The new green economy: Africa’s hope

Written by Staff Writer The Liberian beauty student was at the center of a total reversal of fortunes – from poverty, to ascending atop a fight to save her village from destruction. When Sarah…

The new green economy: Africa's hope

Written by Staff Writer

The Liberian beauty student was at the center of a total reversal of fortunes – from poverty, to ascending atop a fight to save her village from destruction.

When Sarah Young first moved to the town of Tumla , the Liberian capital of Monrovia , she worked as a cleaner while finishing her studies, but always knew she wanted to be a part of a bigger change.

Fast forward to 2016, Young has a degree in journalism, but the country where she’s from still won’t buy her coffee unless it’s from a certified green coffee – meaning the labor cost of processing is met.

Young hasn’t given up on the little-known drink, even after noticing the countless irregularities in her coffee tree’s yield, which result in a high volume of dead trees and dead coffee pods.

“As a refugee, the dream is to help these people grow something sustainable. It’s so important for me to be a part of this transformation,” she told CNN in a recent interview in Monrovia.

Hispanics fighting the good fight

In Ghana, the alternative lifestyle is an even more extreme example of an untapped potential. While the country boasts an impressive entrepreneurial spirit in the outdoor industry and an abundance of diverse traditions, the marine industry isn’t as well represented.

“There’s a movement that’s growing slowly, slowly but surely,” said Katie Maengs, founder of nonprofit organization Eco-Ghana. “The Caribbean islands have gotten there first, but for Ghana, we still haven’t.”

In a country that exports its cattle, Maengs and her colleagues want to get more migrants in Ghana involved in the marine industry, as well as lowering their use of plastic waste in their lives.

Members of the Association of Marine Traders and Fishermen from Ghana visit eco-friendly coffee farms in Liberia, to educate potential recruits on sustainable practices. Credit: Juliana Chaiyabenye/EyeEm

While large supermarkets like Walmart, Tesco and Walgreens offer environmental initiatives, these are, according to Maengs, very much imported initiatives “in the West”.

Instead, Maengs sees a strong legacy in Ghana’s traditions and attitudes toward living sustainably. “People were probably thinking about these topics before all the talk of the environmental crisis,” she said.

People are also used to thinking about the next generation and how to help their fellow citizens, she added.

“The sea is such a fundamental part of the culture in Ghana. The fact that people have not understood this is crazy. That’s not good for the planet and not good for business.”

As the head of Eco-Ghana, Maengs has also noticed there’s a “hidden luxury” in it. “People say they ‘don’t have money to spend on luxuries like oysters or wines. But we have a much bigger problem. This is where it comes in handy.”

And there are still huge opportunities for the developing country to improve its eco profile, especially in conjunction with the nascent bio-gas industry. “You get close to this issue [of sustainable living], and then you look more and more like a third world country. It’s time for us to realize that not only is Ghana important, but that we can make a difference,” she said.

Shifting Ghana’s energy mix

One of Maengs’ greening projects is even tackling a financial issue that has plagued Ghana’s energy sector.

The money-wasting wasted gas phenomenon, which currently cost Ghana £19 million ($24 million) a year, is being brought to an end in the thriving energy drink market.

“We are looking at exploiting a device that can turn waste gas into energy and converting it into gas in a plant. We will use it to generate electricity that can be used both for transport and for the micro factories,” Maengs said.

According to him, the whole process requires just one harvesting cycle, and together they will be converting one million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 4,000 metric tons of CO2 into energy a year.

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