The Forestry Commission and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) are rolling out a climate-friendly programme to reduce emissions in cocoa growing areas.
Known as the Cocoa-Forest Emission Reduction Programme, the initiative seeks to significantly reduce emissions driven by expansion of cocoa into forest areas, coupled with illegal logging.
The initiative is part of Ghana’s REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation + Conservation of Forests, Sustainable Forest Management and Enhancement of Carbon Stocks) programme.
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Led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the programme provides economic incentives for initiatives/actions by developing countries that effectively result in reductions in mainly carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
The Head of the Climate Unit of the Forestry Commission, Mr Yaw Kyei, announced the programme at the first meeting of Ghana’s REDD+ Ambassadors—a group of eminent and influential people tasked with leading REDD+ and climate change crusade in Ghana.
Among the ambassadors are Uncle Ebo Whyte, playwright; Nana Kobena Nketsiah V, the Omanhen of the Essikado Traditional Area in the Western Region, Prof. Mrs Esi Awuah, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources; Dr Ismael Yamson of Yamson and Associates; Mr Ken Thompson, CEO of Dalex Financial Services, a host of media personalities and musicians.
In Ghana, the main drivers of emissions include mining, logging, agriculture, wildfire, firewood/charcoal and settlements.
Ghana’s Cocoa-Forest REDD+ Programme is the first REDD+ initiative in the world to focus on an ecological landscape that is defined by the production of a globally important agricultural commodity—cocoa—which is responsible for significant emissions in the landscape.
By tackling these drivers of emissions, the country aims to secure the future of its forests and significantly improve income and livelihood opportunities for farmers and forest users across the programme area.
World Bank research estimates that the degradation of agricultural soils, forests and Savannah woodlands, coastal fisheries, wildlife resources and Lake Volta's environment cost Ghana at least $520 million annually.
Currently, Ghana has a 5.9 million hectare high forest ecozone with cocoa production zones taking 1.8 million hectares.
The deforestation rate in the country stands at 135,000 hectares annually, culminating in the country’s forest reduction to 1.6 million hectares from 8.2 million at the turn of the century.
Making a case for the ambassadors to champion the cause of REDD+ in Ghana, Mr Kyei said: “REDD+ provides an opportunity to mitigate climate change and make our land-use sector more resilient, while establishing a new source of revenue and benefits for the country.”
An environmental management specialist, Dr Rebecca Ashley Asare, observed that although Africa was contributing little to the global emission figures, the continent was likely to experience some of the worst effects because of poverty.
“Mitigation and adaptation measures are needed and forests can play an important role,” she said.
Dr Asare said Climate Smart Agriculture, which puts premium on balancing environmental sustainability with environmentally friendly farming techniques, and REDD+ were key approaches which could contribute to addressing climate change threats.
Nana Nketsiah rallied Ghanaians to take issues concerning the environment serious since the consequences of environmental degradation affected all.