An initiative to promote technical cooperation between Ghana and South Korea to address the challenge of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana has commenced.
As part of the implementation process of the initiative, stakeholders in the forest sector met in Accra yesterday to discuss how Ghana can tap South Korea’s experience to ensure sustainable forest management.
The one-year pilot cooperation, which is being facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will focus on wild fire management and the creation of awareness of the need to protect forests and the planting of trees.
Dubbed: “Development solutions: Partnerships on sustainable forest”, the triangular cooperation will see Ghana benefiting from $70,000 from the government of South Korea, while Ghana will source additional funding from other areas.
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Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Assistant Resident Representative of the UNDP, Mr Louis Kuukpen, said statistics available indicated that Ghana’s forests had seen significant deterioration since the turn of the century.
Between 1990 and 2010, he said, Ghana lost an average of 125,400 hectares, representing 1.68 per cent of forest cover per year, and since then the deforestation rate had been about two per cent per year, representing a loss of 65,000 hectares of closed forest per year.
On benefits of the forest, he said it supplied wild fruits, bush meat, mushrooms and snails which contributed directly to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Two, which focuses on Zero Hunger.
Additionally, Mr Kuukpen said, medicinal plants contributed to SDG Three on Good Health and Well Being for People, while forest products which supplied household income for local families contributed to the achievement of SDG One on No Poverty.
In terms of environmental benefits, he said the forest provided shelter for terrestrial biodiversity, which was in line with SDG 15 on Life on Land.
Forests, he said, were a natural means for carbon capture and storage, which helped to stabilise the climate and contributed to SDG 13 on Climate Action.
On the effect of wild fires on the country’s forest, Mr Kuukpen said it had been estimated that the total land area prone to wild fire or bush fire annually ranged from 30 per cent in the High Forest and Transitional Zones to more than 90 per cent in the Dry Northern Savannah Zones.
The multifaceted effect of wild fire, he stated, included altering the structure and composition of the forest.
For instance, in 2006 it was estimated that more than four million cubic metres of exportable timber was lost to fire, he said.
The amount, he noted, represented about three per cent of GDP, estimated at US$210 million at that time, and added that the annual loss of revenue from merchantable timber to wild fire was about US$24 million.
Mr Kingsley Bekoe, Programme Specialist at the UNDP, speaking at the event. Pictures: GABRIEL AHIABOR
Also, he said, bush fires had a direct impact on communities in and around the forest reserves.
Mr Kuukpen said the UNDP, for its part, had been involved in sustainable forest management in Ghana with notable initiatives, including the UNDP/Mondelez Partnership for promoting environmentally sustainable production practices in cocoa landscapes, working in partnership with the Ghana Cocoa Board.
South Korea’s experience
Sharing South Korea’s experience in sustainable forest management, an expert on forestry at the Korea University, Prof. Yowhan Son, who joined the meeting via a video conference, said South Korea had made significant progress in sustainable forestry management, accumulating substantial wealth of knowledge.
He expressed optimism that the Korean experience would be applicable in Ghana.
In South Korea, he said, forest fire monitoring was an important aspect of forestry activities, while forest fire protection was a high-tech and intensive activity which included the use of a remote forest fire watching system using drones.
The Director of Operations at the Plantations Unit of the Forest Services Department of the Forestry Commission, Mr Hugh Brown, said Ghana would explore possible collaboration with experts from Korea, with focus on forest conservation, and inculcate in the youth the culture of planting trees.