‘Nimdeε wie Yiedie’ – Akan Proverb.
The above Akan proverb means ‘when people have the knowledge and the skill, then they can use it for the betterment of their living conditions’.
It summarises the objective of the campaign to mitigate against the effects of climate change in communities whose inhabitants know not that their commercial activities are continuously destroying the environment and Okyeame Kwame (OK), the development oriented creative genius could not help but jump on board to safeguard the planet.
Okyeame Kwame was, this week, unveiled as the climate change ambassador for the Ghana Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM), one of the leading projects of Solidaridad, an international Civil Society Organisation with 50 years of global experience in facilitating the development of socially responsible, ecologically sound and profitable supply chains.
Through the DGM project, Solidaridad seeks to make a significant contribution toward the fight against forest loss and unsustainable land use practices that drive climate change and associated impacts, by putting local communities at the forefront.
The project’s objective is to strengthen knowledge and practices of targeted local communities in the Western and Brong Ahafo Regions in Reducing Emission Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) processes and sustainable land use and forest management.
Solidaridad notes that it seeks to achieve this through capacity building in REDD+, climate change, and the provision of demand-driven grants to 52 local communities and community organizations in the Brong Ahafo and Western Regions.
The Climate Investment Fund and the World Bank are key partners of the DGM project, implemented by Solidaridad under the oversight of community representatives, who constitute the National Steering Committee.
Okyeame Kwame will be spearheading a campaign that will employ music, drama, dance and other forms of communication to inform, educate and entertain Ghanaians about the effect of climate change and how mitigating practises can stem the tide.
Known in private life as Kwame Nsiah Apau, Okyeame notes that he took up the daunting project of drawing more attention to climate change because he believes that life means nothing unless it is about helping other people.
“With all the popularity and fame I have had freely from Ghanaians and God, I believe that if I do not use it for positive things it is all vanity. It is an opportunity to touch people and it is also a challenge,” he says.
It is with the same mindset that he has, for the past decade, brought so much attention to Hepatitis B so much that Ghanaians are now regularly checking their status and the menace of the disease is gradually shrinking.
Okyeame opines that working on a project such as climate change is also about satisfaction and actualisation and knowing that he is a part of something that is bigger than him but in his small corner he will be using his resources to affect change.
“This is about the future and posterity. This is about purpose and I believe that beyond doing something that my great great grandchildren will benefit, it will open other doors for me where people will pay more attention to me and positively impact my life as a musician or creative person,” he said.
He adds that as an ambassador he will help drum home the impact of climate change, and, hopefully, move the public to take responsible actions to fight global warming. He will also be instrumental in the development of appropriate jingles with a fusion of oratory and music, for the purpose of public education, especially in DGM project communities.
As though that is not enough, Okyeame Kwame will also undertake media engagement and outreach with schoolchildren and selected communities on land use and climate change as well as appropriate interventions to respond to climate impacts on local communities.
“I have already done a song that will be launched next week Wednesday and my duty is to bring some interest to the pensive topic of climate change. It is not interesting enough because people think we are going to die anyway.
We will be going to the communities and farming villages. Last year farmers struggled due to imadequate and irregular rainfall and so we are going into the farming communities to discuss and show them the right practices that can bring out the best and help them throw away the negative farming practises. We will engage opinion leaders and chiefs. For example if someone is cutting a tree, a permit must be demanded,” he adds.
Okyeame has been in the development, awareness creation and safeguarding the environment space for a long time now. Apart from his pet project, Hepatitis B, he has also been involved in tree planting activations with funding support from KOICA and the Korean Embassy.
He is not new to climate change as he has recently been involved in an initiative by the REDD+ secretariat of the Forestry Commission to help drive climate change and REDD+ messaging amongst rural youths.
Views from Solidaridad
The Regional Director of Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi, notes that even though Africa contributes the least, at about 3percent, of carbon dioxide the continent is the worst affected in terms of droughts and famine and that is why the biggest contributors such as USA, Europe and China are providing resources to mitigate the impact.
“We are talking about balance between the production and mitigating the impact. We have a fast growing population and if we do not mitigate against the impact our ability to feed ourselves will be hampered. We do not produce a lot of the carbon emissions but we are highly vulnerable,” he says.
Mr. Gyamfi adds that there is the need to change the way things are done in Ghana and Africa.
“There are sustainable best practises and until we mainstream them we will be at the periphery of development. There are sustainable land uses and forest practises and we need to adopt those practises to reduce the impact of climate change on our socio-economic activities,” he notes.
Why Okyeame Kwame
Mr. Gyamfi described Okyeame Kwame, as a showbiz personality whose brand does not only command widespread respect among the generality of Ghanaian populace, but also epitomizes humanity in its truest sense.
He said the rapper’s brand “resonated positively” with both the young and the old, the urban- and rural-based, such that when Solidaridad needed to engage a celebrity to drive its climate change campaign, Okyeame Kwame’s name came up with no opposition.
“We had a lot of critical discussions and we were unanimous that Okyeame Kwame has made a name in the showbusiness space that he comes with a certain clout in terms of respect people have for him, and his seriousness to work,” he said.
Mr. Gyamfi praised Okyeame Kwame for his numerous humanitarian works, such as his Hepatitis B project, which always put the interest of ordinary people first. Other speakers at the function included Ms. Suzan Nyemidi, the Country Representative of Solidaridad, and Mr. Hayford Duodu, the Steering Committee Chairman of the DGM Ghana Project.