Atewa National Park Under Perspective

Atewa National Park Best option for Good Water, Sustainable Livelihood and Posterity

0

Yesterday, the 9th of November 2016, Hon Nii Osah Mills, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources launched a very important document, titled “The Economics of the Atewa Forest Range”. The report is the first pioneering Economics for Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report for Ghana. The study which was made possible by the support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, demonstrates the costs and benefits in economic terms of current developments in the Atewa Range compared to potential alternatives. The study will also support the Government of Ghana in deciding what the most optimal and sustainable management regime is for the Atewa Forest Range and associated River Basins.

Atewa is located 90km north of Accra and is a rare and biologically diverse strip of upland forest surrounded by a combination of villages, small-scale gold mines and farms. Atewa Range is the source of three important rivers, the Densu, Birim and Ayensu, providing water for adjacent communities and downstream users in the greater Accra region. Additionally, the Atewa Range Forest Reserve (picture insert) is recognized as a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area, because of the high diversity of plant and animal species some of which are found only in Ghana.

It is both ecologically and economically important -serving the resource needs of companies and communities alike. Importantly, Atewa Range is the source of water for the Densu, Birim and Ayensu Rivers. The Densu is largely the source of potable water for domestic and commercial water users in Accra, Nsawam and also in surrounding areas. Together, the Densu, Birim and the Ayensu supply water to close to 5 million downstream water users.
Additionally, three most prominent economic activities of the region – timber, small-scale gold mining and farming- are directly dependent on extracting resources from buffer areas of Atewa.

Unfortunately, the forest suffers from steady degradation due to timber and non-timber harvesting and the encroachment of farms and gold mines, mostly illegal, which in turn affects water flow and water quality and those that depend on water downstream in the three river basins.

Maintaining a healthy environment at first appears directly at odds with economic incentive, but according to the Atewa TEEB Report which was commissioned by IUCN Netherlands Committee and A Rocha Ghana, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and the Water Resources Commission of Ghana, increasing Atewa’s protection and sustainable management will lead to long-term economic benefits. Instead of leaving the forest in its current state of minimum protection and high incidence of illegal resource extraction. The report suggests that transitioning Atewa Range Forest Reserve into Atewa National Park supported by an integrated landscape management of buffer areas is a key intervention to achieve a more optimal and sustainable flow of ecosystem services of good quality water, long-term and sustainable livelihood flow to upstream communities and overall good for long-term security of our natural resources for generations tomorrow.

While increasing Atewa to national park status may restrict some of the extractive activities that support the livelihoods of surrounding communities, it strengthens the protection of culturally significant areas. Also, increased management efforts in the buffer zone should ensure that part of the traditional activities of local communities develop in a sustainable manner and still provide economic benefits locally. In addition, there is high potential for tourism to the Atewa Range -estimated at approximately US$5.8 million per year based on a comparison with other natural areas and national parks in Ghana. This study emphasizes the importance of both implementing the national park and managing the buffer zone around it for optimal economic outcomes.
Other recommendations include the need to support a sustainable shift in local livelihoods that must be researched in order to find alternatives that are tailored to the needs of the local communities. Tourism comparable to Kakum with even higher potential is a ready alternative. Additionally, Payments for ecosystem services (PES) is a potential mechanism to compensate local communities for possible restrictions they might face due to additional protection measures to the forest. In such schemes, downstream beneficiaries of ecosystem services could contribute to a fund to catalyse the transition of fringe communities towards alternative and supplementary livelihoods that stop unsustainable and unregulated activities in the forest.

A National Park that benefits both up-and downstream stakeholders and contributes to socioeconomic development in Ghana will ultimately have a greater chance of success with the collaboration between diverse actors, which might include: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forestry Commission, FORIG, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Minerals Commission, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the District Assemblies, the Traditional Authority, Civil Society, Private Sector Investors, the fringe communities, and the downstream farmers and industries.
Research, such as this, increasingly demonstrates that sustainable economic development demands environmental consideration. Over the long run, unregulated extraction has far greater costs than economic gains.

Full copies of the report is available at www.arocha.org/ghana

Daryl Bosu
A Rocha Ghana

Send your news stories to newsghana101@gmail.com Follow News Ghana on Google News

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here