The importance of forests cannot be underestimated because we depend on the forests for our survival. Yet, the world’s forests continue to decline at an alarming rate and Ghana is no exception.
The Global Forest Watch estimated that from 2001 to 2021, Ghana lost 1.41Mha of tree cover. Restoring lost forests requires actions at all levels.
Adwoa Adomaa is one of the oldest farmers in Anwianwia, a village located in Asunafo North District in the Ahafo Region of Ghana. She is a beneficiary of a forest restoration project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with COCOBOD, Forestry Commission, and Mondelēz International’s cocoa sustainability programme: Cocoa Life. The project is restoring degraded portions of the Ayum Forest Reserve. The aim is to help combat climate change and prevent biodiversity loss in Ghana.
Empowering farmers toward sustainable livelihoods
Adwoa recounts her excitement of being part of the forest restoration project. “I have been farming for 35 years now and I used to depend on only my cocoa farm and make money after harvesting. So, when cocoa is out of season, I struggle to make money to keep the house running. But thanks to this initiative, I now have an additional source of income to support my family”, she stated.
Adwoa is one of the over 200 farmers, growing food crops with economic trees to restore the degraded landscape in Ayum. For farmers like Adwoa, the initiative to restore the degraded forest reserve is very fulfilling.
The Forest Restoration initiative is being implemented using the Modified Tungya System (MTS) - where farmers are given access to degraded forest reserve land for the planting of economic trees. They are allowed to integrate tree planting with selected food crops until tree canopy closure. The MTS has become a legally binding land lease arrangement in which farmers are considered co-owners of the plantations with the Forestry Commission and are entitled to the MTS plots till the tree reaches canopy height. Apart from its environmental benefits, the MTS also serves as an additional income generation activity for the participating farmers.
Almost a million seedlings have been planted in the landscape since the project began in 2020, and the tree survival rate is high. Previously, the communities thought indigenous trees are slow to grow. Today they see the value and are happy about it.
“I decided to quit my trading job which was not profitable and then join the farmers in the Akwaduro community to help restore the degraded Ayum Forest. I have no regrets taking this decision. I now have two vast lands for my farm, and I also make money from my produce”, recounted Stephen Agyeman, one of the beneficiaries of the forest restoration project.
Regeneration and protection
Communities are happy to set aside land for planting trees and have the knowledge and skills to do so. In addition, fast-growing exotic species like eucalyptus have been planted to provide fuel wood and timber for construction, taking pressure off the natural forest.
Supporting restoration and better landscape management have complemented efforts to protect remaining forests like Ayum. Years after working in the landscape, the Ayum forest is now regaining its fate to restore climate and biodiversity loss in Ghana. It is also interesting to see how the MTS project beneficiaries are receiving support under a UNDP-supported Community Resource Management Area ( CREMA ) initiative.
“The formation of the CREMA has been a great value addition in our efforts to help restore and manage natural resources. Now, our farmers are able to improve the land fertility in their farmlands and have stopped harmful activities like group hunting, and illegal mining. Thanks to our trainings, they now practice effective farming activities”, noted Mr Daniel Amponsah Gyinayeh, Chairman of the CREMA.
It is obvious that the participation of communities in restoring degraded landscape is a win-win situation for sustainable management of natural resources. This also provides livelihood opportunities. Empowering more communities to adopt environmentally sustainable practices will increase efforts to restore climate and biodiversity loss in Ghana. The role of all actors is critical.