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism, Mr. Xonu, an IT professional by training found an opportunity to engage in his long-time passion in the environment. He continues to be structurally guided to improve on his climate action enterprise centred on waste-to-energy recovery solutions as well as agro-value addition.
He foresees a future where EBApreneur Solutions Ghana will be the to-go-to a provider of affordable and accessible clean energy-powered value-added solutions to farmers and clean cooking solutions to households, eateries, institutions across all the provinces of Ghana. It is selfless, enterprising actions of such youth who view climate action as a source of solutions and incomes, that will see a meaningful implementation of NDCs across Africa.
The authors are Sharon Willis Acquah and Maxwell Kojo Xonu.