Ghana: Using Eco-Tourism To Resolve Deforestation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnvironmental degradation is taking a toll on Ghana. God has been so gracious to the country in granting us with favourable weather coupled with fertile soil and abundant rainfall for agricultural activities which sustain us.

The country abounds in natural resources, notably among them are gold, diamond, manganese, salt and oil. God gave us these resources for our benefit but our irresponsible usage of these gracious gifts is having far reaching consequences on us. In effect, we are abusing such golden opportunity to our own peril.

The forest is another resource that is so crucial to our very existence as my little knowledge in biology tells me that the oxygen we breathe is given by the plants and the carbon dioxide which we breathe out is also absorbed by the plants for photosynthesis. What a beautiful coexistence between man and plants designedby God, the Maker of the earth and everything therein.

According to ecologists, all creation is interdependent and the elimination of one item will have disastrous effects on the other.If the forest provides clear climate and controls climate change, then it gives credence to the fact that when the last tree dies the last man dies.

This is because without trees there will be no oxygen for sustenance so the last tree will definitely go with the last man. What a truism and simple logic!

Above all, the Word of God admonishes man “to take care of the Garden of Eden” (Gen. 2:15) where God put man after creation. It, therefore, behoves on man, to use the forest responsibly. But what do we see today? Day in day out, trees are being cut down and burned arbitrarily, not mindful of the consequences.

The forest has economic, socio-cultural and environmental values as it provides food, fuel-wood and timber for construction, besides serving as wind breaks and providing habitat for wildlife and checking erosion, absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby, reducing pollution and checking global warming.

I always love that serenity which comes over me when I get to the shade a treeprovides after being in a scorching sun for a long time. The difference is amazing – this is a glimpse of the sort ofbalance the forest gives for our comfort. Forest also generates foreign exchange for the country.

According to the Country Environmental Analysis, 2007, forestry and logging accounted for 3.7 % of our GDP in 2009 and contributed US$ 240.9 million, representing 7.6% of our total export value.

It also provides employment as about 120,000 Ghanaians are formally employed in the forest and wildlife sector. It also serves as a means of livelihood to about 2 million people and about 70% of the rural population depends on forest either directly or indirectly.

Regardless of these manifold benefits   to mankind, our country’s forest is under threat. Chain saw operators are exploiting the forest and destroying the environment coupled with a lot of wastage.

In as much as the forest should be used to our advantage, there is an over exploitation of the timber resources as for more than adecade, the official Allowable Cut of two million m3 is consistently exceededby an estimated 1.7million m3annually. For example, prime trees like the Mahogany which generate substantial   revenues for Ghana’s economy have drastically reduced.

Illegal chain saw operators are causing a lot of wastage and harm as the width of chainsaw machines they use is inappropriate for cutting woods, a lot of sawdust and trimming is done in their operations.

They also log indiscriminately as they go for immature trees and lack the requisite expertise in wood logging. Indeed for their selfish gains, illegal chainsaw operators cause a lot of degradation and wanton losses to the country.

In a bid to ensure sustainable utilization of the forest, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has come out with a new policy guideline –“GHANA FOREST & – WILDLIFE POLICY, 2012 ”to avert the devastating trend and address the shortcomings in the 1994 policy.

The new policy places more emphasis on non- consumptive values of the forest such as ecotourism development, watershed management, biodiversity conservation and payment for environmental developmental services, restoration of degraded landscapes which, hitherto were not recognized as potential elements of socio- economic development.

Thus, the emphasis has shifted from revenue generation from timber harvesting and exports to revenue generation through eco-tourism. Typical examples are the Kakum Natural Park, ShaiHills, Mole Natural Park and the recent project of converting the Achimota Forest to Eco-Park.

Another measure to address deforestation is the massive forest plantation development programme that aims at planting about 20,000 hectares per annum.   Also to clamp down the activities of the chainsaw operators in Ghana the Forest Commission has established a Rapid Response Team which has been resourced and deployed into hot spots to deal with the situation.

That apart, the Commission has obtained approval from the Attorney General to carry out prosecution of forest offences which was hitherto handled by the police.

It is in the light of this that we must all put our shoulder to the wheel to reverse the trend. Also, we must all embrace the reforestation concept and make tree planting second nature to us.

As a matter of urgency and in the interest of posterity, let us endeavor to leave the environment in a better shape to protect our own lives and the lives of the unborn generation.

As a nation, we condemn and declare war on the activities of illegal chain saw operators and be mindful of the saying“do not cut your nose to spite your own face.” As an Akan proverb which says “se wotwa wotekyerema toto we a, wo nyae enam biara nwei” to wit if you cut your own tongue and smoke it to eat, you have not eaten any good meat.

By Victoria Antwi-Sarpong

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