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Opinions of Thursday, 6 September 2018

Columnist: Listowell Kwadwo Fordjour

Salvation of Atewa forest sits in the bosom of Akufo-Addo, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin

A 2009 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the state of the world forest indicates that the current total forest area of the world is about 4 billion hectares, which represents nearly 30 per cent of the earth’s landmass. Approximately 56 per cent of these forests are located in tropical and subtropical areas.

These forests cover amazingly is unevenly distributed considering the total number of the world population and the growing number of industries across the world and the demand for forest products on daily basis.

According to the report, only seven countries possess about 60 per cent of the 4 billion hectares of the forests cover, 25 countries around 82 per cent and 170 countries share the remaining 18 per cent.

Although countries such as Ghana and some part of the world continue to plant trees, it is estimated that planted forests account for approximately 3.8 per cent of the total forest area, which is 140 million hectares.

The report further revealed that the net global forest loss is estimated to be about 7.3 million hectares per year for the period 2000 to 2005 which is a total decrease from the period 1990 to 2000, for which the average deforestation rate was 8.9 million hectares annually.

The highest amounts of deforestation occurred in South America, with 4.3 million hectares per year, followed by Africa with four million hectares on annual basis.

I know you are eager to know the current state of Ghana forests cover, alas it is not pleasant to read about or even to be whispered into ears to proud yourself that you come from Abibirem. I know a particular district in Ghana which is called Kwaebibirem meaning a forest zone. I wish you can go there, and see for yourself if it worth the name now.

The forest cover of Ghana is wiping out on alarming proportion on annual basis without mercy.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Ghana’s forests covered around 8.2 million hectares of land. By the late 1980s, the forest cover has been reduced to less than 18,000 km2, which means a reduction of the forest cover to 2.1 million hectares.

By the year 2007, the forest cover of the country has been reduced significantly to 1.4 million hectares. Forestry sources say since independence from Great Britain in 1957, the annual rate of forest loss has been averaging 65,000 hectares yearly.

And according to the FAO between the year 2000 and 2005 Ghana lost an average of 115,400 hectares of forest per year.

More than one billion people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods whiles more than two billion people, a third of the world’s population, use biomass fuels mainly firewood for cooking and to heat their homes.

Additionally, hundreds of millions of people rely on traditional medicines harvested from forests of which Ghana is no exception. Moreover, in 60 developing countries in the world, hunting and fishing on forested lands supply more than a fifth of protein requirements.

In many developing countries, forest-based enterprises provide at least one-third of all rural non-farm employment and generate income through the sale of forest products.

The value of the trade in non-timber forest products has been estimated at 11 billion USD and these products include pharmaceutical plants, mushrooms, nuts, syrups and corks among a host of benefits forest provides. Which means that all these lineup benefits would have been none existing if mining was allowed everywhere in the world.

So what happens to the millions of people whose daily lives are dependent on ATEWA forest? What happens to the quality of air from the forest? What happens to river Densu, Birim and Ayensu river which serves five million people in three regions of the country, most especially, the city of Accra? And above all what happens to biodiversity should the government allow mining in the reserve?

Currently, ATEWA forest which is the only forest reserve in the Eastern region and in the country which has global significance. Yes! Ankasa rain forest is there, Bia conservation, Bui national park, Kakum conservation, Mole National park, Shai hills resource reserve, Bomfobiri wildlife sanctuary and Kyabobo national park are all important but the global significance of Atewa forest reserve is incomparably incomparable.

In 1929, during the distinguished leadership of the late Okyehene of Akyem Abuakwa State, Nana Sir Ofori Atta I “that imposing green nature of forest edifice” of 8000ft above sea level laying on the Atewa range was established. The Kwaebibirem as it is affectionately called is a symbol of the forest nature of Okyeman.

Sadly enough, the forest nature of Okyeman is extinct due to various human ‘atrocities ‘against it with only Atewa forest as the remnant and if the traditional leaders continue to sit on the fence and allow bauxite mining in the forest in the name of creating employment, posterity will not sleep till Asaase Yaa takes its pound of flesh from the current generation.

Okyeman Foundation has proposed among other things, the conversion of the Atewa forest reserve into national park in honor of the late Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, and of course there will be no greater honour in the memory of the late King than the establishment of a national park that would be named after him but whether or not this proposition will see the light of day, only the president can tell.

But what do I mean when I say the salvation of Atewa forest reserve sits in the bosom of the president and Okyehene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin?. It is a known fact that the decision to convert the Atewa Forest reserve into a national park to save it from being mined dwells in the bosom of the President,

Just a simple instruction to the forestry commission and it will be done. What makes it much easier now is the decision by the government of the United State of America to fully finance the construction of the national park at Atewa forest reserve.

As for Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, he is a strong environmentalist who’s advocacy to save the environment from destruction is widely known. When he was enstooled as the Okyehene, he strongly opposed the mining of bauxite in the Atewa forest reserve and proposed the promotion of ecotourism. A stance the world applauded him for. It was such a bold statement that gladdens the heart of the strong advocates for a safe environment. Nana, your Royal Majesty, Okyeman Piesie, it seems to me history is beckoning on you again.

The statement you made some years ago about the promotion of ecotourism is here and your continued silence is worrying Nana. I pray thee to appeal to the president to resist any attempt to give out Atewa for mining and rather consider national park in honour of the late Nana Sir Ofori Atta I.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo with the support of the Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, you can save Atewa. Kindly demonstrate the true spirit of Okyeman and save Kwaebibirem. As the slogan goes, Okyeman Tease. To wit Okyeman is alive. Okyeman,! Yen Nhwe Mma no Nsei. To wit, Okyeman will not sit and watch it being destroyed.

Okyeman Tease; Yen Nhwe Mma No Nsei

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