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Cambridge Climate Lecture Series 2018

15 February - 15 March 2018 – Cambridge, UK

Studying at Cambridge

 

Follow Gideon and his team

Follow Gideon, finalist of the Frontline Programme 2018 and founder of Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM), on his and his team work on the development of a toolkit to communicate climate and environmental action using African traditional cultural values, beliefs and practices.

The toolkit to communicate climate and environmental action using African traditional cultural values, beliefs and practices will:

  1. Provide a perspective on the root causes of the environmental crisis in Africa by comparing Western Anthropocentric thought with African primal ideas of conservation that is theocentric.
  2. Record the testimonies and chronicle the experiences of frontline communities in selected communities in Africa that are responding to the impacts of climate change and climate justice issues with indigenous knowledge and traditional belief systems that are alien to Western cultural beliefs.
  3. Put together a documentary to highlight African traditional conservational ideas in different cultural settings and contexts as the solution to the climate crisis.

Short documentary of the project

A short documentary has been finalised by Gideon and his team. It shows how traditional beliefs have managed to preserve the Guakoo and the Sunkwa river in Pokuase, a river that otherwise would have disappeared long time ago. Click here to see the video.  

preserveforest.JPG

 

Gideon's Diary and reflections on the project

26/07/2018 - African Traditional Ideas Can Help Rehabilitate Ghana’s Environmental Consciousness and Responsibility

"At a time that environmentalists and conservationists are developing narratives for advocacy campaigns to save these natural resources, the government of Ghana overtly puts additional log in the flaming pyre—the construction of the multi million-dollar Pokuase interchange which may deal the river the last blow".

 "Tswa Omanye!", the Asafoatse exclaimed, as the ground swallowed the last pint of water he released from the container. "Ehi eha wɔ", we replied, to conclude the opening prayer before the meeting started. The pouring of libation is not alien to Ghanaian tradition and so the call on the Supreme Being to guide and influence the deliberations in the early morning was expected.

My entire Monday evening the previous day was spent figuring out the line of questions to pose to the high profile elder of Asere Clan I’d be engaging the next morning. The Asafoatse of the Pokuase area had arranged a meeting for Tuesday morning so I can discuss the history behind the Gua Koo reserve and the Sunkwa River in Pokuase, as part of my documentary on frontline communities, a collaborative project with the Cambridge Climate Frontline Programme.

When the elder took the baton after the libation, my questions, numbering up to 16 were rendered redundant. I tucked the sheets beneath my note pad unnoticed, readied my pen and listened to him with rapturous attention. The old man distilled the historical antecedents of the Ga people with unrehearsed articulation. His flair for story telling in eloquent Ga language kneaded with occasional stupendous English expressions is probably the rubber stamp on his growing credentials as an authority on Ga history, and the scribe for the Asere Clan. The latter has 45 towns and villages under it with the headquarters as Ayawaso (original pronunciation: Ayi-Wa-So meaning ‘Ayi stopped on Thursday’).

The Gua Koo (Gua Forest) from which Sunkwa flows dates centuries ago. Gua is the name of a principal god of the Ga people who followed them to Ayawaso from ancient Mizraim (present day Egypt).  Gua is a thunder and lightning deity who is a fighter, protector and provider for the needy. According to the elder, Gua was instrumental to the repair and sustenance of the people after the Akwamus destroyed Ayawaso in the 17th Century.  The forest provided food, water, shelter, medicinal plants and fiber for clothing, that Ayawaso harnessed to crawl back to health. That Gua is a provider and fighter even in modern day Pokuase is a fact—residents testified in the course of my interviews that while nearby water bodies will dry during drought, Sunkwa will continue to flow to serve the town and its surroundings.


guakoo.jpg
The Gua forest reserve at Pokuase stretches from ACP junction eastwards from Achimota
In the wake of massive housing construction and pollution in the areas around the forest, the most significant reason for the survival of the forest and the river is the annual traditional rituals and religious rites performed in reverence and gratitude to Gua. Dispense with the sacred and see the profaned and wanton decimation of Gua and Sunkwa thriving dastardly in broad day Pokuase. At a time that environmentalists and conservationists are developing narratives for advocacy campaigns to save these natural resources, the government of Ghana overtly puts additional log in the flaming pyre—the construction of the multi million-dollar Pokuase interchange which may deal the river the last blow if the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is not thoroughly scrutinized. 
gua koo.jpg
The Sunkwa has its source in the Gua Koo
What is worth highlighting though is the fact that African traditional ideas deserve a seat in the coliseum of national level environmental engagements and global climate talks. While Western anthropocentric thought is the root of the global environmental crisis, African primal tradition is a reservoir of proven conservation ideas.  Indeed, Al Gore in his writings has called out astute Western thinker Francis Bacon whose 16th Century philosophical views on human progress still influence civilization’s stranglehold on the environment unalterably. Meanwhile, René Descartes’ definition of a particle when extrapolated within an ecological framework ought to be further interrogated for consistency and environmental sustainability.
With the level of environmental degradation in Ghana and the dreadful impacts of climate change which combined recently to intensify calls for water rationing in Ghana by the Ghana Water Company, it should be common sense for echelons of government, civil society and private partners to plump for African traditional conservation ideas to safeguard resources and national treasures like Gua Koo and Sunkwa. With respect to these two, we are about to cross the Rubicon.

17/07/2018 - My Cambridge Climate Frontline Diary: Discovering Pokuase

"With the collaboration from Cambridge, I am hoping to engage frontline communities in Ghana and parts of Africa facing the impacts of climate change, and highlight African traditional conservational ideas within the communities that protect the environment and promote resilience".
 
I paced languidly across the street up the hill out of hunger. It was too early for breakfast when I left home so my muscles were probably wringing every grain of glycogen for endurance. I looked totally disinterested in surrounding activities—the boring traffic jam on the Achimota-Pokuase stretch that can easily put many a motorist to sleep, and of course, the showdown involving  troskis  at the ACP bus stop cluttering for passengers which is a frequent chaos.
 
My attention was however stolen from approximately 50 meters away; a long and powerful drilling equipment, manned by some Chinese people crushed the top soil besides the Sunkwa River. Leaving rock debris in its wake, the heavy duty machine grubbed into the bedrock and pulled up rock samples to the surface. Its operators looked on appeased at its strength and efficiency. I ogled, as the noise from the machine commensurate with its mammoth horse power pummeled my ear drums. It was my third time in Pokuase to meet my contact person called Jack.
 
After he welcomed me, I quizzed, “what are they doing with the machine?” He replied, “because of the highway under construction, the engineers want to know if the land is strong enough to hold the overpass”. My visit had coincided with construction work for the $84m three tier Pokuase Interchange jointly funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of Ghana (GoG) to be completed in April 2020. That Chinese workforce and tech are heavily involved in this project is an overwhelming glimpse of Beijing's ambitious 'Made in China 2025' programme that is heavily targeted by the Trump-led US administration, in what has now morphed into a Sino-US trade war.
 
pokuasei-interchange.jpg
Artistic impression of the Pokuase Interchange. Credit: Citi Newsroom
My interest in Pokuase however is two-fold; the Gua Koo forest reserve, a sacred groove that stretches eastwards towards Pokuase township before ACP junction, and the Sunkwa River which flows from the forest and serves the community and its environs. While the forest is under imminent threat, the destruction of the water body is looming.  The unique and striking story of conservation behind the forest and the river is worth telling and listening.  I am taking on this project as part of my partnership with the Cambridge Calimate Frontline Programme (CCFP) based in the University of Cambridge in the UK.
 
With the collaboration from Cambridge, I am hoping to engage frontline communities in Ghana and parts of Africa facing the impacts of climate change, and highlight African traditional conservation ideas within the communities that protect the environment and promote resilience.  I am hoping to communicate conservation ideas rooted in African culture and value systems that are alien to Western thought. 
 
I have spent the past 2 months working with a dedicated team of close friends and environmentalists to sample which community to engage and what story to tell first. With a long list of amazing places with incredible stories to tell, I shudder to say that Gua Koo and Sunkwa are just a fraction of undocumented cases. I will be keeping a diary of this journey and I hope that you will share the story as it is told.
 
My meeting with Jack today was successful. He led me to meet the Asafoatse of the area whose family is the custodian of Gua Koo. This will be followed by another meeting with the elders before our team can finally be granted access to conduct interviews and do a video recording. The broad grin of excitement worn on my face out of a successful meeting today was so real,  like the whiffs of frying oil that greeted my nostrils with a tinge of déjà vu as I exited my host’s compound. Ah! The woman is frying my favorite spring rolls here!

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