Ghana's forest area diminished from 8.2 million hectares at the beginning of the 20th Century to 1.6 million hectares by the turn of the century.
Mr Wilson Owusu-Asare, Akyem Oda District Forestry Manager, said, according to FAO 1990 report, the forest of Ghana was declining at a rate of 1.3 percent per annum.
Mr Owusu-Asare, who was presenting a paper on Forest Plantation Development Programme Workshop at Akyem Oda, organized by SWAM Ghana Limited, said the rapid growth of population had resulted in increased demand for forest products.
SWAM Ghana limited is a mining company based in Sierra Leone, which has expressed interest in extending its operation to Ghana as a private plantation developer.
He identified the main causes of forest decline to clearance for agriculture, unsustainable timber logging, urban and industrial expansion, exploitation for fuel wood and other domestic uses, frequent annual forest fires and surface mining among others.
“The effects of the forest decline have manifested in increasing inability of the forest to meet the demands for wood and wood products”.
“Ghana's forest and timber resources can only sustain an annual allowable cut of one million cubic metres of timber while the export-oriented wood industry has an installed capacity of 3.7 million cubic metres”.
Mr Owusu-Asare said it was also projected that demand for local wood consumption would reach about three million cubic metres by 2020, which would result in loss of Biodiversity, erratic rainfall patterns, drying up of streams and rivers, extreme weather conditions and “savannisation” of the forest area.
He said in those circumstances, plantations, which had a higher productivity per hectare than the natural forest and where species, which had fast growth would seem to meet the ever increasing demand for wood for both domestic and industrial uses.
Mr Owusu-Asare said the project purpose would be to facilitate the involvement of the Private Sector to increase the national forest cover by 20,000 hectares per annum for the next 10 years.
“It also seeks to supplement food supply from the agricultural sector, to provide employment and to create wealth in rural communities”.
Mr Owusu- Asare said the climate, topography and soils in Ghana, when compared with those in other tropical countries suggested that there was considerable scope for successful commercial forest plantation.
“A key contribution to development in the country is believed to be appropriate sustainable forest development aimed at environmental stabilization and soil improvement, alongside the provision of timber and other locally important forest products”.
Mr David Sarkwaa Donkor, Managing Director, SWAM Ghana Limited, later briefed the participants about the operations of the Company.
He said just in four months operations in Ghana, the company was able to establish 36.67 hectares of teak plantations at the Akyem Oda and Winneba Forest Districts