Editor's note: YEN contributor, Iddrisu Amadu, writes on reducing the meat industry's contribution to climate change. Read the detailed article below:
In recent times, issues regarding climate change and global warming have gained massive attention in the globe as impacts intensifies.
In Ghana, the situation is not different, temperature change, sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns are some of the documented impacts of climate change in Ghana. Climate change could complicate, if not relegate the possibility of achieving the Millennium Development Goals at the targeted timelines in Africa.
Greenhouse gases which are gases when present in the atmosphere acts like a blanket, trapping heat from the earth surface and subsequently preventing the heat waves from leaving the earth’s atmosphere resulting in a warmer earth. This scenario of warming is what is referred to as global warming.
This warming including other natural activities influences the earth’s climate which is the average weather conditions such as rainfall and temperature over an extended period of time. Human interference in the form of releases from industrial, transport, agriculture and other activities since the industrial revolution has impacted negatively on the climate system resulting in increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, sea level rise and extreme temperatures.
In 2012, Ghana released about 107, 784 kt of CO2 equivalent, a huge amount comparing it with population despite contribution to this by the meat industry is unknown.
Relationship between dependence on animal protein and climate change
The “engines” of economy-production and consumption which drive the economy often release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere causing what is known as anthropogenic climate change.
In Ghana, the Agriculture sector remains one of the fundamental drivers of a strong Ghanaian economy. However, steady slow growth over the past decade, after witnessing a major slump in growth in 2007, it is estimated that the agriculture sector will grow at an average of 3.3% yearly until 2018 while contributing just about 25% to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Government has demonstrated commitment to boosting the agriculture sector and achieving food security with the recent implementation of the “Planting for Food and Jobs Policy”. However, agriculture and the food system in the global context has been implicated recently as responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, quite unfortunate!
Also, the food system alone is responsible for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emission in the world. Must we “eat our lives”?
Livestock keeping is an important aspect of the agricultural sector and a pivotal link in the Ghanaian farming and livelihood systems especially in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
Why should animal production to satisfy demand for meat and other animal products be a bad thing? Plants, which are supposed to serve as “stocks” for carbon, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere specifically, carbon dioxide, are turned into pasture for animal production-causing global warming and climate change.
About 80 per cent of all agricultural land use is dedicated to animal rearing/livestock production, this accounts for 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide among others. Poor food choices are said to be the cause of 43 percent of the Ghanaian adult population suffering from obesity and other nutrition relation health diseases. Demand for meat and animal-animal products is on the rise resulting in the increasing production capacity and imports.
About 90 percent of meat we consume in Ghana is imported from neighboring Burkina Faso and Europe. In 2017, imports of chicken from Europe alone stood at about 135,000 tons, a situation many have called on the government give considerable attention to by boosting local production.
The question we must ask ourselves now is “Is meat a sustainable source of protein for us as a people? Absolutely, no! We must not “eat” our ways into climate quagmires.
Which is sustainable, how do we transition?
Vegetarianism which basically is the dependence on plant-based proteins has proven to be the most promising solution from the search for sustainable alternative source of protein than animal-based proteins.
A report according to the Guardian indicates that a population of 10 billion people could be fed by the existing farmland if all individuals are vegetarians with 94 percent success rate than any other source feed. Regulation of meat imports is therefore needed to “compel” the people to change their lifestyles.
Also, the massive media campaigns aimed at awareness creation on obesity and other nutrition related diseases could be fine-tuned to imparting knowledge on the need to shift from animal-based proteins to plant-based proteins such as beans. A huge proportion of the Ghanaian population relies on the media, both print, electronic and multimedia for information on issues of national interest.
This opportunity could be exploited by the relevant authorities involved to shape the discourse and to empower the people and help them understand that it in our own interest to change our consumption patterns in response to climate change.
There are other media campaigns on environmental issues that this can be integrated into to yield the best outcomes by ensuring that the idea of change in lifestyles is welcomed.
In addition, Local animal and meat producers could also be engaged in a dialogue with the ministry of environment and sanitation including other relevant agencies, authorities and stakeholder to discuss the necessary measures that could be taken to ensure a shift from animal production to the production of affordable and accessible food crops that are good sources of proteins when incorporated into the planting for food and jobs program.
Finally, Governing can create an institution, at the northern part of country where the meet industry is concentrated that would invest in training, provision of logistics and infrastructure to change the traditional animal and meat production into sustainable lab-animal farming.
This institution could also embark on research work to discover sustainable alternatives to meet the protein demands of the people while preventing climate change.
Writer: Iddrisu Amadu,
Teaching Assistant, Department of Environmental Science,
University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast.
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