Hugh Brown, Director of Operations for Plantations Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, said although some of the causes of deforestation could not be prevented, a lot of work could be done to protect existing forests.
Brown spoke to Xinhua during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Forestry Commission of Ghana and American mining firm, Newmont Golden Ridge Limited (NGRL), for the development of 257 hectares of degraded forest land in the country.
As part of its agreement to mine in 101 hectares of land in the Agyenua Bepo Forest Reserve, NGRL is expected to reforest 303 hectares of degraded forest, 60 hectares of which has already been done under the first phase of the reforestation program.
Ghana’s forest reserve has been depleted by nearly 50 percent from 8.2 million hectares in 1900 to 4.5 million hectares by 2013.
“Bushfire is our number one enemy in forest conservation as most of the depletion of our forest cover was as a result of the annual bushfires,” Brown noted.
According to him, out of the 4.5 million hectares currently standing, only about 30 percent is a close forest, which does not augur well for biodiversity.
“Forest degradation leads to biodiversity loss and its ability to perform its core functions such as protecting our water bodies, providing shelter for some of our wild life as well as being the source of forest products are all diminished,” the official pointed out.
According to him, government, through the National Forest Plantation Development Program (NFPDP), has since 2002 reclaimed 190,000 hectares of lost forest with government’s own projects through the communities, accounting for 70 percent and private sector contributions accounting for the rest.
He urged logging and mining firms as well as all other businesses that extract resources from the forest to learn from the Newmont example to carry out responsible extraction and reforestation.
Elaine Dorward-King, Executive Vice-President, Sustainability and External Relations, Newmont Mining Corporation, said as a mining firm, Newmont placed emphasis on development projects that were supportive of global and regional environmental conventions on Climate Change.
“We believe the task of environmental protection is a universal responsibility for all of us and requires collaboration and partnership among stakeholders,” Doward-King stated.
She listed benefits of forest as an important resource in the eco-system as a vast reservoir of genetic resources and biodiversity.
It also serves as an important habitat for wildlife, especially endangered species, and assures a guaranteed supply of natural pharmaceuticals which have enormous export potential, among others.
“A man does not plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity. This reforestation project is not for Newmont alone but for our Akyem Mines community; the Forestry Commission and generations yet unborn,” she added.
Raphael Yeboah, Executive Director of the Forest Services Division of the FC, said the Newmont Akyem reforestation project was in tandem with the vision of the Forestry Commission “to leave future generations and its communities with richer, better, more valuable forestry and wildlife endowments than we inherited”.
He urged all other mining firms in Ghana to emulate Newmont’s reforestation project in their communities. Enditem.
Source: Xinhua/News Ghana