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16.06.2005 General News

Ghana's arable lands for farming in danger - Studies


Accra, June 16, GNA - Recent studies show that 25 years from now Ghana's arable lands could be reduced to laterite and therefore unsuitable for farming if nothing was done to halt the rate of desertification.

About 35 per cent of the nation's land area is threatened by desertification and drought with high rate of population growth, deforestation, high incidence of bush fires and inappropriate land use practices constituting the major drivers of the menace. This came to light at a day's National Conference on the Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD) in Ghana which stakeholders cited the changing global climatic conditions as a major factor.

Addressing the conference, Ms Christine Churcher, Environment and Science Minister, noted the insidious nature of the problem that was having a serious impact on human development and livelihood of affected communities. She said government was poised and determined to see to the effective implementation of the UN Convention.

"This year, we deem the mobilization for anti-desertification very critical and thus the reason for the consultative meeting." Ms Churcher said Ghana ratified the UN convention in 1996 and in 2003 it developed a National Action Programme (NAP), a long-term initiative to alleviate poverty, change livelihood of people out of the scourge of drought and desertification to ensure sustainable use of natural resources. She said the implementation of the NAP framework of the UNCCD should be an essential platform for policy makers, development partners, public institutions and civil society to discuss in order to integrate their views for sustainable development.

Ms Churcher said strategic environmental assessment carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Development Planning Commission indicated that natural resources had not been given their due attention. "This implies that desertification must be considered an integral part of the overall national strategy for economic growth, social equity in development, and environmental sustainability," the Minister said.

Mr Chrsitophe Bahuet, UNDP Representative, said environmental degradation was a development challenge which in the past had reached an unprecedented dimension leading to diminishing supplies of water, degraded soils, deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change. He said in Ghana, an alarming 70 per cent of the land experienced severe sheet and gully erosion, and land degradation amounted to a staggering four per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. "For us the conference is part of the support that UNDP, Ghana, provides to the government to fulfil its obligation and commitments to the environmental convention in ways that maximize their synergies and contribution to national development objectives."

Dr Christian Mersmann, Managing Director, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, in a speech read for him said joint and concerted efforts were critical due to the inter-linkages of land degradation with poverty in Ghana. He said the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report confirmed that any progress achieved in addressing the goal of poverty eradication and environmental protection was unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relied continued to be degraded. Dr Mersmann said Global Mechanism was exploring and nurturing a variety of initiatives such as TerrAfrica, which promoted new paradigm for framing and implementing sustainable land management. He said the outcome of the conference should include a medium-term strategic plan and develop a fully-fledged programme to serve as a guide.

Mr Donald J. Bobiash, Canadian High Commissioner, lauded country's policy initiatives and programmes to combat desertification and poverty saying, "Ghana is an African success story and Canada is proud to contribute to that success." He said the level of Canada's assistance had increased from 12.5 million dollars in 2001 to 55.8 million dollars in 2005. The Conference is being organized under the auspices of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), UNDP, Ghana, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and the EPA.