High rates of deforestation and forest degradation characterized the High Forest Zones of Ghana prior to the implementation of the Ghana Forest Investment Programme (GFIP). According to a study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2010, Ghana was losing her forest at a rate of 2% per annum translating into real figures of 135000 hectares per annum. Agricultural expansion particular by cocoa production was identified as the highest driver of deforestation in this landscape contributing about 50% to the total forest lost. Other drivers identified included illegal timber harvesting (35%) and Galamsey (5%)
To reverse this downward trend and to ensure that Ghana contributes her quota in the fight against climate change which is precipitated by factors including forest lost, Ghana applied to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) for financial support to implement the Ghana Forest Investment Programme (GFIP) as a tool to catalyze transformational change in our forest management practices thereby reducing the rate of forest lost. The programme has been implemented since 2014 through the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
To be able to appreciate the efforts of the programme, a baseline study was conducted in the programme areas in 2014 which assessed the rate of deforestation to be 1.5% in our open forests and 1.3 in our closed forests.
As part of midterm review of the programme, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources engaged internal expertise built under the programme and other related programmes to assess the performance of the programme in terms of deforestation, carbon stocks enhancement and emission reductions in the programme areas.
The methodology used for this assignment was in line with international best practices and allows for an independent third party to verify the results. The assignment combined remote sensing techniques, ground-truthing and global data set from the United States Geological Survey (UGSS).
The outcome of the study showed unequivocally that deforestation rate which was assessed to be 1.3% in the closed forest in 2014, has significantly reduced to 0.9% in 2017. Though Ghana continues to lose closed forest, the business as usual scenario would have been worse if the GFIP was not implemented. On the other hand, open forest which was losing at 1.5% per annum, is now gaining forest at a rate of 1.19%. This is a remarkable turn of events and these positives can be attributed to innovative changes in the tree tenure and benefit sharing regimes prior to the implementation of the GFIP (farmers get benefits from nurturing naturally occurring trees and when they plant a tree, they own it), enhanced coordination between Government Agencies on the landscapes primarily the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Forestry Commission (FC), District Directorate of Agriculture (DDA) and the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FoRIG) in the management of the cocoa and forest landscape (reduced risk associated with crop damage during timber harvest and streamlining of guidelines for compensation of crop dame during timber harvest). Also worth mentioning is the promotion of collaborative resource management through the implementation of the Community Resource Management Area (CREMA, where a group of communities come together to agree on a management regime for their common natural resources then Government devolves power over the management of the said area to the CREMA group) which seeks to devolve off-reserve natural resource management to local communities thereby fostering the spirit of ownership and protection. Improved outreach and uniform communication messages have also played a key role in the attempt of the programme to change behaviors in terms of forest resources management (COCOBOD, FC, FoRIG, DDA sending uniform and coordinated messages to stakeholders).
In conclusion, the GFIP has recorded significant successes in the pilot areas but more needs to be done on the larger landscapes (entire High Forest Zone) where deforestation continues to be a challenge. The Ministry will continue its efforts to document the lessons learnt from the programme areas, disseminate it widely and replicate it in the entire High Forest Zone of the country.
By Mr. Musah Abu-Juam, Technical Director (Forestry)