The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel A. Jinapor has disclosed that the government will soon begin an aggressive afforestation programme to help revegetate and sustain the forest reserves of the country.

This programme which he said will be done in collaboration with the central government, will ensure the restoration of the forest cover of Ghana.

He said this when he met with officials from the three main agencies of the Ministry at the Western North Regional Coordinating Council.

During the meeting, Mr Jinapor asked for the support of all the agencies to help manage efficiently the lands and its resources.

The Minister said "the matters of the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry has to do with the survival and progress of the country. When you talk about the forest, the lands and the minerals of our country, that is our country and, therefore, needs to be protected".

He added "The forest resources of our country has been managed, exploited and utilised in a manner which has rendered it unsustainable."

Mr Jinapor, therefore, reiterated that until such a time that the forest resources of the country bounces back and can be sustained, the ban he placed on the harvesting and exploitation of forest reserves remains.

An advisory committee he said has been set up to think through ways to help bring back the life of Ghana's forest reserves and also to fashion out an intelligent way forward on how the forest can be exploited in a sustainable manner.

Mr Jinapor pointed out that if the forest reserve of the country is not exploited, there are industries which will suffer because they depend on the forest for their raw materials to stay in business but he noted that if it must be done, then it must be done well.

Ghana struggles to control depleted forest

Ghana is known for having rich natural resources including vast tracts of rainforest. But its primary forest has all but vanished, with what remains generally relegated to reserves scattered throughout the country.

These reserves are under official protection. However, that hasn’t stopped logging and other illegal activities from deforesting them.

Currently, the country's forest cover stood at 1.6 million hectares from 8.2 million hectares witnessed in 1900.

Analysis of satellite data published by U.S.-based World Resource Institute (WRI), continue to expose the rate at which Ghana is losing its forest reserve. In 2019 for example, it found out that, Ghana experienced the biggest relative increase in primary forest loss of all tropical countries last year. According to the report, the loss of Ghana’s primary forest cover jumped 60 percent from 2017 to 2018 – almost entirely from its protected areas.

WRI found that while mining and logging were partly to blame for Ghana’s deforestation, the expansion of cocoa farms was the main culprit.

The Green Ghana Project and skepticism

Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, embarked on planting five million tree seedlings countrywide on June 11, as part of the Green Ghana Project, dubbed "Green Ghana: Let’s Go Planting Five Million Trees in One Day”.

The tree-planting programme was to spark the increase of forest cover and to help address the issue of climate change.

The Eco Warriors Movement, a youth led NGO, has however raised questions regarding the sustainability of Ghana’s restoration agenda, especially with the Green Ghana Project.

According to the movement, even though the commitment to green Ghana is laudable and pledged their support, they are skeptical about the sustainability trajectory of current developments in the nation’s restoration agenda.

“To this end, we want to express some concerns. On August 13, 2018, the government launched the Youth in Afforestation Programme in Kumasi. The programme employed 100,000 youth to plant trees as part of the Ghana Forest Investment Programme (GFIP) and we want progress report on the Youth in Afforestation Programme.

The youth led NGO in a statement also demanded to know the progress report on the Youth in Afforestation Programme and the number of trees that have been planted through the Programme after almost three years of implementation.

“What is the survival rate and the monitoring strategy adopted. Above all, what valuable lessons and challenges have been learnt to scaling-up the initiative”? the statement asked.