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Civil Society worried about depletion of Ghana’s forests

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forestGhana’s recent impressive annual growth rate of between six to seven percent cannot be sustained if the rate of depletion of the country’s natural resources and environment are not checked, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the sector have noted.

It is estimated that the country loses some 10% of its GDP “through unsustainable management of this resources and through environmental health costs related to water supply and sanitation.” This is further explained as Ghana losing one percent annually of its potential economic growth.

Meanwhile, over 70% of Ghana’s population is said to be dependent on natural resources for their basic food, water and energy requirements. Indeed, figures contained in the 2007 Country Environmental Analysis indicates that the forestry, wildlife and mining sectors account for 15% of GDP, 25% of government revenues, and 60% of foreign exchange.

The Natural Resource and Environmental Governance (NREG) programme is an initiative by the government of Ghana with support from donors to ensure better management of the country’s environment and forestry resources.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning which is coordinating the programme, “strengthening environmental governance is fundamental to ensuring that our natural resources contribute to greater wealth and sustainable economic growth.” This requires the capacity for better regulation and management, more efficient utilization of natural resources; more effective capture of the economic values of the resource, better collection of revenues and greater equity in the distribution of benefits from resource exploitation.”

The NREG programme, the first phase of which is expected to end by 2012, recognizes the role of CSOs working in the sector and has thus “agreed to establish a civil society support mechanism.” The mechanism is expected to “enable more systematic interactions within civil society and with state institutions and development partners working with natural resource and environmental governance in Ghana.”

The Royal Netherlands Embassy is thus supporting an interim civil society support mechanism called Kasa – the Twi word for “speak out.”

Kasa is a two-year short term intervention and is being implemented by CARE International and other development organizations. It has the specific objectives of among other things promoting evidence based research and advocacy into the NREG programme targets and building the capacities of “a limited number of CSOs and media organizations” in the area.

In this regard, a consultative forum has being held in Accra, which forum brought together a cross section of the NGO community in the sector to deliberate on how them can together use the Kasa platform for their mutual benefit.

Mr. Franklin Ashiadey of the Ministry of Finance, who is the Coordinator of NREG, noted that for the programme to be effective there was the need to build the capacity of civil society to engage in the policy dialogue and hold government accountable.

The head of Mission of Care International, Marcy Vigoda said one of the objectives of Kasa “is to contribute to the thinking on what a longer term facility might look like.” She expressed hope that civil society would “critique the NREG targets, they will suggest alternatives. Sometimes, this will be uncomfortable but ultimately the debate that happens will lead to better outcomes for all.”

Source: The Chronicle

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