Ghana takes steps to reduce methane pollution in agriculture, waste management

Ghana is working to reduce methane pollution in agriculture and waste management.

This is in line with the country’s mitigation actions of its climate plan to ensure air quality and public health, unlock carbon finance and create jobs.

This is being done through Alternative Wet and Drying (AWD) strategy – a rice farming technology that aims at cutting-back methane – an invisible gas that is produced in flooded rice fields by microbes that degrade organic soil matter, releasing methane.

Dr Daniel Tutu Benefoh, Ghana’s Focal Person for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that methane was a powerful greenhouse gas that caused global warming leading to climate change and a source of air pollution.

AWD technology makes rice farming an innovative, eco-friendly approach that falls in line with the global agenda to reduce methane – the second-most prominent greenhouse gas.

The project, he said, presented a sustainable technology that deviated from the common agricultural practice, where rice farmers flooded their rice fields throughout the cropping season.

AWD promote intermittent flooding of rice farms instead of the traditional continuous flooding practices.

While an estimated 11,000 farmers would be financially compensated for adopting the technology, it would increase their yields by about 30 per cent and improve water management – the rice plant is supplied with water only when needed.

Mr Benefoh spoke to GNA on the sidelines of the ongoing COP 28 in Dubai after granting authorisation to some implementing partners.

By the year 2030, AWD at its full implementation is expected to reduce a net greenhouse gas emission of 1.2 million tonnes total carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in the country.

Dr Benefoh, who leads the Carbon Market Office, said another plan, called the “Integrated Waste Recycling and Composting for Methane Reduction in Ghana,” would slash methane from five landfills by producing organic fertiliser for crop production.

As part of the initiative, Jospong, a waste management company, was building an integrated waste plant to sort, process and recycle Municipal solid waste in Ho, in the Dambai, Goaso and Sunyani municipalities.

Over 1.5 million tonnes are expected to be reduced by the year 2030, producing 13,000 metric tons of compost annually and fostering the creation of approximately 1,000 jobs.

Dr Benefoh said the initiative was the first in Africa and second globally, a project under Article six of the Paris Agreement.

The two strategies, he stated, were under Article 6.3 of the Paris Agreement and Article 5.1 of the Cooperation Agreement between the Ghana and the Swiss Confederation, signed on 23rd November 2020, aimed at authorising the International Transfer and use of Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs).

Degradable organic materials make up the bulk of Ghana’s discarded Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), a study on the composition of MSW conducted by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, has revealed.

About 65 per cent of the waste stream consists of organics while other materials arising from the practice of hand-sweeping sand constituted about 17.1 per cent of the waste stream.

Together, organics and inert material accounted for about 82 per cent of the waste. The trend is no different from most urban centres of the country.

“This high percentage of organic material has often led to the suggestion that composting can be an appropriate and viable disposal MSW technique for the country,” the report said.

Nearly half of the country’s emissions are from waste, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use, according to the 5th National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Professor Kofi Amegah, an Epidemiologist, commenting on the initiatives, said the project, when executed effectively and efficiently, would help reduce the level of methane pollution from the waste and agriculture sector.

He said high levels of methane could reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air.

That, he stated, could result in mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache.

Professor Amegah said in severe cases, there might be changes in breathing and heart rate, balance problems, numbness, and unconsciousness.

The expert, who also leads the Breathe Accra Project, said if exposure of methane was large or continued for a longer period, it could kill.

At least 28,000 Ghanaians die prematurely every year because of air pollution, according to World Health Organization 2020 study. Many more are sickened.

Air pollution is the second highest health risk factor for death and disability, after malnutrition. Young children and adults over 50 are most at risk of the disease and premature death. 

There is no nationwide air quality policy or targets.

However, there are sector-specific policies and guidelines that address air pollution, as well as clean air initiatives in Accra, according to Clean Air Fund, a U.K.-based charity working towards clean air globally. 

This story is a collaboration between Ghana News Agency and New Narratives as part of the Clean Air Reporting Project. Funding was provided by the Clean Air Fund. The funder had no say in the story’s content.