News / 21 December 2021

Two generations fighting against climate change in Ghana: meet our partners Richard and Kenneth

In Ghana, the effects of climate change are already tangible, just like in many countries around the world. How to ensure that these different experiences are heard and known by the Ghanaian government so that it will take actions that have a positive effect on people and their environment? And how to make local communities aware that they can hold the government accountable - and even have the responsibility to do so? During COP26 in Glasgow we spoke with Kenneth Nana Amoateng (47) and Richard Matey (30). Kenneth works at the AbibiNsroma Foundation, a local NGO, and took it as his mission to advocate for a healthy environment, climate change, and to give young people opportunities. Richard is part of that younger generation and works at the Alliance for Empowering Rural Communities in Ghana.

What are the climate change impacts in Ghana?

Richard: Climate change is impacting us in Ghana really fast. We now have migrations from North to South in Ghana and while they say this is because of economic reasons, the real reason is climate change. I will give you a personal example, I was at the family house in my mother's hometown by the sea in 2007. When I went back in 2013 the whole house was in the ocean. This means a lot to us and to me. Because I am only 30 and if am already experiencing this at a fast rate like this, imagine when I am 40.

Kenneth: The sea has washed away some of the coastal area, which means that also the livelihoods of many people have disappeared. To counter this, the government is now spending a lot of money on coastal defense. What we actually need in Ghana is an energy transition, but the challenge lies in making the government see this transition as something they can also benefit from.

Could you give an example of the impact of renewable energy in Ghana?

Richard: In rural areas, for example, having access to light is a very real and practical way to reduce teen pregnancies. The birth rate in those area's is very high. You find very young girls of 11/12 years old having children. Because what happens when people are home and there is no light? Imagine having solar energy in such rural areas!

Kenneth: Solar energy is a need, especially for women. Communities that have electricity have less teenage pregnancies. Instead of directly going home after having worked on the farm, electricity makes it possible for people to have some form of entertainment. However, when it comes to the energy transition and cleaner and renewable energy, it is a difficult subject because a lot of people in the community will lose their jobs. So we need to find a way to fill this gap. Fortunately, Ghana has everything within our hands needed for an energy transition and windmills: gold, diamond, copper, iron. We have good land for agriculture and a lot of sun of course for solar power and wind.

Is it dangerous to lobby for a energy transition?

Kenneth: I need to be careful in our lobby and advocacy when speaking about oil. Because the government uses oil to pay for education for example. So if you are trying to convince the government not the use the oil, you are seen as the enemy of the state and this can be dangerous. This makes having organisations such as Both ENDS out there important, you feel more protected to talk about your issue. Because if something happens, you have someone who is able to point at human rights and go public with it. We have Both ENDS to talk and back us, if not we can risk our life. I have a family with 5 children, so I need to be careful.

How do you make the politicians listen to you?

Kenneth: Unfortunately, more than having the community safe, the main drives of politicians are money and votes. So you need to make the issues known to them. What we try to do, for example, is link the Members of Parliament (MP) with the communities they are from. If it's affecting their families, we make those families speak out. Governments may want raw data, but sometimes you need to speak to the heart ánd the mind. In this way we try to explain to them that before signing anything they should also look at the input of the community, especially of young people.

Richard: I am very grateful to have come under Kenneth's leadership and mentorship. He has given me a lot of exposure by providing the platform to speak and represent young people. Platforms provide opportunities to meet decision and law makers, but you rarely see young people. Even when decisions are being made about young people, you do not see young people. But with the help of Kenneth I was able to, for example, lobby for a youth component in the 'national climate change learning and green economy strategy.'

Why are you Kenneth so dedicated to making young people heard?

Kenneth: One of my missions is to influence and inspire young people and to give them opportunities. Because we ourselves did not have those opportunities. Old people want to go their way and after they leave they die, without putting that knowledge into us. I said 'no, my generation needs to be willing to transform, change the dynamic'. When I see people that have passion, it inspires me to give them the opportunity and train them, and this I have been doing for years.

Richard: Some of the young people from Ghana who are doing very well at the national front, were mentored by him. Kenneth's influence in Civil Society space in Ghana is very huge and very enormous. When you come to Ghana, everybody knows him, also in the government.

Kenneth: I have been to eleven COP's. When I was only young guy, I started a 'Ghana youth Climate Change coalition' and that changed into an Africa's youth coalition of climate change. Our thought was that Africa needed to change. Africa needed to have a new face, for this we need to raise people and have young people pushing this.

Richard, can you give an example of how you have been pushing this?

Richard: Well, in 2018 Kenneth and I got in touch with Both ENDS, because we wanted to know more about the Export Credit Agencies (ECAs). And since 2019 we have been working closely together, conducting research into ECA support for the energy sector in Africa. Also, we have been lobbying in Africa and beyond to stop the support for fossil fuels and large hydro dams. We especially focus on the impact on local communities. This collaboration with Both ENDS has resulted in the publication "A Just Energy Transition for Africa - Mapping the impacts of ECAs active in the energy sector in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Uganda". When I got involved in this research I found out how communities in the specific case I investigated, were promised jobs, scholarships and a lot of goodies, but were not well-informed about the downsides to such fossil fuel projects. Such as contribution to climate change, human rights abuses and environmental destruction.heard. We hope to continue our work on this and other subjects with Both ENDS , strengthen local communities and advocate for energy transition in Ghana.

For more information

Read more about this subject