It is the reason why the United Nations declared March 21, every year as world as World international day of forests.
This year’s theme is: “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being.”
A Rocha Ghana, an environmental Non-Governmental Organization in a statement signed by its Deputy National Coordinator Mr Daryl Bosu and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra highlighted the values, and economic costs of forest as well as reiterated key actions for Ghana towards an accelerated intervention of restoring the country’s lost forest heritage.
The statement said forest ecosystems in their various nature and forms all over the world provided critical ecosystem services that provided habitat to over 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, provided services for agricultural production by improving soil fertility and water generation, through the protection of water bodies and rivers.
It said forests in Ghana supported several households and businesses with non-timber forests products (NTFPs) like medicinal plants, mushrooms, snails, bushmeat and materials like rattan for cane chairs and climbers and ropes for building and many other livelihood services.
According to the statement the World Bank Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) Report, indicated that 60 per cent of the population, including 53 per cent of women, are employed by the agriculture and forestry sectors and 14 per cent of the population lived in forest-fringe communities and directly depended on forests for one-third of their livelihood resources and income.
It said the Economic of Ecosystems Services Study of the Atewa Forest in 2016 identified the Atewa Range Forest Reserve as a crucial water tower that supported more than one million people in Accra, including industries, urban families, and rural communities and farms with water services.
It said the annual value of downstream water consumption from the two main river basins that had their source in the Atewa Range was more than United Stares $28 million in 2016, according to the same study, forests served as the main source of plant materials for the traditional medicine industry, valued at over $30 million/year, as most streams and rivers across the country takes their source or are protected by the network of forests across the country from the south to the north.
The statement said forest loss in Ghana was as result of threats from logging both legal and illegal, encroachment from farming activities both for food crops and cash crops, wood fuel harvesting and charcoal production, wildfires and in recent times, mining activities both legal and illegal for gold, and other minerals like bauxite.
It said the World Bank estimated that net forest loss in Ghana which was valued at $1.578 billion in 2010 rose to $3.134 billion in 2017.
According to a report by the World Resources Institute, Ghana’s rainforest is rapidly disappearing, adding that, in 2018 alone, the country saw an alarming 60 per cent decrease in primary rainforest.
“This 60 per cent decrease in primary rainforest was the highest percentage of rainforest loss of any tropical country. Several studies conducted on the perception of forest loss, had respondents expressing concern for the increasing forests loss across the country,” the statement added.
It said the State of the Environment Report 2016 by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation as well as the World Bank CEA Report of April, 2020 identified forest loss as presenting a tremendous risk for Ghana’s development.
According to the statement, the alarming trend of forests loss, indicated that all was not well, despite several institutional mechanisms and funding support that the sector has received. The theme for this year’s International Day of Forests should be used as a launch pad, to rally all stakeholders to put the country on a pathway of restoration and recovery.
It noted that this year’s theme also fitted into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a call for the protection and revival of ecosystems around the world and therefore a great opportunity for Ghana to tap into these regional and global mechanisms of recovery and restoration, in deeds and not just in words.
“As we reflect on the theme of restoration of forests as a pathway to recovery and wellbeing, we take the opportunity to share some invaluable policy interventions that are crucial to bringing back our forests and enhancing the goods and services that forests provide Ghanaians”.
Protect Existing Forests from further Depletion: The statement said it was of utmost importance and urgency, that Ghana took steps to ensure that the network of 200 state gazetted forest reserves dotted across the country were protected from further depletion, through resourcing the Forestry Commission to undertake their protection and forest resource use regulatory functions. Critically, increasing incidence of allocating mining concessions and galamsey activities in forest reserves must be halted immediately.
Restoration of Depleted Forests Should Prioritize Forest Functions over economic timber production functions: It said it was commendable to observe that several state and bilateral sponsored programmes were working or were in the pipeline with the objective to bring back forests where they once stood.
“We must plant the right trees at the right place: The statement stressed that Ghana must definitely plant more trees to restore our depleted forests and also contribute to climate mitigation and building community resilience and however reiterated the need to ensure that all tree planting activities across the country must ensure that the right trees were planted at the right places.
“Tree Tenure Reforms is imperative to growing more forests in Ghana: It said communities and farmers have for centuries nurtured trees on their farms only for the trees to be cut down by timber merchants without compensation. This has led to a culture where farmers no longer nurture trees to avoid/prevent timber felling activities on farmlands, which eventually lead to crop losses. Individuals and farmers want to nurture and care for more trees and these must be supported by the appropriate management and benefit sharing regulations.
“Standing forests is more valuable than cut trees: The statement said, Ghana’s extractive economy policy pathway was not sustainable and needs to give way to recovery and sustainable development pathways that secures forests and the ecosystem services they provide and further promoting wellbeing and development in harmony with nature.
“There is a global paradigm shift to green developments pathways that places emphasis on nature-based solutions that secures forests and enhances natures gifts, goods and services. We have said all the good things about staying true to Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15 but we are yet to see dedicated actions to that effect. Let that action start with excluding Atewa Forest from Ghana’s Integrated Aluminium Development program, “Atewa Forest is given much more than bauxite.”
“Our quest to recovery from COVID-19, Climate Change, Global Biodiversity loss and Depleting quality of life lies in our ability to restore nature and make nature work for us. We can do that by restoring what is lost and each and every one of us has a role to play. Spread the word and let your actions count,” It added.