Threats to Ghana's environment

The key problems facing the environment in Ghana are loss of biodiversity through the wood carving industry, illegal logging, destruction of natural habitats, poaching, and forest governance.

Loss of biodiversity through the wood carving industry

The overdependence of the wood carving industry on a few species in the wild has resulted in a rapid decline in the density of such species in the natural forests.

Consequently, several species that used to constitute the main raw material base of the carving industry have become scarce. The most sought hardwood species for carving in Ghana include Cordia melenii and Diospyros spp., and softwood species Horlarrhena floribunda. 

Threats to biodiversity in the region are closely linked to poverty, which drives urgent short-term needs that often eliminate long-term opportunities.

Illegal logging

Forestry contributes significantly to the GDP of Ghana. However, illegal and unsustainable logging practices threatens the forestry sector’s contribution to the sustainable development of the country.

Ghana can sustainably produce about one million cubic meters of timber from its forest reserves and agricultural lands, yet in 2002, there were 3.7 million cubic meters' worth of logs extracted, about four times the annual allowable harvest.

Destruction of natural habitats

Commercial agriculture in West Africa is characterized by slash-and-burn agriculture, taking great toll on the region's forests.

The practice of clearing, cultivating and then letting land lie fallow is widespread and is the major source of livelihood for the rural population. The situation is accelerated by human population exploding and immigration in the region leading to high pressure on remaining forests and protected areas.

Large and small-scale mining for minerals, particularly in montane areas, also pose major threats to the forests. Furthermore, loggers, miners and other migrant populations further stress the forest resources through hunting of wild animals, particularly antelope and primates.

Poaching

Bush-meat hunting is an important source of protein for rural West Africa and yet also one of the greatest threats to the region's fauna.

Growing urban populations and increased access to forests have created a huge commercialized trading system for it both nationally and internationally. Numerous studies have indicated that the bush-meat trade in the region is enormous; estimates of its value in Ghana run as high as US$350 million per year.

Forest governance

Forest decision-making until recently has not involved local communities who have direct contact with forests and depend on the forest in one way or the other for their livelihood.

Their concerns were not considered much in policy development. The resultant effect is the lack of interest in practices that affect the forest negatively.

Carvers use large volumes of endangered wood species for their work contributing to deforestation. / ©: Chris GORDON /WWF WAFPO
Carvers at work, Aburi Industrial Centre, Aburi, Ghana
© Chris GORDON /WWF WAFPO
The slash and burn method, though illegal, is used by local farmers to clear forests for land ... / ©: Glen Asomaning/ WWF WAFPO
Slash and Burn, Wasampo, Western Region, Ghana
© Glen Asomaning/ WWF WAFPO
Man with purchased bushmeat / ©: Mustapha SEIDU/ WWF WAFPO
Bushmeat trade
© Mustapha SEIDU/ WWF WAFPO

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