The Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Opanin has stated that, the traditional authority would not be in support of any bauxite exploration in the Atewa Forest reserve.

With regards to mining in the forest reserve, the Okyenhene said: “Twenty years ago when I came on (the throne), we were talking about bauxite, I informed the Government that we don’t need bauxite exploration. This country has been mining for over a hundred years, and look at this; what we have to show is destruction, all kinds of respiratory diseases that come to our people.”

The Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin stated this when a delegation of the UN in Ghana paid a courtesy call at his Palace in Kyebi in the Eastern Region.

The statement by the revered Chief would come as a disappointment to the Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation (GIADEC), who have been courting his support to enable them develop an integrated aluminium industry in Ghana, by fully harnessing the nation’s Bauxite resources including the Atewa forest reserve which is a biodiversity hotspot.

A treasure of biodiversity

Attempts by government through GIADEC to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest reserve have been met with a stiff opposition from Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders, describing the forest as a treasure of biodiversity and a ‘no go area’ for bauxite mining.

Located in Ghana’s Eastern Region, Atewa Forest forms part of the threatened Upper Guinea Forest, one of the world’s global biodiversity hotpots. Atewa Forest is a Protected Forest Reserve, a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and meets the conditions for Alliance for Zero Extinction status.

The forest is home to many endangered, endemic and rare plants and animals, over 100 of which are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Four species are listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, and many more as vulnerable. The forest is also home to five species believed to be endemic to the forest, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth.

The forest is also the source for the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water for some five million people, including residents of the capital, Accra.

Restriction to protect the nation’s resources

According to the Okyenhene, it was important that restrictions were put in place to protect the nation’s forest, rivers and other water bodies from degradation.

He said, to ensure sustainability of the nation’s rich natural resources and biodiversity, there was a need for local community ownership in their management.

He noted that, climate change was real and it was imperative to act to save the earth from further destruction.

The Okyenhene said, his forebearers knew the importance of conserving nature, that was why they prevented people from farming close to river banks and other water bodies.

The 2.3-million-dollar grant for FOREST Okyeman

Mr Charles Abani, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ghana, has announced a 2.3-million-dollar grant in support of the Fostering Reforestation, Environmental Sustainability and Tourism in the Okyeman Area (FOREST Okyeman).

The grant is to support biodiversity conservation in five of the 14 districts of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area in the Eastern Region.

The amount is made up of one million dollars from the UN Human Security Trust Fund to implement development initiatives together with the Okyeman Environment Foundation and other stakeholders.

This will be supported with co-funding of another $1.3 million dollars from the participating UN Agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme (UNV) together with OEF, to address multiple development issues and provide an impetus to sustain the process.

"We acknowledge that this is a drop in the ocean however, our hope is that it will support and empower local structures to respond to some of these challenges and help leverage the opportunity to mobilize more resources," Mr Abani said.

He said, over the three-year period, the programme is expected to benefit about 1.3 million people (671,921 women and 505,907 children between the ages of 0-14 years) spanning across five out of the 14 districts in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area of the Eastern Region.

The project will support local initiative to plant three million trees over the next three years to restore degraded landscapes and create awareness on best agroforestry practices in the region.

The goal is to plant fast maturing tree species that can be harvested periodically for its economic benefits and regrown and establish renewable forestry plantations for the communities.

Mr Abani said as livelihood was a critical issue, an absence of which many were forced into illegal mining and exploitation of the natural resources, the programme would explore and establish community-based alternative livelihood interventions for youth, women and vulnerable population by piloting the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) mechanism in consultation with local groups, and the Okyeman Environment Foundation.

"We would build capacity of local structures to make considerable investment in the reforestation programme and manage their natural resources," he stated.

He said this would be hinged on sustainable environmental governance and management, ecotourism, livelihoods empowerment, and the promotion of better health and education outcomes.

Mr Abani commended the Okyenhene for his active work, particularly through the Okyeman Environment Foundation, to address issues related to the environment, health and education.

On his part, Dr Eugene Owusu, the Presidential Adviser on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reiterated Ghana’s commitment towards mitigating the impact of climate change while ensuring the sustainable use of resources.

He lauded the great vision of the Okyenhene around environmental sustainability, which "deals with the essential threats that climate change poses for the world as a whole."