President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo planting a tree to commemorate the 2024 Green Ghana Day.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo planting a tree to commemorate the 2024 Green Ghana Day.
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Green Ghana initiative: Beyond the figures

“Trees and forests play an essential role in mitigating the impact of climate change.

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Planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to contribute to the health of the planet.”  

“Forests are the lungs of our planet, drawing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen.  And trees improve our lives both on a grand scale and at the local level.” “Strategic planting of trees can help save the energy used for heating in winter and for air conditioning in summer, both very necessary in New York.”

These were the words of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, at a tree-planting ceremony hosted by the Netherlands on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, to mark the International Day of Forests.

This quote by the UN Secretary-General succinctly captures the importance of not only preserving a country’s green vegetation, but also taking proactive steps to restore degraded landscapes.

It is in the light of this that the Government of Ghana needs commendation for instituting the Green Ghana Day (GGD) initiative to plant more trees to help restore the country’s degraded landscape.

The GGD, which was instituted in 2021, is a tree-planting exercise spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Forestry Commission that rallies all stakeholders to plant trees across the country on one particular day in the year.

The numbers  

Over 42 million trees have been planted in the first three editions of the GGD initiative (2021 to 2023), with the number expected to hit at least 52 million when the trees planted this year are validated.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, watering a tree he planted on the Green Ghana Day.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, watering a tree he planted on the Green Ghana Day.

In the first edition, seven million trees were planted, while 24 million trees and 10.7 million tree seedlings were planted in 2022 and 2023, respectively. On June 7, this year, 13,875,286 seedlings were distributed for planting, with 60 per cent expected to be planted in forest reserves. As has been the case, a cross-sectoral team will go to the field to ascertain the number of seedlings that have actually been planted for this year.

Checks from the Forestry Commission showed that 13,368,185 of the total trees planted under the GGD initiative between 2021 and 2023 are in forest reserves while the remaining 28,492,696 are in off-reserve areas.

The statistics further revealed that the top five tree species that have been planted under the GGD project are Cedrela, 9,411,096; Teak, 9,043,061; Ofram, 8,180,554; Mahogany, 5,010,763; and Cassia, 3,407,581.

In terms of the regional breakdown, the statistics showed that the Ashanti Region recorded the highest number of trees with 10,956,518, followed by the Central Region with 4,060,883; Eastern, 3,842,234; Bono, 3,489,006; and Accra, 3,430,522.

The Western North Region placed sixth with 3,250,597 trees while Ahafo and Bono East had 2,588,241 and 1,953,501, with the Western and Savannah also planting 1,796,183 and 1,211,016 trees respectively.

Following in the pecking order are Northern Region with 1,063,219; Upper West, 933,901; Volta, 908,711; Oti, 889,965; Upper East, 795,783 and North East, 690,612. . 

Survival rate

Beyond the planting of millions of trees, there is the critical question about the need to nurture the trees to maturity. A field assessment report by the Forestry Commission revealed that averagely, 73.3 per cent of the about 42 million trees planted in the first three editions of the Green Ghana Day (GGD) project had survived.

Destruction caused by illegal miners to the Oda River Forest Reserve in the Bekwai Forest District in the Ashanti Region.

Destruction caused by illegal miners to the Oda River Forest Reserve in the Bekwai Forest District in the Ashanti Region.

The report showed that 67 per cent of the seven million trees planted in 2021 had survived and were doing well, while 72 per cent of the 24 million planted in 2022 were also blossoming. It added that out of the 10.7 million trees planted in 2023, about 81 per cent had survived the vagaries of the weather.

While the survival rate of the trees is quite impressive, it came to light that a number of external factors, including unpredictable rainfall patterns, wildfires and soil fertility accounted for wilting of some of the tree seedlings.

Beyond the numbers

The Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division (FSD) of the Forestry Commission, Hugh Brown, said the Green Ghana initiative was a major intervention that would help to fill the void created by deforestation and forest degradation.

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These trees planted in the Amama Forest Reserve at Sunyani Forest District in the Bono Region are blossoming.

These trees planted in the Amama Forest Reserve at Sunyani Forest District in the Bono Region are blossoming.

“If we are not planting trees and we are losing forests, the net is low; but if we are losing forest and reforesting, then the net is higher,” he said. Mr Brown stressed that “even as we focus attention on restoring degraded forest reserves, we should not lose sight of the fact that we need to protect what we have.”

He stressed that the Forestry Commission’s pre-occupation was to “protect the forests we have already and add on to it by planting more trees.” For the Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, an environmental non-governmental organisation, Daryl Bosu, until steps were taken by the government and other stakeholders to halt the wanton dissipation of the country’s forest reserves, the Green Ghana initiative would be a white elephant. 

“The government needs to support the Forestry Commission to secure all forest reserves from illegal activities such as mining and logging. There is no point in planting trees in one part of a forest while allowing degradation in another part due to neglect or harmful policies,” he stressed.

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The environmentalist stressed that it was “a significant waste of time to ask citizens to plant trees to green Ghana while the government simultaneously issues logging and mining concessions for forests planted by previous generations.”

Mr Bosu added that the government must repeal the Environmental (Mining in Forest Reserves) Regulation, 2022 Legislative Instrument (L.I 2462) to build trust and demonstrate its commitment to greening Ghana.

L.I 2462 prohibits mining in restricted or protected areas, including forest reserves. Section 3(1) of L.I 2462 states: “A person shall not issue a licence or permit to any person to undertake mining activity, including exploration activity in the following areas — a globally significant biodiversity area; a protected provenance area; an institutional research plot; a hill sanctuary; a high conservation value area; a seed orchard; swamp sanctuary; plantation sites and cultural sites.

However, Section 3(2) adds “Despite paragraph (a) of sub-regulation 1, the President may, subject to Article 268 of the Constitution, give approval, in writing, to a mining company to undertake mining activity in globally significant biodiversity area in the national interest.”

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Mr Bosu said such a development gave a leeway for the President to issue licence for mining to take place in forest reserves and must be repealed.
 

Why we must act

It is important for Ghana to prioritise afforestation and re-afforestation initiatives even as we also strengthen measures to protect our forest resources and the environment from destruction.

Trees planted in a forest at Hohoe in the Volta Region

Trees planted in a forest at Hohoe in the Volta Region 

This is because apart from the negative effects environmental degradation pose to us as a country, it also affects the global community. A 2017 United Nations University (UNU) report and a 2018 UNCCD report also state that Ghana has 35 per cent of its land under the threat of desertification.

They add that as a result of land degradation, grasslands, woodlands and forests are being lost while natural water bodies are drying up due to prolonged droughts and sedimentation of watercourses.

It is also estimated that the annual cost of land degradation in Ghana is US$ 1.4 billion, which is equal to six per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Writer’s e-mail: timothy,[email protected]

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