By Nana Ama Addae-Boahene, 2nd year MDP student
I am very excited to be back home in Ghana for my final field placement. Over the summer, I have been working with A Rocha Ghana; an environmental NGO providing practical conservation interventions aimed at protecting conserved forest zones in the country. I joined an all male team working in Kyebi in the East Akyeam District in the Eastern Region of Ghana. A Rocha’s major task in the district is to help protect the Atewa forest.
The Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa) was established as a national forest reserve in 1926 and was later designated as both a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA) and an Important Bird Area (IBA) The forest, which covers a total space of 232,662 ha borders five districts in the Eastern Region, provides water and other ecosystem functions and services to about 5 million Ghanaians living close to the forest and downstream. The Living Water from the Mountain project by A Rocha Ghana is aimed at protecting Atewa’s Water resources.
Over the past few weeks, I have participated in two forest forums bringing together all the stakeholders involved in the Atewa forest to talk about issues affecting communities and how to ensure the continual conservation of the forest. The forum was organized in two different districts bringing together chiefs, community members, The Forestry Commission, The environmental Protection Agency, The Water Resource Commission, the chief Inspector of Police and some Environmental NGO’s.
The major concern and worry of all the participants was the rate of illegal mining activities in the area. Though these activities are not happening within the forest it is still a cause for major concern as majority of the land surrounding the forest area have been completely destroyed without any plans of reclamation. Although a vast number of laws and studies have been conducted to investigate the deterioration of the environment from illegal mining activities, very little details have been provided on the process of reclamation and restoration of mined lands and the importance of this to the environment and the affected community. A Rocha Ghana’s main concern is to help rehabilitate a lot of these places and we are currently putting together various proposals to seek funds to complete this project.
This platform allowed the various government agencies to share with the communities their roles and responsibilities in the conservation of the forest. The Forestry Commission laid out clearly the various laws in place to protect the forest. The laws surrounding illegal logging of trees and farming in the forest zones were explicitly explained to the communities at the forum. The Water resource commission stressed the need to protect the various water heads in the forest. It has been an interesting few weeks talking to communities and stressing the importance of why we need to continue protecting the forest