Did you know that airplanes can be fueled with wood? Yes! Cars and airplanes in some countries are now being fueled with bio-diesel from forest wastes. In fact, in 2015, Alaska Airlines flew the first commercial flight using Jet fuel made from tree branches left over from forest harvesting. What does that mean to you? When the word forest is mentioned, scenery of thick green and brown is evoked in our minds. A forest doesn’t just mean trees. It is a whole community. From the smallest living thing to the tallest tree come together to make up the forest. No living thing exists in isolation. In fact, all life is dependent on each other- that is the necessity for survival. Why is there a need for dependence? What do they depend on each other for?
Energy – the potential to do work is what moves the world. Accomplishment of tasks is impossible without energy. Seemingly insignificant activities like blinking to cooking food and ironing our clothes all require energy. The management of Energy in Ghana has become such a huge problem that we have created a ministry of Energy.
Ghana is blessed with numerous forests.Forest reserves keep essential biodiversity that be missing from harvested sites. Agriculture, which includes forestry, is the backbone of the Ghana’s already ailing economy. Forestry alone accounts for 6% of the GDP, 11% of export earnings and provides employment to approximately 100,000 people, making it the third most important foreign exchange earner for the country. The relevance of the forests is seen very clearly in the rural setting as they directly depend on the forest for the provision of food, clothing, shelter, furniture, potable water supply sources and bush meat, thus providing livelihood for over 2.5 million people. The forests are also exceedingly prized as sources of natural medicines, which are essential components of health treatment, which is commonly used in conjunction with mystical and ritual practices.
According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 50% of wood produced worldwide is used as energy for cooking, heating and energy generation. In Africa, the share goes to 90%. Moreover, about 2.4 billion people rely on wood fuel, including charcoal, for cooking, boiling water and heating their homes. By supplying the energy required to prepare safe and nutritious food, wood fuel is a major contributor to food security and nutrition. Wood energy from the forest is the largest source of renewable energy we are using in the world today, accounting for roughly 40 percent of current renewable supply which makes solar, hydroelectric and wind power pale in comparison.
In Ghana, our forests are being depleted at an alarming rate. Among the tropical countries, Ghana ranks third when it comes to deforestation. So weak is the implementation of our laws that even foreigners flout them with utmost impunity. Our laws require that those who go to harvest trees from our forests secures permit. Deforestation is happening in both subtle and obvious ways. A classic example of a forest being depleted subtly is the Achimota Forest. The custodians of our forest resources, the Forestry Commission of Ghana has allowed squatters and all forms of religious bodies access to the forest for prayers, deliverance and all sorts of mini crusades. These people upon entering the forest clear some portions for their religious use. They never replant and the numbers of these people who pray in the forest increase, while the numbers of trees decrease. The Forestry Commission must really stop these people from praying in the forest to avoid this subtle deforestation.
In our major cities, buildings are going up everywhere without a proper plan resulting in trees being sacrificed. Instead of maintaining lawns, we cement our compounds preventing plants from growing and put artificial trees and flowers in our homes and offices. We all want to see development in our countries. However, proper planning should be done when putting up buildings so that we balance our nature with our development.
Another case study where deforestation is taking place directly is the Atewa Forest. In this forest, deforestation is taking place at an alarming rate coupled with illegal miners destroying ecosystem and heavily polluting our water bodies. Many of these offenders of the law are foreigners who hire the unemployed indigenes to work for them. One striking fact is that the Atewa forest is the source of three of Ghana’s rivers namely: Densu, Birim and Ayensu. These rivers are very essential to the over 5 million residents in the southern regions of Ghana. More than half of Accra residents depend on the Densu for their livelihood. Due to the illegal mining which has led to massive deforestation, rivers have been polluted to bad levels which have led to water shortages in Areas around Accra and Koforidua and increased costs of the water treatment. We need our laws to work. ‘Barking dogs seldom bite’ – a popular saying, helps us understand that when we enforce our laws and people are duly punished for flouting. We would not need to be always ranting about our laws; we would begin to obey them even unconsciously.
Dumsor, a popular phrase here in Ghana which refers to the erratic power supply saw its origin mainly due to the low water levels of the biggest hydroelectric power plant located at the dam on the Volta River. The national problem had shown that if the waters dried up, not only animals in the water would suffer, but the whole nation would grind to a screeching halt economically and socially. Today’s world has been built around electricity and it is very hard to get things done expediently without the speed of electricity. One major factor that resulted in the low water levels was that there has been the cutting down of trees along the river banks and this has exposed the water to more direct sunlight leading to increased evaporation. This could have easily been prevented by planting more along the banks of the water but surprisingly our leaders told us to pray for more rain. How sad.
Most of our problems we face today can be mitigated by planting more trees as the World celebrates World Forest Day,Let us plant more trees. Remember, Ghana is 43rd in the world when it comes to deforestation. We can reduce this ranking to the barest minimum and enjoy all the benefits from the nature.
Article by Calvin Gyasi(Environmentalist)