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Regional News of Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Source: Graphic Online

Chief calls for protection of wetland

The Chief of Sakumono, Nii Alabi Gbene II, has appealed to the public to support efforts to conserve the Sakumo Ramsar Site.

He said recent industrial and urban development had led to the discharge of considerable volumes of effluence into the lagoon, which poses a threat to the sustenance of the lagoon.

Nii Gbene II made the appeal at the Sakumo Ramsar Site during a ceremony to commemorate World Wetlands Day which fell on February 2, 2014.

As part of the celebration, members of wetlands and wildlife clubs selected from different schools, as well as volunteers and farmers embarked on a clean-up exercise at the Sakumo Ramsar Site.

Wetlands Day

The day is marked by countries that are party to the International Treaty on Wetlands, commonly called the Ramsar Convention, to raise public awareness of the values and benefits of wetlands, and to promote their conservation.

This year’s celebration had the theme: "Wetlands and Agriculture” and it sought to highlight the importance of wetlands in the provision of goods and services, including food.

Nii Gbene II said the traditional authorities were ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to address the source of pollution and also take steps to maintain the site. He therefore appealed to all to help restore the lagoon.

He also said the lagoon attracted several species of birds, and added that apart from the lagoon serving as a source of livelihood for farmers and fishermen, it was also an ideal location for recreation and tourism.

"We have people from outside the country coming here for bird watching, hence if we organise the site well, we can make a lot of money from it. We have a situation where other natural resources such as the Korle Lagoon are almost drying up and we here won't sit down and watch this site suffer the same fate," he added.

Intervention by FAO

Mr Fernando Salinas, Senior Forestry Officer at the Food and Agriculture (FAO) Regional Office for Africa, said his organisation was happy to collaborate with all stakeholders, including government agencies, communities, the private sector and development partners to ensure that the potential of Ghana's wetlands were fully developed, taking into account the economic, social and environmental imperatives.

According to Mr Salinas, Ghana has nearly 700,000 hectares of inland wetlands and valleys but only about 30,000 hectares are said to be developed.

He stated that Ghana's wetlands have the potential to reduce the country's annual bill for importing rice and disclosed that the FAO has identified a number of cross-cutting issues to ensure the sustainable development of Ghana's wetlands for agriculture.

Mr Salinas also said the FAO had held initial discussions with the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority to discuss these developments and also provide some of the tools and information that will help Ghana to achieve the sustainable development of her wetlands for agriculture.

Friends of Ramsar Site

Mr Richard Agorkpa, the Executive Director of Friends of Ramsar Site (FORS), said in the early days of the establishment of the Sakumo Ramsar Site, the area had a rich population of residential and migratory birds, small mammals, fisheries and diverse vegetation. However, with time, there has been considerable land use, leading to encroachment on the site and its attendant problems.

Mr Agorkpa added that to minimise the pollution, FORS was piloting a system that would ensure that all waste water entering the Sakumo Ramsar Site was treated before being discharged into the water body.

He disclosed that a recent study conducted by FORS indicated that the Sakumo Ramsar Site supported 1,050 cattle, 250 sheep and goats by way of grazing, and 105 crop farmers.

He said at the end of 2013, the 105 farmers had generated total revenue of GH¢4,450.00 through the cultivation of various varieties of crops at the site.

"Even though the farmland size is small, the vegetables produced here are always supplied fresh to residents in communities such as Tema, Ashaiman, Accra, Teshie and Nungua, among others".

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