The Hidden Truth: Solutions for a Youth-Focused Bioeconomy in Ghana


A garbage collector in Ghana collects items from a garbage pile. GAYO / Betty Osei Bonsu

Betty Osei Bonsu is the project coordinator of the youth organization Green Africa based in Accra.

Last year, I had the privilege of training young people and women living in a mining area on how to use existing resources for sustainable products like sawdust and organic waste, compost and cocoa pods in bath soap.

Dependent on illegal mining activities, which destroy their water supply, biodiversity and increase the risk of disease, around 80 percent of young people expressed grievances over unreliable communication from leaders about employment opportunities, citing this as a reason why they decided to fend for themselves in their own way despite the consequences.

The green recovery solutions resulting from these community activities have not only helped to diversify the revenue from recoverable waste, but also fostered the inclusion of the community in terms of sustainability. Global economic growth requires valuing and investing in natural biological resources and the communities that keep them.

These ideas fuel the concept of the bioeconomy due to their use of biological resources to provide products, processes and services in all economic sectors within the context of a sustainable economic system using knowledge-based production. food system 2021.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity strategy for Ghana, biological resources are under serious threat and urgent measures are needed to avoid negative consequences. Lack of coordination between policy making and implementing agencies at global, regional, national and local levels is also a major obstacle to effective management of biological resources.

Betty Osei Bonsu leads a team in the preparation of compost from household garbage.

Bioeconomy strategies reduce dependence on natural resources, transform manufacturing and promote the sustainable production of renewable resources. Although the bioeconomy solution is seen as a model for industry and economic growth, leaders have not given it their full attention, leaving great potential untapped – untapped potential stored in millions of tons of waste. biological and residual material is eliminated daily in the environment.

Young people and resources go hand in hand because young people are the key to sustainability. The role of young people in bioeconomic solutions is to bridge the gap to strategically ensure intergenerational equity, as young people will bear the greatest burden of climate change.

The inclusion of young people in the bioeconomy raises questions of environmental sustainability, human survival, social justice and human rights, where social inclusion is defined as a creative approach to improving the lives of the most vulnerable.

The Green Africa Youth organization, in its efforts to effectively manage waste, generate income from materials considered waste, and build the capacity of waste workers to instill recycling in their operations, is working with communities to achieve zero waste. This strategy was to promote inclusion in the design of the project in accordance with the needs and views of the community through consultative meetings. In addition, part of this effort is to ensure that informal waste workers are recognized by the public and institutions as the key to waste management.

A live interview conducted with some of the waste pickers and collectors after the Garbage Picker Day celebration served as the case study. They shared their plight on the stigma they face on a daily basis as waste collectors and how they are even denied healthcare because of their appearance. Inclusion should not only be youth-centered, but transcend all individuals within communities. Surprisingly, 50 percent of the waste workers hired were young people.

Agenda 21 identifies young people as one of the nine main groups in civil society with the right and responsibility to participate in sustainable development. Again, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its article 6 on education, training and public awareness, urges governments to develop education and training programs on climate change to educate, empower and involve all stakeholders, including young people. Young people are therefore the main group for effective engagement in creating and implementing decisions on climate change and issues of environmental sustainability or environmental policies.

Youth-led campaigns directed at leaders on improving resource efficiency and the use of renewable raw materials while transforming the economic system into one that promotes a circular and climate neutral environment. The shift from a linear economy to a circular economy will generate new business models in all production sectors, including the biobased world. Despite the fact that bio-economic solutions address global climate concerns, there is a gap in public awareness.

We are now in a time when resource management is seen as poverty, and mismanagement of resources is seen as wealth. If I could go back to my childhood community at age 7, I would ask my leaders why they hid the truth from me.

The truth, that I have the right to decide my future;

The truth, that I have the right to protect my natural resources;

The truth is, I am not just a child but a significant change agent;

Gender inequality remains a problem making inclusion incomplete in community settings. In some parts of Ghana, women are not allowed to own land or participate in decision-making. They are assigned to cooking and daily chores.

The need to operationalize social inclusion in the bioeconomy will ensure not only sustainability, with gender inclusion, but trans-sustainability – a sustainability that will be transferred from one generation to the next.

The concepts of bioeconomic solutions present innovations in the understanding of economic systems, with an emphasis on the market adoption of greener solutions based on less intensive use of resources. Adhering to this bio-evolution, bioeconomy projects such as agro-industry, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture are areas in which young people should be massively encouraged to participate.

Our leaders have always been the ones who decide our future, it’s time they handed over the baton and trusted us to make the changes we want to see.

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