As the world celebrates World Wildlife Day, the government of Ghana has been urged to abandon with immediate effect, plans to convert a critical watershed like Atewa Range Forest into a bauxite mine pit

A statement issued by the environmental NGO, A Rocha Ghana to commemorate the day also urged government to halt with immediate effect the current land conversion ongoing in most forest reserves across the country as a result of illegal mining activities, adding that, mining is not compatible with forest reserves and the services they provide Ghanaians.

According to the statement, government and state institutions should recommit to enforcing existing regulations on forest management, with the Forestry Commission in particular recommitting and dedicating to its core management and vision.

“All state protected forest estates should be adequately resourced both in terms of personnel and logistics to improve security for these areas. There is a need for inclusive and incentive based collaborative engagement with communities neighbouring these estates. As we encourage shared responsibility, government and state agencies should commit and ensure a transparent share in the benefits accruing from sustainable forest management”, the statement said.

The statement also called for a stop in political interference in the work of forest resource managers. It said, politicians should leave forest management to the technicians, noting that, the interference and control in the work of the forest resource management is too much.

Protecting Ghana’s Forests

The recent World Bank Ghana Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) report of 2020 based on analysis of data from 2001-2015 indicated that, Ghana’s annual deforestation rate was approximately 3.51 percent, equating to yearly losses of greater than 315,000 hectares (ha). Total deforestation during this time period surpassed 4.7 million ha, of which over 84 percent (3.98 million ha) occurred in open forests, compared to 16 percent (745,326 ha) in closed forests.

According to the statement, deforestation in Ghana is attributed to overexploitation of natural resources through illegal and unsustainable logging and mining, and agricultural expansion, coupled with land tenure insecurity.

“Ghana’s deforestation pathway is characterized by incremental degradation over time. Time and time again we have heard that government in its wisdom had embarked on sustainable management plans for the country’s forest and its resources, but on the ground, we seem to be doing little in building resilience for communities who are most affected by the depletion of the forest regions. A clear case of this mishap is the inclusion of the Atewa forest (one of the last two upland forests in Ghana) in targeted areas for bauxite mining When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go, the entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us”, it said.

Importance of Forests

According to the United Nations, between 240 and 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas globally, relying on the various ecosystem services provided by forests and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their most basic needs, including food, shelter, energy and medicines. Wood and non-timber forest products also make up a fifth of incomes in rural households in developing economies with access to forest resources, and the forest sector powers over 80 million jobs globally.

“When we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house, we should be quick to make a connection with forests. Forests supply wild fruits, bush meat, mushrooms and snails, which contributes directly to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 on Zero Hunger and also the medicinal plants that forest supply contribute to SDG-3 on Good Health and Well-being of the people” A Rocha revealed in a statement.

“When we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house, we should be quick to make a connection with forests. Forests supply wild fruits, bush meat, mushrooms and snails, which contributes directly to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 on Zero Hunger and also the medicinal plants that forest supply contribute to SDG-3 on Good Health and Well-being of the people” A Rocha revealed in a statement.

“In Ghana, forests also play a crucial role in the achievement of the SDG 6―Clean Water and Sanitation as most of the country’s water sources take their heads from forest reserves. For instance, over 5 million people depend on water from the Atewa forest―the Densu, Birim and Ayensu Rivers (major sources of water) take their root from Atewa Forest. The importance of forests therefore cannot be underestimated” it added.

About the World Wildlife Day

The United Nations (UN) World Wildlife Day (WWD) is a universal celebration of the beautiful and richly diverse forms of wild animals and plants on our planet. It is also an occasion to raise awareness of the many benefits they provide to people and to drive discussions and work towards transformative change on the urgent threats facing them.

WWD takes place annually on the 3rd of March. This year, WWD is being celebrated on the theme, “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.” The aim is to stress the immense value of forests and forest-dwelling wildlife species and for the economic, social and cultural well-being of communities around the world.

It also underlines the importance of sustainable use of forests and forest species in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero hunger) 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land).