Ghana has a population of 25.3 million which will increase to 33 million people by 2030. Ghana has lost considerable forest cover in the past 60 years, with an average rate of loss of 2.2% per year. Between 1990-2000 deforestation occurred at an estimated rate of 135,000 hectares per year, and 115,000 hectares per year between 2000-2005 (The Forestry Commission of Ghana, 2010). If current rates of deforestation continue, Ghana will lose its entire natural forest cover by 2030.
According to the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (2008), 35% of Ghana’s land is already affected by desertification and growing at an alarming 20,000 hectares per year.. Rapid deforestation and poor cultivation practices are largely responsible for the land becoming increasingly arid, demonstrated by lowered water tables, siltation of rivers, and increased flooding; (UNEP, 2008).
Kogyae Strict Nature Reserve (KSNR), located in the ‘Forest Transition Zone’ is an important reserve containing tree and animal species from both the Southern High Forest and Northern Savannah Zones, making it an important research location for measuring climatic changes. KSNR is an IUCN Category 5 and 6 protected area recognized as a mainstay of biodiversity and an area for human cultural development. Animals present on the reserve include African buffaloes, African civets, civet cats, and monkeys, as well as 85 species of birds.
Deforestation in Ghana is primarily driven by slash and burn agricultural practices, illegal timber harvesting, wildfires, mining, and a rising demand for fuel wood are also important contributors to land degradation. Large tracts of tropical forest have been cleared to support increasing crop cultivation. Another major contributor to Ghana’s deforestation has been the alienation of the communities living and working in and near to forests. Although such communities have been expected to help protect the forests they have not been incorporated into policy formulation (Ministry of Land and Forestry, 1996).
Low fines and a general lack of legal sanctions for illegal forest harvesting is a further deforestation driver. In less than 50 years, Ghana’s primary rainforest has been reduced by 90% (UNEP, 2008).
KSNR was established in 1971 to pursue three primary objectives:
An inclusive model involving the local community is of utmost priority for KSNR due to its size, fragile nature.
The CREMA mechanism is an innovative natural resource management and landscape-level planning tool for community initiatives. It was developed by Ghana's Wildlife Division, an arm of the Forestry Commission, together with its partners, to support community resource management in off-reserve (un-gazetted) lands. CREMAs fill a critical gap by providing communities with the right to manage and economically benefit from their natural resources. While Ghana's Constitution vests ownership of the land in the Stool or Skin (the traditional or customary leadership structures that preside over a particular ethnic group, clan or tribe and the associated land and resources) it gives the Government the right to manage the naturally occurring resources for economic gain. This has resulted in a series of perverse incentives that, over the decades, have tended to drive ‘illegal’ resource use and degradation or deforestation of the forest resources. The CREMA represents a profound policy shift by permitting communities, landowners and land users an opportunity to govern and manage forest and wildlife resources within the boundaries of the CREMA, and to benefit financially or in kind. The CREMA process has followed a nearly 20 year evolution in Ghana from an intellectual concept to an approved pilot initiative and finally to an authorized mechanism, which is now seeking full legal backing from Parliament.
The CREMA concept directly reflects the principles of Firey's biosocial theory, providing communities formal access and user-rights to the forest resources (ecologically possible), it is built upon traditional values and cultural systems (culturally adoptable), and it aims at generating financial and non-financial resources for communities and individuals within the CREMA (economically gainful). Depending on the scenario, the CREMA either supports and expands the scope of land-use practices and management decisions that already contain elements of sustainability (wildlife conservation through taboos and traditional hunting norms), or in an unsustainable situation (deforestation) it can entirely change the biophysical, economic and social conditions and resources that affect decision-making at the individual, community and social landscape level, opening up the possibility for different resource-use decisions and more sustainable outcomes.
There have been major gains in relation to agreements and frameworks relating to landscape restoration particularly in Ghana’s cocoa growing regions, however, there is still notable skepticism outside of the cocoa sector at the national level. In particular, people in key positions of power and influence are fixed on the idea that monocultures are the best method for sustainable intensification. Often this outlook is simply due to a lack of education about the numerous benefits of agroforestry systems. A systems thinking approach hasn’t reached critical mass. In collaboration with the Forestry Research institute of Ghana (FORIG) we are confronting scepticism at the political level by influencing national policy, lobbying key influencers in government and hosting agroforestry seminars at the local and national level.
Our partners Altus Impact LLC have conducted a basic estimate using the FAO EX-Ante Carbon-balance tool. They have found a potential capture of 700,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent avoided emissions within the next 15 years (until 2030) assuming a 5-year agroforestry implementation phase over 10,000 hectares.
OKO’s integrated business model approach is based on two main aspects;
Improvement of knowledge and productivity
Implementation of the Community Resource Management Area
We are helping to create a robust enabling environment for small-scale farmers to improve average annual incomes by supporting improved farming practices and improved yields, meeting international standards. We estimate that an increase in income of 30% will be realised through our agroforestry programme. We have partnered with a range of organisations from buyers through to farmer focused developmental institutions. Initially value addition will be captured through on site cassava processing into gari and cassava flour, providing resources for further business opportunities such as bread and mushroom production. Cashew and oil palm trees surround KSNR, there are numerous opportunities to add value to these commodities on site. As part of our programme we plan to provide desirable commercial timber seedlings and partner with saw mills such as John Bitar