The activities of illegal chainsaw operators, bad agricultural practices and bush burning are eroding Ghana's forest cover but the country is adopting various measures to save its forest.
The Ministry of lands and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission with support from the nation's development partners, is addressing unregulated mining, excessive harvesting of wood for fuel and over exploitation of timber which leads to deforestation.
From the beginning of the century to date, the country's 8 million hectors of forest cover has reduced to a mere 1.2 hectors, loosing 65, 000 hectors every year and experts say in the next 25 years Ghana would not have any forest cover at all.
Speaking at the launch of the International Year of Forests in Accra, Mike Allen Hammah, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said several efforts are being made to address the issue of forest degradation through policy and legislative reforms, capacity building, awareness creation and consultation with major stakeholders in resources management.
The United Nation's General Assembly in December 2006 declared year 2011 as the international year of forest to raise awareness on the need to conserve and develop all types of forests for the benefit of the current and future generations.
Themed, 'forest for people' nations are expected to embark on various activities to raise awareness in the course of the year about the current challenges in the forest sector and how the trend of deforestation and forest degradation can be reversed.
'Government is tackling the chain saw menace by establishing a law enforcement unit that will directly check illegal activities' the Minister said, adding that a national security task force has also been instituted to check the transportation of illegal timber and wood product.
A wood procurement policy, he mentioned, would also be implemented to ensure that only legal wood is procured for government projects
He asked the public to 'demand timber on the domestic market from verified legal sources, if we are to realize our objective of sustainably managing our forest.'
Flavio Chaves, Natural Resources Management Specialists of the World Bank, said all over the world the forest is depleting at a very fast rate 'and if nothing is done about is now future generation will perish'
He noted that the World Bank has expressed it willingness to support government of Ghana as part of its natural resources and environment management projects through technical and budgetary support.
The World Bank will provide $3.4 million and another $50 million for the preparation of a climate change strategy and the implementation of forest strategy to reduce forest degradation respectively.
Sherry Aryitey, Minister of Environemnt, Science and technology, stated that trees and forest are important in fighting climate change as they absorb carbon for growth and when we destroy them the carbon will be in the atmosphere to contribute to climate change.
'The fastest way of destroying the world is by destroying the forest.'
Forest cover has many benefits as it promotes biodiversity, reduces salinity and soil erosion and protect river.
Trees in the forest have medicinal properties, they act as water filters and improve water quality and the forest also serve as a source of livilhood and food for animals and people.
The Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Samuel Afari Dartey asked people living near forest boundaries to report illegal forest activities, prevent indiscriminate bush burning and adopt farming systems to save the forest.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey