Youth Profile #8: Why education is key to developing climate awareness in Ghana

By Tierney Smith 

Ghana’s 25 million citizens are under an acute threat from climate change.

The country’s economy is dependant on climate sensitive activities. More than half of the population subsists on agriculture and cocoa (the main cash crop) with fishing providing another major economic activity.

More 80% of Ghana’s electric supply comes from hydropower generated on the Volta River Delta – itself affecting by varying water levels.

Inland and coastal flooding, drought, and declining water levels on the Delta are all starting to have a significant impact.

Earlier this year Jeremais Blaser, UNDP Deputy Country Director for Ghana called on the country to stop ignoring the impact of climate change which he said is making the population more vulnerable and hampering the country’s efforts towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

One group of young people in the country are ready to take up Blaser’s challenge.

Formed earlier this year. the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC) aims to engage and educate both the youth and the general public on climate change and potential adaptation.

As part of RTCC’s youth series I spoke to Jamal Musah, founder of the GYCC about the group’s formation, its aims and its vision for the planet of the future.

What are your group doing and what areas of work do you focus on?

The Ghana Youth Climate Coalition works to mobilise, educate and empower the youth to advocate on climate change issues and also become the driver of change in communities. Currently we are working on green initiatives to create awareness about climate change and what the general public can do to control the situation. We work with senior high schools and junior high schools and we have also been creating awareness through the media to get the message out to the general public on issues concerning climate change and what we can do to adapt to the situation.

Currently one of our programmes is the Green Initiative Tour where we go and visit institutions to create awareness about climate change and also through working with the media.

We only started our operation a few months ago so we are now working on how we can be involved with the international youth climate movement but recently we have begun finding different environmental organisations that we can partner with. We have not reached a final conclusion but we are looking for ways to participate internationally.

At the moment, we are working in partnership with International Youth Environment Photo competition (IYEPC) where we encourage youth to make a photo documentary about their  environment.

What results have you see for your work?

Through our Green Initiative tour the youth and the general public have begun to appreciate more about the concept of climate change issues and appreciating the need to act and adapt to the situation.

We have about 100 active members and we are looking at forming climate change clubs in many of the country’s high schools where we visit, to get them involved in advocacy.

What challenges have you faced so far in building the coalition?

With this organisation the main challenge is our funding. There are some rural communities – especially the farming areas – where we wish to educate them about climate change issues and how they could adapt to it. But getting the means we have to mobilise ourselves but inadequate resources are making it difficult for us to achieve that objective.

We are trying as much as possible to reach out to domestic and international organisations for funding..

What support have you seen for your activities?

We have other groups in Ghana we should be partnering with very soon to undertake projects on environmental issues. Now we are looking at having partnerships in Ghana as well as other governments. We want to build partnerships with the governments, the media, and other organisations that will help us to get recognition wherever we go.

We are also in partnership with the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency.

The Ghana Youth Climate Coalition is currently running a tour of the country's schools (Source: Ghana Youth Climate Coalition)

What are the impacts you are already seeing in the country from climate change?

In recent years, we have experienced a lot of flooding in many parts of the country – including areas where it has never occurred. Ghana has for sometime now been encountering severe drought situations during the dry seasons.

What would be your vision for 2050? What do you think needs to happen to make it a reality?

The Ghana Youth Climate Coalition would like to become a global channel for advocacy for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Personally I would like to see a sustainable environment not just in Ghana but the whole world as well.

I hope by then our political leaders and all stakeholders would have initiated appropriate measures which are binding to tackle the crisis we are facing and to prevent unforeseen circumstances.

We are the world – all of the countries joined together are the world. All the countries have to come together as one and reach an agreement and to set out the projects needed to reach the agreement. We need to have the political leaders decide on something to be put in place to help cut down greenhouse gas emissions of industries and also have the public contributing. That would be our vision for 2050.

What would help your group to move forward in their work?

Getting partnerships with governments, the media and other organisations as well. Also that partnership with government should mean they recognise what we are doing and the message we have.

The organisation would also be more active by  getting access to funds to embark on adaptation and mitigation projects and also getting the opportunity to attend all relevant local and international conferences to enhance our knowledge.

Why did you get involved in the group? What do you think youth groups’ role is in the climate/environmental agenda?

I decided to form this organisation in order to improve the environmental situation in Ghana. I had the motivation  as a result of being a  member of Global change makers where I realised  youth across the world have been taking actions to improve the situation of the climate change crisis by holding their stakeholders accountable.

I also felt that the environmental and climate change education in Ghana was very low and it is about time we the youth had a voice to save our future environment through sustainable living.

We the youth are the future of tomorrow so when the youth come together as one to advocate over the current situation we are facing in our environment the general public and stakeholders will realise the importance of saving our future environment.

 More youth profiles:

Youth Profile #7: Why Indonesia’s biodiversity is at the front line of the fight against climate change

Youth profile #6: Meet the African coalition that brings together 54 countries to tackle climate change

Youth Profile #3: Canada’s climate coalition on taking on the Tar Sands lobby and fighting for Kyoto

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