Ghana on Wednesday joined the global community to mark the International Biological Diversity Day with a call on Ghanaians to join in focusing on biodiversity as the foundation for the country’s food and health.
The citizenry were also urged to help protect biodiversity as a catalyst to transform food systems and improve human well being.
Biological diversity refers to all the variety of life that can be found on earth for plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they lived.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), who made the call on Wednesday, said because of the importance of biodiversity to the survival of humans and plants, there is the urgent need for all and sundry to help promote local and indigenous biodiversity for food and nutrition.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng was speaking at a forum held in Accra to mark the Biodiversity Day, which was locally themed: “Promoting our Indigenous Foods and Medicines; A Catalysts for achieving the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda”.
The international theme was “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”, and the theme was intended to create awareness of the dependency of our food systems, nutrition and health on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
The observance of the day was to help celebrate the diversity provided by the natural systems for human existence and well-being on Earth, while contributing to sustainable Goals 15 (Life on land), 14 (Life below water), 2 (Zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being, as well as 13 (climate action) and 6 (Clean water and sanitation), simultaneously.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said all over the world, countries had witnessed the disappearance of a number of indigenous crop varieties and medicines, which had given rise to the disappearing of agro-biodiversity, with essential knowledge of traditional medicine and local food being on the decline.
He said research had also indicated that the loss of diverse diets was directly linked to disease or health risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, malnutrition and also had direct impact on the availability of traditional medicines.
Ghana as a State Party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was equally challenged with an increasing taste of Ghanaians for exotic foods and medicines at the expense of the indigenous dishes and medicines, which was evident in the food menus for most restaurants in the country.
“Even in our homes, parents are under pressure to serve junk foods at the expense of our rich and nutritious indigenous dishes with ingredients such as kontomire, mushrooms, snails, etc, due to their busy schedules.
“On a large scale the problem has been compounded by the effects of climate change and the use of arable land for construction and other purposes”, Prof Frimpong-Boateng said.
According to the Minister, Ghana’s transition to green economy and the attainment of the SDGs could not be achieved without its dependency on its rich indigenous foods and medicine.
He said, there is the need for an integrated system to embrace the consumption of indigenous food and medicines, which would serve as a catalyst for Ghana to attain its aspirations of becoming a country beyond Aid.
He advised the citizenry to particularly take actions in reducing the consumption of red meat, and eat and purchase seasonal foods, while resorting to buying local foods.
He said people should also learn to reduce food wastage, compost their food scraps, reduce food packaging by using reusable bags or reusing glass jars or containers, as well as, avoid the single-use plastics such as straws, disposable cups and cutlery, take-away Styrofoam containers or plastic water bottles.
The Minister announced that the Government on its part, through MESTI, had developed a draft National Biodiversity Policy, which would ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity as a national heritage for equitable benefits to present and future generations of Ghanaians.
The objectives of the policy, he said, were to mainstream biodiversity conservation issues into all sectors of the economy, improve the status of biodiversity, and to promote the sustainable utilization of biodiversity.
“The development of the Biodiversity Policy has become more critical in recent times, given the rate at which we are losing our biological resources to exotic species,” he said.
Mrs Levina Owusu, Chief Director of MESTI, who chaired the Forum, urged all stakeholder institutions to work together to ensure that Ghana protected and sustained its biodiversity through responsible living.
Most of the other speakers emphasized the need for the state and citizens to enforce and obey regulations that protected the environment.