Posted by: rumnet | July 12, 2011

North Threatened by Over-Exploitation of Natural Resources

North Threatened by Over-Exploitation of Natural Resources

By Alhassan Imoru

(Published in the June edition of the advocate)

The Upper West Regional Minister, Alhaji Salia (second right) charting with Nandom-Naa, Naa Imoro Puo-oure Chiir II (left) and others

The long term survival of the people of the three regions of the North of Ghana is seriously being threatened by the over exploitation of land, water, forest and pasture resources through over-cultivation, excessive harvesting and commercialization of fuel wood collection, bush burning, deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitats.

 These human-induced activities have created desert-like conditions with severe reduction in soil productivity, reduced crop yield, prevalence of barren land, reduced quantity of vegetative cover, reduction of malnutrition, increased migration, low incomes and increased poverty in Northern Ghana.

Though there are no completely desertified areas in Ghana, records indicate that 30-40% of the total land area of the country is considered to be at the risk of desertification.

Incidentally, the three most serious desertification prone regions of Ghana are the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions, which constitute nearly 50% of the total area of Ghana. The most critical desertified areas are the Upper East Region and the Eastern part of the Northern Region.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), organized a national desertification forum at the Upper West regional capital, Wa, on June 16, 2011, which brought together key stakeholders in the area of desertification and sustainable land management in Ghana, including Traditional Rulers.

The forum, which was under theme: “Maintaining Year-Round Vegetative Cover to Combat Desertification in Northern Ghana,” deliberated on issues which are at the very root of sustainable development of the people living in these fragile ecosystems plagued by the threats of desertification.

Topics discussed at the forum included: “The Role of Forests in Sustaining Ecosystem Functions in Dry lands and Contribution of Vegetative Cover to Soil and Water Conservation in the Interior Savannah

Zone of Ghana,” and “Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) Implementation: Achievement and Challenges so Far.”

Others are: “ The Significance of Traditional Protected Areas including Sacred Groves in Dryland Management in Ghana,” “ Community-based Initiatives for Natural Forest Regeneration and Land Management-The case of Kampou  Community in the Lawra District,” and “Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods Intervention: A case study at the Yameriga community in the Talensi-Nabdom District.”

Poverty Levels Deepening

In a welcome address, the Upper West Regional Minister, Alhaji Issahaku Saliah, noted with concern that persistent bushfires, unsustainable farming practices, indiscriminate fuel wood harvesting and overgrazing, among others, are contributing towards degradation of the Savannah ecosystem and eroding the natural resource base of socio-economic development in Northern Ghana.

“Consequently, poverty levels in these regions are deepening and a large number of young people have resorted to migrating to the southern part of the country in search of menial jobs,” he stated.

The Regional Minister was happy about the on-going CIDA funded Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP) which is being implemented in the three Northern Regions and assured that the people will support every effort for the successful implementation of the project.

On his part, the acting Executive Director of EPA, Mr. Daniel Amlalo, said the challenge of irking a livelihood in fragile environment, particularly threatened by desertification, is partly responsible for the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation plaguing the people of Northern Ghana.

He said in order to break this vicious circle of environmental degradation and poverty, it is necessary to adopt at both the community and district levels, policies and actions that will ensure sustainable environmentally compatible development.

To this end, the EPA working with relevant partner institutions, has undertaken the use of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to mainstream environment and dry-lands development issues in the policies, plans and programmes of sectors and district activities.

This was done in collaboration with the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) with financial support from Development Partners and, to date, 108 districts and 27 sectors have been covered.

Challenges to overcome

The Executive Director mentioned some challenges the EPA still has to overcome in order to effectively mainstream dry lands/ environmental issues to include how to effectively align local action and donor assistance programmes for optimum results, and also how to secure sustainable funding and maintaining requisite resources (personnel) at district and community level to carry out programmes.

He said for the forum to be useful for Ghana, it must go beyond just discussing issues and come out with recommendations that could bring about transformation to the lives of people.

In a statement read on her behalf, the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, was gratified that all the stakeholders present were willing to be part of the government’s quest for a sustainable solution to drought and desertification related problems confronting this nation especially the three regions in the northern sector.

She said as a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Government of Ghana in line with the terms of the Convention, developed the National Action Programme (ANP) to combat Drought and Desetification.

According to the Minister, the implementation of the NAP was key to combating drought and desertification in Ghana, adding, “We are committed to putting in place all the necessary institutional structures to ensure its effective implementation.”

Role of Chiefs

The Nandom-Naa, Naa Imoro Puo-oure Chiir 11, who presided, said because of his special interest to preserve and protect the environment for future prosterity, he banned the indiscriminate burning of bush in his traditional area since ascending to the paramountcy.

He said the results achieved by the Nandom Traditional Area to control bushfires for over a decade demonstrates the role traditional leaders can play in reducing the occurrence of bushfires and managing the extent of their damage to the environment.

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