Ghana, at the center of the West African coast, is trying to balance the goal of environmental sustainability with the needs of its people. The country is rich in natural resources--such as cocoa, gold, and timber--which represent a large portion of foreign exchange earnings and are relied upon for employment and economic development. Forests represent one of their largest natural resource bases. This West African nation hosts approximately 2 million hectares of tropical rainforest which is part of the Upper Guinean Moist Forest Ecosystem, stretching through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Increased pressures on these resources in the past decade have led to challenges for the Ghanaian government - pursuing economic development while at the same time promoting and maintaining biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health.
Due to increasing demands for timber, agriculture stresses, and wildfire occurrence; deforestation has become a severe problem. Of the original forests, approximately 1.7% is destroyed each year. This is a problem for the many communities, which depend upon many forest products for food, medicine and often, their livelihoods-for them, continued access to the forests and these commodities is vital. Moreover, economists warn of the threat deforestation poses to the country's economy by decreasing the supply available for this valuable export. Major initiatives have begun to improve overall natural resources management and formulate strategies to mitigate the threats to these resources. Many groups, government agencies and communities are trying to address these issues, and in particular, conservation groups are working to maintain Ghana 's unique biodiversity.
Wildfire is recognized as a major threat. It is the direct cause of irreversible environmental damage in all ecotypes of Ghana. Not only has it severely reduced the productive capacity of many Ghanaian forests (3% loss in annual GDP), but it has also damaged water supply, water quality, soil fertility, agriculture and biodiversity. In 1993, fire affected over half of the nation's total reserved forest area (of the 2 million hectares of tropical forest, 80% are in government managed forest reserves). Subsequently, the annual loss of revenue from merchantable timber destroyed by fire is estimated at $24 million. To make the matter more complex, fire is very important in the Ghanaian culture; It is used as a tool in many aspects of life. Agroforestry, hunting, honey collecting, palm wine processing, and ceremonial celebrations, are common uses of fire. Thus, any effort to address wildfires must take these human dimensions of fire use into account.
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I The Ministry of Lands and Forests and Mines (MLFM) of the Government of Ghana launched the first ever Ghana National Wildfire Management Policy in February 2007. Since then, the Ministry continues to launch the policy at regional and local community level. This effort will serve to communicate and educate Ghana ’s population to the threat and methods of mitigation for wildfires.
In March 2007, USFS conducted an assessment workshop for the adaptation of Incident Command System to Ghana wildfire management program. The results of the workshop are based on a needs assessment conducted in collaboration with all project stakeholders in Koforidua and recommendations presented by six Ghana delegates who participated in a two-week US Wildland Fire Study Tour in July 2006. The Incident Command System was strongly recommended as a critical milestone for successful wildfire management in Ghana.
The subsequent 2007 activities were adapted to produce several key results relevant to FC vision for wildfire management in the forest transitional zone of Ghana, in particular their desire to implement the Incident Command System in Ghana. The project promoted the crucial need to empower all stakeholders in wildfire management, especially the initial fire incident response team, Community Fire Volunteer Squads (CFVS), promote stronger collaboration between the participating Ghana government agencies to facilitate the acquisition of pre-existing systems that have proven to be effective at all identified levels of this project. Community Fire Volunteer Squads have been established through the efforts of numerous programs and given a promise that they can influence decisions. The population is eagerly waiting to see how this new national wildfire management initiative will improve their already existing efforts to suppress and manage wildfires. The developments that need to be supported are those which institutionalize Community Fire Volunteers and wildfire management technical programs that are developed using a bottom-up approach.
Upcoming activities related to fire management in Ghana are based on availability of funding, opportunities for collaboration with the FC, and additional activities identified by other FC partners. Principals of adaptive management will be employed throughout the duration of this activity.
Addressing Biodiversity Loss in Productive Forest Concessions
In Ghana, the US Forest Service has been collaborating on the development of joint activity with WWF-West Africa and USAID to address biodiversity loss in productive forest concessions. Ghana continues in its historic role as a global supplier of quality tropical hardwoods. Ghana is making swift progress in forest policy reform and in current pursuit of its effective implementation. Ghana is one of the few countries in West Africa that has taken a leadership role toward achieving forest certification. At the same time, however, Ghana faces the very real threat of declining forest-based biodiversity. The US Forest Service is working toward support and development of the following activities:
- Sustainable Forest Planning Reform
- Strengthening, leveraging, and focusing NGO energies
- Building local training capacities
- Reducing harvest pressures visa improvement in harvesting and manufacturing efficiencies
- Certification pre-assessments and surveillance visits
- Domestic wood supply market reform
- Improved wildfire responses
Please see USFS trip reports on FRAME: http://www.frameweb.org/ev_en.php?ID=7709_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC
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