Woman Makes History Swimming Ghana’s Longest River – All 450km of It – to Highlight Pollution

Every week, Ghana imports over 15 million used clothing items from the United States, Europe, and Australia. According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, about 40% of these items wind up in landfills and ultimately end up in the water.

To raise awareness of the problem of textile waste or water pollution, Ghanaian-British activist and businesswoman Yvette Tetteh has swum the length of Ghana’s Volta River (450 kilometers) from the town of Buipe to Ada. Researchers from The Or Foundation, a group that combats waste colonialism via awareness, study, and action, joined Tetteh. Along the route, they gathered water and air samples with the foundation to check for pollutants.

Tetteh started the journey along Ghana’s longest river in March as part of the Agbetsi Living Water research and environmental expedition. “The Agbetsi expedition sets out to build on existing research about the ecotoxicological impacts of secondhand clothing waste on the environment,” she wrote. “This research, which is carried out by The Or Foundation, an organization that works at the intersection of environmental justice, education, and fashion development to identify and manifest responsible alternatives to dominant business models, includes how pollution from clothing consumption is felt in communities and ecosystems throughout Ghana—especially in Accra where tons of textile waste inundate communities,” she further explained.

Tetteh worked hard to complete the longest recorded swim in Ghanaian history. The teenage activist claimed that when the trip got underway in Buipe on March 7, their first difficulty was getting their aluminum research vessel, which was constructed in Ghana, into the water. She and her expedition team gradually descended the Black Volta onto the Volta Lake, stopping along the route in towns and villages primarily to restock on supplies or have the boat repaired. To secure her safety in the water, Tetteh swam with the assistance of a kayaker.

The 30-year-old activist emerged from the water surrounded by community leaders, kids, and drummers after completing the arduous voyage.

“We are acting to stop waste colonialism and its disastrous impact on our environment and people. Our team begins with research, working in and with the affected communities, and I begin with the absurd idea that I can swim the length of the Volta River,” Tetteh wrote ahead of the expedition. She also told the BBC that swimming creates awareness about water bodies and water quality and gets people thinking about nature.

Tetteh prepared for the historic journey by swimming for 30 minutes in the pool at her mom’s house. “Swimming 450km of river in the name of research and environmental action is a wildly ambitious undertaking, but to feel yourself alive, whether in my mom’s pool or in the emerald waters of the Volta River, is a wondrous experience,” said Tetteh.

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