Deforestation In Ghana: New Challenges And New Strategies
The natural environment is now regarded by many as being at risk from the harmful influence of industrialization and human activities, hence the urgent need for its protection from further harm and depletion. The protection requires:
a. Reduction, control and elimination of existing causes of damage to the environment
b. The Prevention of additional forms of damage
c. The preservation and natural use of the environment
The importance of forest cannot be over emphasized. The forest produces both tangible and intangible benefits. The tangible benefits are timber and non-timber product meant for domestic use and export. Intangible benefits include control of erratic rainfall, climatic stability, soil improvement, agricultural productivity and windbreaks.
The Holy Bible says “…for the tree of the field is man’s life” [Deuteronomy 20:19, King James Version]. Therefore, to have a forest is a blessing.
Indira Ghandhi, Prime Minister of India also said, “When the last tree dies, the last man dies”.
Today, one of Ghana’s principal environmental problems confronting both public and private sectors of the society is deforestation.
It is true that deforestation is not limited to one geographic region or one set of culture, instead is a shared problem of the international community. Virtually in every country, people are destroying valuable forests either for the purpose of living or trade. The questions this paper attempts to answer include: What role is Ghana playing domestically to rescue deforestation which is occurring around the world at such an unprecedented pace? What strategies can be used to reverse the trend?
II. DEFORESTATION TREND IN GHANA
For various reasons, such as logging and clearing of forests for cash crops cultivation, the rainforest in Ghana has been decreasing rapidly and significantly. Ghana’s forest area is decreasing gradually from 7,447,854 hectares in 1990, to 6,093,906 hectares in 2000 and 5,516, 932 hectares in 2005. The deforestation rate from 1990 to 2000 was 18.2% giving a deforestation rate of about 1.8% per year.
The impact of deforestation is widespread, affecting the livelihoods of local people, disrupting important environmental functions and severely destroying the original forest ecosystem. There is a serious concern in Ghana about climatic change, soil erosion and large-scale desertification. Since independence in 1957, the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes has been part of the Ghanaian economy. It was not until the start of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) in 1981 that deforestation has become a serious concern for the governments and private organizations. Today, timber is Ghana’s third most important export commodity after cocoa and minerals. Timber exports have increased in terms of volume and revenue since the introduction of ERP, rising from millions in 1983 to 100 millions in 1988. Ghana’s total exports of timber and wood products for the first nine months of 2008 increased to 430,100m³, a 7.7% rise when compared to the same period in 2007. The corresponding total revenue for the first three quarters also increased 4.2% to EUR144.42 million in 2008, up from EUR135.55 million in 2007. But, as the volume and value of timber exports increase, deforestation also increases at the same rate with other related consequences. Ghana’s tropical forest area is now just 25 percent of its original size. The main causes of deforestation in Ghana are:
Timber logging (cutting of the rain forest);
Wrong and primitive agricultural practices in forest areas;
Illegal Chain Saw Operation
Urban and industrial expansion and their reliance on forest products;
Road and railway constructions;
Exploitation for fuel-wood and non-timber forest products
Surface and deep mining of gold, diamonds and other minerals.
III. IMPACT OF DEFORESTATION
This can be looked at from two perspectives: Impact on the natural environment and impact on sustainabledevelopment
The impact of deforestation on the natural environment are numerous, some of which are reversible whilst others are not. In summary, the notable effects in Ghana include:
Soil erosion and soil nutrients depletion
Climate change with extreme weather conditions
Flooding and landslides
Drying up of streams and rivers/ shortage of fresh water
Loss of wildlife habitat
Forest areas changing into Savanna /desertification
The continuous loss of forest is indeed having serious detrimental effect on sustainable development. The key impacts are:
Increasing inability of the forest to meet the demand for wood and wood products;
Poverty, disease and death.
Sustainable development involves judicious use of a nation’s resources to meet the needs of its people in a manner that is in harmony with the physical environment. The current trend of deforestation, if not reversed now, will cause not only the extinction of thousands of animal and plant species but also lead to a significant change in the country’s development pattern and progress.
IV. STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING GHANA’S DEFORESTATION PROBLEM
Until the late 1980s, efforts to resolve deforestation problem, was largely cosmetic, ad hoc and lacked a strategic overview of the impact of environmental decisions and actions on different natural and socio-economic environments. Prior to 1994 various governmental bodies existed to deal with protection and management of particular aspects of the environment including the forests. These bodies operated, in most cases, in total absence of co-ordination of their efforts and without any effective collaboration. This caused traditional institutional problem like duplication of monitoring, overlap in international support efforts, and problems of enforcement of regulations. Most of these bodies were also inadequately equipped to handle their mandates. This is valid both in the sense of available resources for environmental impact assessment and in the sense of trained staff, capable of making good environmental judgments.
Increasing population leads to increasing demand on forest resources, hence conservation of forest resources is required in the following areas:
Control of removal of forest resources (legal and institutional control);
Land use classification should be pursued and land earmarked for forestry should be maintained;
Marginal lands which are not suitable for agriculture could be reforested and put under effective and sustainable management;
To find or develop substitutes for tangible forest produce;
Forest reserves and tree growing/reforestation programmes should be pursued vigorously.
V. MECHANISMS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF STRATEGIES
The following mechanisms for implementation of strategies are recommended:
1. Functional Legislation and Coordination of Activities
There are more laws governing forests in Ghana than any other sector of the environmental. The instruments include: Environmental Protecting Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490); Trees and Timber (Amendment) Act, 1994 (Act 493);
Forestry Commission Act, 1999 (Act 571); Forest Protecting (Amendment) Act 2002, (Act 624); Forest Plantation Development Fund Act, 2000, (Act 583) Control and Prevention of Bushfires Act, 1990; Timber Operations Act; Timber Resources Management Regulations Act, 1998; Timber Industry and Ghana Timber Marketing Board Act, 1977. There is the need for codification of these laws and legislative bodies which deal directly with deforestation problems and their activities should be coordinated in order to enhance cooperation and reduce duplication and conflict. The laws regarding our forest conservation should be strictly enforced with exemplary punitive and deterrent penalties.
2. Forestry Policy
The state is, under Article 36(9) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, enjoined to take appropriate measures needed to protect and safeguard the natural environment for posterity and seek cooperation with other states and bodies for the purpose of protecting the wider international environment for mankind. In the light of this constitutional provision, there is the need for a clear cut national policy on forest conservation and deforestation. The Ministries concerned with forestry and other stake holders should come together and draw an effective short, medium and long-term forestry policy for Ghana. The policy should vigorously address the following:
Dissemination of deforestation related information and education;
Research activities in deforestation;
Management of forest resources;
Monitoring programmes and international co-operation in forest management;
Common approach to regional and global deforestation;
Implementation of forestry policies.
In the international sphere, Ghana needs to seriously observe its obligations under Conventions to which it is a party, such as the International Timber Agreement and the African Convention on Nature and Natural Resources (1969). Ghana should also give consent by ratifying other instruments related to protection of the forests and their resources.
3. Promotion and enhancement of the roles of institutions, governmental and non governmental organizations
There is the need to coordinate and promote the activities of governmental and non-governmental organizations involved with the ecological crises of deforestation. The bodies could includes: The parliamentary committee on agriculture, nutrition, forestry, conservation and rural development; Friends of Earth Ghana; Green Earth Organization; Ghana Agricultural Workers Union; Ghana Timber
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