Yvette Tetteh Swims to Stop Waste Colonialism

Imagine clean, clear water bodies in which communities can fish and swim without being fearful for their health! 

This vision and target is why Yvette Tetteh, an agribusiness entrepreneur and CEO of Yvayva Farms, literary winner of the Koffi Addo Prize for Non-Fiction in 2016, an activist and a Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC) Cohort 6 entrepreneur, has swum a total of 350km across the Volta River, from Buipe to Akosombo, in the longest known swim expedition in West African history.  This was possible after a year and a half of scientific research by The Or Foundation into the environmental impact of secondhand clothing waste flowing through Ghana, which is one of the largest recipients of used clothing in the world. 

As well as swimming between 10 to 20 kilometers every day, Yvette, and the expedition crew of the Or Foundation’s accompanying research vessel, The Woman Who Does Not Fear, take water, and air samples every day to check for microfibers and microplastics following the same protocols as The Or Foundation team gathering samples in Accra to raise awareness about Textile Pollution.  

 On 1st May 2023, she swam the last 100km stretch south of the Akosombo Dam to the Gulf of Guinea with the crew to raise awareness about the impact of waste colonialism on the ecosystems that give life to millions of people throughout the region. 

The project, called the Agbetsi Living Water Swim, is tracking the impact of textile waste throughout the country. “Agbetsi” is an Ewe word, for living water, reflecting the team’s passion to keep Ghana’s waterways alive. 

The Or Foundation has also released “The Untold Stories from The Volta”, a series of 12 commissioned stories from along the expedition route accessible through the campaign website as Yvette swims past the location of each story. 

Yvette reasons that, with the same approach that she undertook the swim; stroke by stroke, so too can Ghanaians tackle the cleaning of the polluted Korle Lagoon that was once considered a sacred swimming hole and source of food for Accra natives. 

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