US$230m required to recover degraded forest reserves

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Mr Abraham Baffoe (right), the Africa Regional Director of Proforest, explaining a point. With him are Dr Christopher Stewart (2nd right), Head of CRS, Olam International; Naoko Ishii (middle), CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility, and other dignitaries
Mr Abraham Baffoe (right), the Africa Regional Director of Proforest, explaining a point. With him are Dr Christopher Stewart (2nd right), Head of CRS, Olam International; Naoko Ishii (middle), CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility, and other dignitaries

The nation needs about US$230 million spread over a five year period to recover degraded forest reserves in five identified regions in the country, the Africa Regional Director of Proforest, Mr Abraham Baffoe, has said.

Already, he said the Forestry Commission had secured US$50 million of the needed amount from the World Bank and other partners to reclaim some of the high zone forest reserves in the Western, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central and Eastern regions.

Proforest is a unique non-profit group that supports companies, governments and other organisations to implement their commitments to the responsible production and sourcing of agricultural commodities and forest products.

At a session of a conference on deforestation by Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) in Accra, Mr Baffoe, who disclosed this, observed that the government alone would not be able to raise the required amount, hence the need for the private sector to support the initiative.

Mr Baffoe, whose outfit was briefed by the commission about the required amount for the reclamation of the forest reserves, explained that at the beginning of the last century, the government tried to set up forest reserves and the idea was to maintain those areas for the permanent management for forestry.

According to him, during that period, the country had eight million hectares of forest reserves, which about 1.8 million were reserved permanently for forestry.

Unfortunately, he said the country had presently lost the entire six million hectares, to the extent that even some of the permanent 1.8 million reserves had been converted to cocoa farms.

“So Ghana presently does not have the permanent 1.8 million hectare reserves which used to be good forest cover,” he added.

Reversing the trend

To reverse the trend, Mr Baffoe noted that players in the industry were collaborating to maintain and improve the remaining hectares of forest reserves through agroforestry and other initiatives to improve the carbon stock of those areas.

However, he said that could be achieved through policy decision by the government since most of the encroachers of the reserves were smallholder farmers.

“The present approach is that the small area left outside the forest reserve should be maintained as a forest, and we should also try and improve the forest cover outside the forest reserve.

“So basically what we are doing is to collaborate with the government to stop further encroachment to secure the rest of the forest,” he said.

The director stressed that the present challenge was that successive governments had done little to move the smallholder farmers from the country’s forests.

The conference

The conference was to address commodity-driven deforestation, an issue that has risen in global prominence since many major food and consumer goods companies committed to end deforestation in key supply chains in 2010.

These commitments were strengthened in 2014 when governments, businesses, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, calling for halving global deforestation rates by 2020 and ending it by 2030.

They were further reinforced by the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 and the Paris Agreement on climate change. All require ending and reversing global deforestation.

With the clock ticking, many major brands have indeed made bold commitments to remove deforestation from major commodity supply chains by 2020.

However, companies are being urged to communicate their plans and successes over the course of the next months, in order for governments to translate policies into action.

Africa’s tropical forests boast a rich biodiversity of over 23,000 plant and animal species, including three of the world’s four great apes: bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees.

Yet, Mr Baffoe said as in other continents, Africa’s forests were under pressure from agricultural production: rubber and especially palm oil and cocoa.

Mitigating climate change

The Head of CRS at Olam International, Dr Christopher Stewart, underscored that forests played an essential role in mitigating climate change as they removed carbon from the atmosphere to store it in biomass and soils.

“Tropical and temperate forests are effective carbon sinks,” he noted.

However, Dr Stewart said forests could become a source of GHG emissions when cleared or degraded.

“Africa’s rich tropical forests represent around 20 per cent of the world total but are under increasing pressure from agricultural production.

“In order to achieve deforestation-free commodity supply chains and balance economic development in the region, it is vital that we act collectively: ranging from the government, to the private sector, civil society and indigenous and community groups. The work of the TFA 2020, such as the Africa Palm Oil Initiative, is an important step towards this,” he stated.