Meet Thomas Bitlegma – Diageo’s ‘Best Agribusiness and Environment’ Award Winner.

Thomas Naadi Bitlegma is a broadcast journalist with a profound interest in divulging issues that affect the citizens of Ghana. Thomas’s insightful documentary ‘E-waste Menace in Ghana’ and its portrayal of the effects of electronic waste on inhabitants within the Agbogbloshie area, earned him the coveted Diageo Best Agribusiness and Environment Award. The Diageo African Business Reporting Awards (DABRA) was held in London on the 17th of July 2013.

This outstanding young man has worked exceptionally hard to secure his place within the industry. His achievements were acknowledged with an award in 2011 by the National Road Safety Commission for being the ‘Best in Road Safety Reporting’ in Ghana. He has currently been nominated for an award by the Ghana Journalist Association.

Being able to tell a story in an effective way which brings about positive change, is one of the main things that drives Thomas in his career as a journalist. The E-waste documentary brought to light many failings about how regulators handle electronic waste and these findings are edging closer in the quest to find a solution to the problem.

We give Thomas Naadi Bitlegma a chance to tell his story….

How do you feel to possess the Diageo Best Agribusiness and Environment award? It feels great to be adjudged the winner of the ‘Best in the Agribusiness and Environment’ out of over 1,000 entries. I am particularly honoured to have shared the same platform with journalists from global media giants like the BBC world service to receive an international award.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career. I am a product of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, where I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and graduated with First Class Honours in 2007. I started my professional career at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) as an intern in 2004 while still in school. It was at Ghana television that I developed an interest in television news reporting. I received a lot of professional training from seasoned Broadcasters in the industry like: Napoleon Atto-Kitoe, Clare Banoeng Yakubo, Gifty Anti and several other top Broadcasters. My main duties included news reporting and production.

In August 2009, ETV Ghana gave me a job as an Assistant Editor and this gave me the opportunity to effectively deploy my talent as a budding journalist. I am currently an Assistant News Producer for Viasat 1

What did you set out to achieve with the E-waste investigation? The documentary ‘E-waste Menace in Ghanawas not part of my normal news assignments. It is a huge problem confronting the world today especially in developing countries like Ghana. I was shocked at the level of pollution at the Agbogloshie scrap yard. I felt that as a journalist it was my responsibility to tell the story in the most effective way, focusing on how to find a sustainable solution to the problem.

Were you intrigued by the findings and what caught your attention overall? Throughout my investigation, I uncovered that most of the people burning the electronic waste were being poisoned on a daily basis. Of particular concern were the children involved in the E-waste business. According to experts, the toxic emissions from the burning of discarded electronic gadgets, retards brain development in children and can seriously compromise their immune systems exposing them to other diseases. It also has devastating consequences on the environment. Most importantly, I discovered that most of the vegetables sold at a nearby Agbogbloshie market are polluted as a result of the toxic fumes from the scrap yard. Majority of Ghanaians buy vegetables from the said market for consumption. This is very disturbing.

What do you think the Ghanaian government ought to do to prevent such a menace? The Ghanaian government needs to promulgate laws to prevent the importation of electronic junk in the country. There is no law in Ghana now banning the importation of electronic waste.

What do you think about the Ghana UK Based Achievement (GUBA) Awards?  GUBA is a very good initiative. One of the many ways to encourage and motivate people is giving them the opportunity to share life experiences and achievements for others to emulate, and that is exactly what GUBA is doing. I am grateful to be profiled by GUBA.

Are you involved in other projects you will like to share? I am working on a programme aimed at educating and informing Ghanaians on critical issues of national development. The main challenge has been funding for the programme. Getting sponsors has proven to be a tough nut to crack but I am determined to see the programme materialized. In the area of electronic waste management, I am currently doing a project with City Waste Recycling limited to establish an E-waste village. The objective is to train the scrap dealers on how to safely remove the precious metals they desire without necessarily endangering their health and the environment.

As citizens, it is our responsibility to ensure that our environment is well taken care of. The toxic fumes from the disposed electronic waste are an endangerment to inhabitants in Accra. We hope that Thomas’s discovery raises awareness and causes the Ghanaian government to act and put in place relevant measures to solve the problem. GUBA would like to congratulate Thomas on his award and wish him all the best.

Thomas can be contacted via Facebook:

Share This :