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General News of Monday, 13 May 2019

Source: citinewsroom.com

Report claiming deforestation in Ghana up by 60% misleading – Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission of Ghana has discredited statistics by the World Resources Institute (WRI) which claimed that Ghana had recorded 60 percent rise in forest loss between 2017 and 2018.

The Commission in a statement responding to the report said the methodology used in arriving at the conclusion is erroneous and does not reflect the true situation on the ground.

“We wish to state that the conclusions arrived at in the publication are based on a faulty methodology as well as a misunderstanding of current controlled agricultural practices in Ghana,” the Forestry Commission said in a statement.

While admitting that illegal mining and farming practices are drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, the Forestry Commission said it is working to address such challenges.

It contended that the World Resources Institute’s report took into account tree cover and not forest cover.

“The WRI report indicates a 60% change in loss and not a 60% loss of forest cover in one year (2017-2018) as is being discussed on various media platforms across the country. A further interrogation of the original research data, however, indicates this figure to be 31.3%…. The caption used for the report was misleading in that WRI used forest cover instead of tree cover.”

Ghana became the focus globally on deforestation following the release of the report with activists calling for urgent attention to the problem.

They also urged the government to take action to plant trees aggressively to restore the fast depleting forest cover.

But the Forestry Commission suggested that it is already doing a lot of work in that regard to ensure that the country’s forest cover is not depleted.

The Commission also indicated that within a 6 year period, from 2012 to the end of 2018, Ghana had increased forest cover marginally by 1.96%.

The commission, therefore, said it intends to write to the Institute to correct “this error in the analysis of the original research data.”

“Forestry Commission holds on to its mission to “Sustainably develop and manage Ghana’s forest and wildlife resources”. It will therefore continue to engage in forest improvement and protection activities to restore Ghana’s forest cover, the statement noted.

Below is the full rejoinder from the Forestry Commission

REJOINDER: THE WORLD LOST A BELGIUM – SIZED AREA OF PRIMARY RAINFOREST LAST YEAR

The attention of the Forestry Commission has been drawn to a publication which first appeared on the World Resource Institute’s website (www.wri.org) on 25th April, 2019, on the above subject.

Same has been published on other media portals worldwide. We wish to acknowledge the challenge of illegal mining and farming practices as drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

Ghana is indeed not alone in this fight to keep the forest heritage for the present and future generations. A number of initiatives, has accordingly, been put in place to address this challenge. While acknowledging this, we wish to state that the conclusions arrived at in the publication are based on a faulty methodology as well as a misunderstanding of current controlled agricultural practices in Ghana.

We note that the WRI publication, from which media houses worldwide are deriving their stories, was based on research conducted by the University of Maryland in the United States. A comparison of the data that have been churned out by the original researchers with what WRI published suggest an exaggeration of the actual situation on the ground and as found in the research. We, therefore, wish to correct all erroneous impressions that have been created by this publication. The Commission will like to state that:

The presentation of forest given in the WRI publication, as well as the methodology used in the research suggests that what has been reported is relative annual change in tree cover and not forest cover. The University of Maryland defined tree cover as “all vegetation 5m height and may take the form of natural forests or plantations across a range of canopy densities”.

This definition, therefore, implies agricultural tree crops such as cocoa, cashew, rubber, among others, have likely been captured whereas the definition of forest cover excludes these agricultural tree crops. It must be noted that there is a significant difference between the two and the interchange of terminology can lead to grossly misleading conclusions.

The WRI report indicates a 60% change in loss and not a 60% loss of forest cover in one year (2017-2018) as is being discussed on various media platforms across the country. A further interrogation of the original research data however indicates this figure to be 31.3%. The Forestry Commission intends to write the WRI to correct this error in the analysis of the original research data.

The caption used for the report was misleading in that WRI used forest cover instead of tree cover. The use of the term primary forest is not explained in the context of the article. Primary forest is defined as “Naturally regenerated forest of native species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed” (FAO, 2015). Therefore, the study setting the minimum tree cover at 30% does not represent primary forest.

It is worthy of note that since 2018, an Initiative that seeks to improve cocoa farms in the various cocoa growing areas with the clearing of unproductive trees to make way for high – yielding varieties has been running.

Similarly, under the Canopy Substitution Strategy of the Cashew Development Project, which has been introduced to cashew farmers poor yielding varieties are cut down to make way for high – yielding ones.

Another point worth noting is that some farmers have been cutting down their cocoa trees to make way for rubber plantations. This cannot be classified as deforestation because cocoa farms are not considered as forests.

Cumulatively, the satellite capture of the tree cover change under these initiatives have been misrepresented as primary forest cover loss.

Major Interventions

Forestry Commission has put in place a lot of interventions to improve forest cover.

REDD + is an internationally accepted mechanism to combat climate change. As part of REDD+ interventions, there is massive implementation of Climate Smart Cocoa Practices which involve increasing shade on cocoa farms; setting up of rural service centres for easy access to farm inputs; increased cocoa extension services and replanting of old cocoa farms; establishment of viable additional livelihood schemes and, improved planting design for yield increment and improved livelihoods.

The cocoa private sector and the Government of Ghana have also signed onto the Cocoa and Forests Initiative to halt deforestation in the chocolate and cocoa supply chains by promoting climate-smart cocoa practices.

Another key initiative to help combat illegal logging is the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union. Under this Initiative, Ghana is strengthening its law enforcement capacity by developing a robust wood traceability system. This system has introduced an electronic capture and reconciliation of timber transaction data in a manner that allows the tracing of timber from the point of sale to its source. By allowing only timber that is traceable for sale, illegally logged timber is largely eliminated from the supply chains.

Community Resource Management Area (CREMAs) Concept is an intervention that seeks to empower forest fringed communities to increase their sources of livelihoods as a way of diverting their attention from forest illegalities.

This mechanism seeks partly to put the management of the natural resource in the hands of the communities thereby giving them a sense of ownership. It helps to protect the natural resource, while at the same time putting money in the pockets of the fringed communities.

The Youth in Afforestation Programme has employed over 60, 000 youth, who hitherto were unemployed, to help in afforestation throughout the country. Since its inception in April 2018, it has culminated in the planting of over 22,000 ha.

One intervention worth noting is the Modified Taungya System (MTS), which a form of agro – forestry. Degraded portions are given to farmers to plant trees, while intercropping them with foodstuffs. When there is a canopy closure, the farmers are moved to another area to do same.

Having realized that farmers cannot sit idle till the trees mature, that is in areas where all degraded areas have been planted up, Forestry Commission has also introduced the WOTRO Trees on Farm Programme where shade- loving plants like Grains of Paradise and Black Pepper have been introduced to farmers to once again give them sources of income, as they nurture the trees. Honey production is also another aspect of this programme.

The Commission has engaged the private sector in plantations development and as at the end of 2018, over 50,000 hectares have been planted.

To ensure law enforcement of forest and wildlife laws, the Rapid Response Unit has been set up to operate in hot – spot areas of forest illegalities. Their operations have helped reduced illegalities.

Closely related to the point above is that frontline staff of the Commission have undergone military training at the Asutuare Military Camp. This is to hone their skills in forest protection and clamp down on forest illegalities. Forestry Commission Forest Data (2012 – 2018)

From 2012 to 2018, data analyzed over the period indicates that at the end of 2012, total area under forest cover in Ghana was 6,235,102.32 ha. This figure increased to 6,357,876.03 ha at the end of 2018. This shows a marginal increase of 1.96% in total forest cover over the period. The increase in the open forest is attributable to the on-going plantation development drive, both public and private as well as the regeneration stimulated by the opening up of the closed forest. The table and the maps below testify to this.

Open Forest: Annual Average Forest Gain = 0.90%

Closed Forest: Annual Average Forest Loss = 0.96%

Conclusion

Forestry Commission holds on to its mission to “Sustainably develop and manage Ghana’s forest and wildlife resources”. It will, therefore, continue to engage in forest improvement and protection activities to restore Ghana’s forest cover.

Issued by:

The Chief Executive

Forestry Commission