Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo plants a tree seedling to mark the 2022 Green Ghana Day in Accra. (Image: Ghana Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources)

We celebrated Green Ghana Day on 7 June. The goal for 2024 was to plant 10 million tree seedlings. The President also reminded us that this was not about one day. President Akufor-Addo is quoted as saying, “Let us go out, not only to plant trees, but grow them for a ‘green tomorrow.’ This is a duty we owe not only to the current generation but to generations yet to come.”

It seems that for the President the end goal of Green Ghana Day is about a “Green Tomorrow.” Is a Green Tomorrow fundamentally concerned with climate justice? What does a Green Tomorrow look like?  

Ending the use of chemical pesticides must be a part of Ghana’s Green Tomorrow agenda. Pesticides contribute to climate change. That is, the making, packaging, transporting and application of pesticides all contribute to climate change because of their use of fossil fuels.  Indeed, pesticides may have more negative impacts on the environment than chemical fertilizers.

Research reveals that on average it takes 10 times more energy to produce one kilogram of pesticide than of chemical fertilizer. Currently, we are inadequately attentive to the negative role of pesticides on climate change and our environment. Yet, if a country is serious about reducing the contribution of agriculture to climate change, then putting an end to the use of pesticides must be a priority.

Ending the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers must be part of Ghana’s Green Tomorrow agenda. Chemical fertilizers are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture. This process gives off carbon dioxide which is one of the main causes of climate change. Chemical fertilizers also produce greenhouse gases (GHG) when used. One of these GHGs is nitrous oxide. Apparently, it ”warms the planet 300 times more than carbon dioxide.” 

Where there is the use of chemical fertilizers, there is often the problem of excessive nitrogen in the environment. For example, nitrogen in the form of nitrates can contaminate groundwater. Indeed, nitrogen pollution is now a major challenge confronting the planet. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “Nitrogen pollution is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss on the planet, after habitat destruction and greenhouse gas emissions.” It is up to the people of Ghana to champion the phasing out of synthetic chemical fertilizers, since they are inimical to a truly Green Tomorrow.

A Green Tomorrow in Ghana can only be realized if we scale up peasant agroecology. Adding the “peasant” before the agroecology is critical. It is to highlight that what we need is for the rights of peasants e.g. smallholder farmers and landless farmers to be prioritized in any agroecological transition. For guidance, we can be informed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.  Anything claiming to be “agroecology,” which fails to substantively address the rights of peasants fails the litmus test. That is not what we need.

For a Green Tomorrow, Ghana needs a progressive transformation of our food and agriculture system aligned to peasant agroecology.  Therefore, a Green Tomorrow in Ghana cannot be achieved by industrializing Ghanaian agriculture. Bigger farms, fewer farmers, utilizing hybrid and/or genetically modified seeds in vast monocultures achieving the desired application of fossil fuel-based fertilizers used per acre of land, cannot create a green tomorrow in Ghana. 

Remember, the agri-food system is already responsible globally for about 31 per cent of human-caused GHG emissions because it is so reliant on fossil fuels. Critically, most of the increase in these emissions comes from activities such as producing chemical fertilizers and packaging. A Green Tomorrow in Ghana is not going to be realized by so-called “precision agriculture” either. Precise drone-based spraying of pesticides, precisely where they are needed, will still kill pollinators imprecisely. Precise application of precise doses of precisely mixed fossil fuel-based fertilizers for precise soil conditions for a precise variety of a crop grown in monoculture is precisely the problem. We need systemic change.

If we want a Green Tomorrow in Ghana, then we need to take peasant agroecology to scale. With peasant agroecology, we will redesign the food system around values such as equity and solidarity. With peasant agroecology, we will halt and reverse land degradation. We will prioritize soil health and biodiversity. By systematically eliminating pesticide and inorganic fertilizers, Ghana’s agricultural lands will be revitalized, improving soil biodiversity and increasing the presence of pollinators.

With peasant agroecology, we will prioritize the rights of smallholder farmers and those working in rural areas. With peasant agroecology, we will prioritize feeding people local, nutritious, culturally appropriate foods and protecting the environment over the making of profits. We will realise dignified livelihoods for those in rural areas. With peasant agroecology, we will also reclaim our indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and being. We will reject neoliberal thought and its relentless pursuit of profits and growth. A Green Tomorrow in Ghana requires that we reject the commodification of nature.

Let us go out, not only to plant trees but to realize a Green Tomorrow – Ghana has an equitable and sustainable food system, which satisfies everyone’s right to nutritious and culturally appropriate food free of agro-toxins; smallholder farmers live dignified lives; food is produced in harmony with nature and promotes soil health and biodiversity; food circuits have been strengthened and shortened, so people eat fresh agroecologically produced food. Post-harvest loss and food waste are a thing of the past. Forest reserves are free of all mining and prospecting. Verdant parks, well maintained are the norm. Ghana is synonymous with peasant agroecology and food sovereignty.


Chaka Uzondu (Ph.D.) is a participatory facilitator, researcher and policy analyst. His writings cover topics ranging from agroecology, climate change, economic justice, food sovereignty, health, housing, political ecology/economy, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

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