US$236m needed to restore forest cover

A total of US$236million is needed over a period of five years to increase the country’s forest cover from a paltry 1.8million hectares to a healthy 5.9million hectares, research from the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, a global public-private partnership in which partners aim to reduce tropical deforestation, has shown.

Due to excessive deforestation, Ghana’s forest cover has dwindled from a high of 8.4million hectares as at 1900 to as low as 1.8million hectares, which, experts have pointed out, is in danger of depleting further.

The data shows that between 1990 and 2000, Ghana lost an average of 135,000hectares per annum and current deforestation rate is estimated to be between 3.2percent per annum.

“Government alone cannot raise that money and so we need to leverage support and funding from all the development partners, the private sector and civil society,” Abraham Baffoe, Africa Regional Director of Proforest, a partner of the TFA, said.

“If this money is spent, it will restore the forest cover which will increase yield in efficient cocoa and oil palm production, for the environment, and also increase livelihood for smallholder farmers.”

The dwindling forest cover, Mr Baffoe noted, is not just a danger to the environment due to changes in the climate but government is losing revenues at an alarming rate due to a significant reduction in timber, cocoa and oil palm production, which are major foreign exchange earners.

“Fifteen years ago, we had over 140 timber companies in Ghana. Now, I do not think we have up to 50. They have collapsed due to the lack of timber in the forests. If you do not have the resources, how are you going to produce the timber? Deforestation is not just an environmental issue but economical. The ramifications are huge,” he said.

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“Once these companies are collapsing, jobs are being lost, revenues are being lost. Government enjoyed good revenue from timber in terms of foreign exchange but a commodity that was the second highest earner in terms of FX is no longer in the top five. We have lost significant amounts of money and this is due to the loss of forest cover,” he added.

The Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GCFRP), which is seeking to restore the country’s forest cover, will encompass five regions in the high forest zones – Western, Ashanti, Central, Eastern and Brong Ahafo.

So far, Mr. Baffoe noted, only US$50million has been raised with the support of Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC), Touton S.A, Mondelez, the World Bank and other players.

The main goal of the GCFRP, according to Mr. Baffoe, is to improve land-use and socio-economic development in the High Forest Zone (HFZ) and cocoa growing areas of Ghana by increasing cocoa yield on farm lands through intensification, with climate smart practices whilst preventing the expansion of cocoa farms into forest lands.

“By so doing, deforestation and forest degradation would be reduced to the barest minimum to preserve Ghana’s HFZ in order to sustain its ecosystem functions and maintain a cultural heritage for future generations,” Mr. Baffoe noted.

Even though the project requires a lot of money, he indicated that stronger partnerships and leveraging support from the private sector would make the task easier.

“If we lose the forest, we will lose productivity. What is happening is that we have not managed to align the goals and objectives of the different stakeholders in the way that will be more efficient and synergise our efforts and that is what we need to look at. We have to make sure the private sector is contributing, civil society is supporting and government is also supporting.”

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