Reclaiming our lost forest cover

BY: Daily Graphic
President Akufo-Addo at COP 26 conference in Glasgow
President Akufo-Addo at COP 26 conference in Glasgow

Ghana plans to plant 20 million trees to restore its lost forest cover.

At least, this is the pledge our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, gave when he addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, last week.

The pledge is indicative of the fact that the Greening Ghana project is well on course.

It also gives some assurance that the earlier attempt in June this year to plant five million trees is doing so well, and that an encore is just a matter of course.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Ghana is one of the tropical countries with the highest percentage of rainforest loss in the world.

Ghana’s forest cover now stands at 1.6 million hectares (about four million acres), having reduced from 8.2 million hectares (20 million acres) in 1900, according to current statistics.

The country’s forest situation has been made dire as a result of unrestrained logging and the destruction of the remaining forest cover as a result of illegal mining and other unsustainable practices such as bush burning for farming purposes.

This is the more reason we see the government’s Greening Ghana project as an important step in the right direction, as it intends to restore our lost forest cover.

The well-known refrain: “When the last tree dies, the last man dies” is no fluke, as humans depend a lot on trees, not least to give the needed oxygen for us to breathe or take away the carbon dioxide and monoxide in the atmosphere brought about primarily through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Trees also offer us food, including mineral and vitamin-laden fruits for healthy growth, shade from the harmful ultra-violet rays of the sun, medicine, wood for furniture, paper for writing and packaging, rubber and other materials for manufacturing, shelter for wildlife; indeed, the list is endless.

Certainly, as President Akufo-Addo said at the Glasgow conference, embarking on aggressive afforestation would not only help protect forests and the environment but also mitigate the effect of climate change on Ghana.

The Daily Graphic sees as great news the President’s disclosure in Glasgow that under the National Forest Plantation Development Programme and the Ghana Forest Plantation Strategy, some 580,000 hectares of plantation has already been established.

The plan to plant 20 million trees as part of the larger vision of reclaiming some 7.6 million hectares of degraded forest and farmlands through the Youth in Afforestation programme, as revealed by the President, is a very laudable one which needs the support of all.

No Ghanaian disputes the fact that the government has taken a very good step to ensure that its destroyed forest is restored, with the double advantage of the country contributing to the fight against climate change, a global phenomenon plaguing all countries.

However, the Daily Graphic is not certain about the plan put in place to enable us to reap the full benefits of the Greening Ghana project.

Yes, we planted in excess of the initial five million trees earmarked for last June’s exercise, and we laud the Forestry Commission for leading the charge in that successful exercise.

However, before we continue with a similar and bigger exercise next year, as disclosed by the President, we need to take stock of the June exercise, correct what went wrong in terms of organisation and, more importantly, do an audit of the trees that were planted to see those that are still standing and growing well.

Effective monitoring and nurturing of the trees is very important if the Greening Ghana project will be impactful during its five-year duration and we hope to deepen the culture of tree planting among Ghanaians.

Also, we urge all Ghanaians to help police our trees and forests, while those engaged in the wanton destruction of our forests must desist from the practice, so that we enjoy the full benefits of the tree planting exercise.